Whether it’s an intricate platinum ring or a simple pair of copper earrings, all jewelry gets dirty over time. Oil and dander from your skin, dust, buildup from hand soap, and other environmental contaminants can all leave jewelry looking dull and less shiny. Regular cleanings are necessary to get the best sparkle and luster out of your favorite pieces, and there are a few ways you can clean them at home without spending money at a jeweler’s shop.
Many types of jewelry cleaner can be used on multiple kinds of metal, but there are a few specific cleaners designed to be safe for certain materials and gemstones. For example, some cleaners are safe for only silver or only gold, while others can be used on both gold and precious stones like sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. It’s important to read the labels on jewelry cleaner bottles carefully to ensure you know what materials they can — and cannot — clean.
You can also use homemade jewelry cleaner recipes to keep your fine jewelry in good condition, though you should take care not to overdo it. Too much cleaner can actually remove the luster of your jewelry, so you don’t want to soak pieces in liquid for longer than recommended. A good rule of thumb is to use jewelry cleaner no more than twice a month, and to rinse each piece thoroughly before letting it dry.
A few drops of gentle dishwashing soap can cut through tarnish and general wear and tear on most pieces, especially if you soak them for a minute or two before scrubbing. This technique is a good choice for sterling silver, but may not be strong enough for heavier stains or general wear on other metals.
For a more thorough clean, mix equal parts of water and ammonia to make a quick solution. Soak your jewelry for a minute or so, and then scrub them with a soft brush to remove dirt and grime. Be careful when using ammonia, as it can damage or dull some materials, including gold and other precious metals, and can etch gemstones. This method isn’t suitable for opals, pearls, or other porous stones.
Another option is to clean your jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaning machine, which can be purchased at some electronics stores and online. Fill the tank with cool, clean tap water, and add the cleaning solution recommended by the cleaner’s manufacturer (or follow your jeweler’s recommendation). Place your items in the basket and turn the device on to soak for a minute or so. When the timer goes off, open the lid and transfer the jewelry to the rinse tank if your cleaner has dual tanks. Rinse each item thoroughly, and then dry it with a clean, soft cloth before storing it.
A clean, soft-bristle toothbrush is also a great tool for fighting grime on jewelry. The tiny bristles can get into hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, and they’ll help your jewelry sparkle.