Like most pieces in your wardrobe, (especially those favorites in frequent rotation) every once in a while these items need extra care or a thorough cleaning. Your jewelry collection is no exception. Through wear and daily use, your jewelry is bound to come into contact with lotions, make-up, and body oils causing it to pick up grime and lose its luster. Blech! Without regular cleaning, it may even suffer the terribly avoidable fate of discoloration, tarnishing, or needlessly breaking.
But don’t fret! With a little T.L.C., the contents of your jewelry box can be restored to their former glory and best of all, we’ll show you how to clean jewelry at home. Read on to find out the best ways to clean each type of jewelry—from gold to silver and from fine quality to fashion!
Fine Jewelry vs. Fashion Jewelry
Fine jewelry is made from precious metals such as solid gold, sterling silver, and platinum and may feature settings of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or other natural gemstones or pearls. Grandma’s heirloom rings or necklaces will likely fall into this category.
Also sometimes referred to as “costume jewelry”, fashion jewelry is typically made of base metals and may feature faux stones and gem-like settings. Semi-fine jewelry also falls under this category and usually features gold- or silver-plated base metals. While they might not be around as long as grandma’s pearls, these types of pieces can give you the look of finer jewelry and the freedom to try different styles and incorporate more variety into your accessories—all without breaking the bank.
The Differences in Cleaning
The main factor that distinguishes fine jewelry from fashion jewelry is the material composition of the piece. The quality of the materials used will determine the durability of the jewelry and how it ideally should be maintained. Because of these differences in materials, you’ll want to make sure you know the best way to clean each piece to avoid the risk of damage.
5 Ways to Clean Jewelry at Home
Sure, you could have your jewelry professionally cleaned, but nothing beats the convenience of a quick at-home cleaning.
1. Polishing Cloths
Need to give your jewelry a speed shine before heading out? A polishing cloth is a fantastic way to clean gold, silver, brass, platinum, and copper when time is of the essence. "A soft cloth is an easy fix to keep pieces in pristine condition, like the one you would use on a pair of eyeglasses," our Founder, Designer, and Creative Director, Jennifer Matchett shared in this Cosmopolitan article about cleaning jewelry. "A quick wipe down should be done after daily use, especially if the jewelry is close to an area with a lot of moisturizer or makeup."
2. Jewelry Polish
If you’ve carved out a bit more time to give your jewelry the attention it deserves (and is sure to get you in return) then jewelry polish is one of the best ways to clean your jewelry and restore all its original sparkle and shine.
Jewelry polish comes in many different forms, ranging from liquids and creams to gels and foams, all of which are ideal for similar applications, but mostly depending on the type of jewelry you want to polish.
These types of jewelry cleaners are some of the most versatile, and simple to use, and they don’t have to be expensive. Take Hagerty’s Jewel Clean for example. It works on a variety of jewelry materials and comes with a little dip basket you can use to submerge your pieces into the solution. It’s free of phosphates, ammonia, butyls, and bleach, making it safe for porous stones, like pearls. Just be sure not to leave them in for more than 10 minutes and use as directed.
Polishing creams like Jewel Brite remove tarnishing and oxidation from your metal jewelry. This one is safe to use on gold, silver, copper, brass, bronze, chrome, stainless steel, and aluminum to restore their natural metallic luster. It’s also non-abrasive so it won’t scratch your softer metals. For application, simply apply a bit of the cream to a soft damp cloth or a toothbrush if you want to go for a more detailed clean and finish with a warm water rinse and a soft cloth to dry.
For your most frequently worn pieces that are more likely to be caked in oils, lotions, sunscreen, and just general daily grime, consider reaching for a cleansing foam. This formula allows you to apply the foam directly to your jewelry and let it sit for 30-60 seconds while it lifts much of the dirt away. You can gently brush away any excess grime with a very soft toothbrush (a baby toothbrush works well) and finish with a warm water rinse and dry.
3. Dish Soap & Warm Water
Another surprisingly easy and effective way to keep your jewelry clean is the classic dish soap and warm water solution! Simply combine a few drops of dish liquid, like Dawn, with warm water. Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to dip into the solution and rub your jewelry to remove the tarnish. Rinse with cool water and dry with another soft cloth. Easy-peasy!
4. Baking Soda
If your silver jewelry has a bit more tarnish on it and the soap and water solution isn’t cutting it, you might try baking soda for some added “oomph.” Here’s the recipe: mix three parts baking soda with one part water. Wet the silver and apply the paste with a soft, lint-free cloth. Be sure to get it into the crevices and turn the fabric as it picks up the tarnish. Rinse well with water and buff dry. “Voila!”
Think toothpaste is just for whitening your teeth? Think again! The mild abrasives in toothpaste can be repurposed for removing the tarnish from silver jewelry. Just apply a tiny spot of white paste toothpaste (no gel this time) to a soft cloth and rub over the tarnished silver very gently. Rinse the piece thoroughly with warm water and dry and shine it with a soft cloth.
Additional Tips for Storing and Caring for Jewelry
Aside from regular cleaning, there are other ways you can preserve your jewelry for the long run.
- Store jewelry properly in a jewelry box to keep away from moisture and direct sunlight
- Avoid wearing jewelry while swimming
- Remove rings before washing dishes, gardening, going to the gym, etc.
Cleaning Jewelry: The Bottom Line
Maintaining your jewelry collection doesn’t have to be expensive, nor is professional cleaning always necessary. Now that you know how to clean your jewelry at home, share these tips with your friends so they can also save time and money while keeping their jewelry looking its best. Good quality jewelry polish is easy to find and has the added benefit of preventing future tarnishing of your pieces. And if you need a quick fix, you can use household products like dish soap or baking soda for a handy solution. With regular care, your fine jewelry will last you a lifetime and your fashion jewelry will serve you for many seasons to come.
Questions about caring for your MACHETE jewelry? We’re here to help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.