Diamonds maybe forever, but your gold and silver rings will eventually start to show their age. Scratches, dirt, and tarnish are the perpetual enemies of any jewelry aficionado, and you’ll probably have to clean your favorite accessories more than once throughout their lives. Professional cleanings don’t tend to be very expensive, (they usually cost between $25 and $50 according to The Spruce,) but you won’t always have access to a competent jeweler or the time to visit one. Luckily, there are a handful of reliable ways to clean your jewelry at home, and the ingredients you’ll need cost much less than what a professional would charge for cleaning. We’ll tell you how to clean jewelry at home, whether you’ve got tarnished rings, dusty necklaces, or a scratched tiara. Just remember to read through to the end before you get started.
Faulty Jewelry Fixes
That said, we’ve found plenty of well-meaning advice on jewelry cleaning drifting around the internet that poses a genuine threat to certain kinds of metals or stones. There’s so much advice on how to clean tarnished jewelry out there that you’re bound to run into some bad ideas. Before we get started explaining the methods you should use, we need to go over what to avoid. You might have seen some of the methods we’ll mention here before. Most of them are the kind of strategies that sound crazy enough to work as blog headlines, which is probably how they became so well known in the first place. A good rule of thumb is this: if it seems strange, think twice.
Toothpaste is an abrasive, made in part out of ground pumice, which is a volcanic rock. It works to remove dirt by rubbing away at it like sandpaper, and like sandpaper, it can grind away softer materials like silver and gold. Avoid using it for more fragile jewelry. A toothbrush, on the other hand, can be very useful for cleaning so long as you use it with a gentle detergent rather than toothpaste. Experts consulting for Woman’s Day recommended this method for cleaning diamond jewelry.
Beer can in fact help clean gold, and in a pinch, you can make do with it. With complex jewelry, though, where beer could get in between stones and the metal surrounding them, be careful. If you don’t manage to rinse all of the beer out of every nook and cranny, you could end up with a sticky mess inside your ring.
The issue with ketchup is much the same as that with beer but to a greater degree. Ketchup is acidic and often has high sugar content. Depending on the alloy of your jewelry, the acid could damage the metal over time if it isn’t properly cleaned out, and the sugar will form a sticky film.
Taking off the Tarnish
Silver is notorious for tarnishing. Untreated sterling silver can tarnish in as little as two months if stored improperly, and even under the best of circumstances, it won’t stay shiny for more than a few years. Learning how to clean it quickly is a good investment. If your silver isn’t terribly tarnished or dirty, you can use a silver polishing cloth to clean it. The cloth is soft enough that it won’t grind away at the metal, and it’s great for restoring your jewelry’s shine. The folks at Jewelry Notes recommend wiping your jewelry off with a cleaning cloth every time you’re going to put it in storage. For more serious tarnish, you can place your silver in an aluminum foil-lined bowl, fill that bowl with warm water, and add a tablespoon or two of baking soda. This works by providing a path for electricity to flow between the aluminum and the silver. The silver steals ions from the aluminum, essentially transferring its tarnish to the foil. This process will take about 30 minutes. Make sure to dry your silver when you’re finished. Don’t use this method with any jewelry that includes gemstones. Get specific advice on cleaning the stone in question, then proceed.
Keeping Your Gold Aglow
While there’s no substitute for having your gold professionally cleaned, plenty of people want to know how to clean gold at home. Jewelers Mutual recommends using a new baby-sized toothbrush with a solution of warm water, simple blue Dawn dish soap, and a few drops of ammonia. Brush gently, and when you’re finished, rinse the gold in lukewarm water, then dry with paper towels, or better yet, air dry. As with silver jewelry, don’t use this method for jewelry with gemstones. Certain stones, like turquoise, are porous and can absorb water, leading to discoloration.
A Hi-tech Solution
The methods listed above will work for basic cleaning, but especially in more textured jewelry and that which includes gemstones, they won’t be able to dislodge every bit of dirt. To do that, you can use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. According to cooksongold.com, ultrasonic cleaners work by using ultrasonic waves to agitate and create bubbles around pieces of foreign material clinging to your jewelry. They dislodge those bits of dirt, even from places that you won’t be able to reach with a cleaning cloth or a toothbrush. Best of all, an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner won’t break the bank. Some are under the price of professional cleaning, and you can use them over and over again. The price of a small personal cleaner is generally around $30, and the commercial models sit near $120. In addition to being used for jewelry, ultrasonic cleaners can sometimes be used for machine components, CD’s and DVD’s, and glasses. If you’re likely to use it for more than one purpose, purchasing one might be a good investment. For a selection of the best-rated jewelry cleaning products, including a couple of ultrasonic cleaners, see this article from nymag.com
Learning from the Pros
If you’ve ever had a piece of jewelry cleaned professionally, you know that it comes back to you looking like new. You’ve probably also wondered how they get it looking that way in a matter of minutes, while you could easily spend half an hour on any of the DIY methods above. Well, not only does a professional cleaning take less time than what you can do at home, but it also cleans more thoroughly, and usually involves the jeweler checking up on the ring to see if anything is loose and if it needs jewelry repair. This video provides a rare look at the process that jewelers go through to clean and polish a ring. You won’t need to get this kind of treatment for your jewelry very often, but it’s the best way to deal with scratches and damage you can’t fix at home.
You Have All You Need
If you’ve read all the way to this point, you should know everything you need to for cleaning jewelry at home. Because jewelry can be made of so many different alloys and include so many kinds of stones, it’s always important to be careful with cleaning. We hope we’ve helped you put the shine back into your favorite ring or necklace!