When your jewelry is dull and tarnished, a little cleaning can lift the discoloration and restore its sparkle. But which cleaner to use? Jewelry cleaner comes in a variety of formulations and methods, from ready-to-use solutions to specialized ultrasonic cleaning devices. Some contain abrasives, which can scratch porous organic gemstones like coral and pearls, but most are safe for all jewelry metals (gold, silver, etc.) and nonporous gems (like diamonds). Some are gentle enough to use on a regular basis, but others are designed to be used only occasionally. The best way to clean your jewelry depends on the type of cleaner you’re using and your own level of expertise.
Most jewelry cleaners are available in a variety of forms, including gel, liquid, foam or cloth. You may also choose to use a traditional jewelry cleaner with a soft-bristled brush or a microfiber polishing cloth. Whether you’re looking to clean just a few pieces of jewelry or a larger collection, the right cleaner can make the process easier and less time-consuming.
Some jewelry cleaners require you to submerge your items in a solution, while others work through a process called cavitation or steam. Some cleaners can even remove dirt from stones, although you should always use caution when cleaning delicate jewelry such as pearls and opals. Look for jewelry cleaners that are safe for all types of metal and gemstones, and are gentle enough to be used regularly.
A good option for regular use is a jewelry cleaner made of natural ingredients, such as citric acid or lemon juice, that can safely remove tarnish from most materials, including sterling silver and gold, without harming the stones or alloys. These cleaners are gentle, safe and quick to use.
Another easy-to-use jewelry cleaner is toothpaste. You can use a standard white tube of toothpaste, but the formula is specially formulated to be safe for many metals and nonporous gemstones (like sapphires). Simply apply a generous amount of toothpaste to your jewelry item, scrub it gently with a toothbrush or Q-tip, then rinse it off. This method is especially effective for removing tarnish from silver, and works well on costume pieces, too.
For a heavy-duty jewelry cleaner, you can mix an ounce of Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner with one cup of water in a bowl or jar and soak your items for 10 minutes. This cleaner will dissolve most tarnish, as well as most grease and grime from jewelry. It’s an inexpensive alternative to a commercial jewelry cleaner, and the reusable cloth it comes with can be used to clean more jewelry in a single application.
If you have a large collection of jewelry that you’d like to clean more easily and thoroughly, consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaning machine. These devices generate a high-frequency sound wave that creates bubbles around the items placed in the tank. These bubbles scrub the surface of your jewelry, removing dirt and grime and often restoring the piece’s shine. Most ultrasonic cleaners come with a basket or tray that holds your jewelry, which helps reduce the chances of scratches during cleaning.