We all love shopping for jewelry and just accessorizing in general. Most of us love to dress up and don’t mind adding a little bling to our look. While that’s so fun and can fill us with such confidence, we have to remember one important thing: you must take care of your jewelry.
But how do we take care of our jewelry? We clean it! Cleaning and polishing is a simple solution to keeping your jewelry looking bright and sparkly. Gemstones start to dull over time if you neglect to clean or polish it. The better you take care of your jewelry, the longer it will last. It will look good when you wear it and you’ll feel amazing and possibly confident because your polished jewelry is giving you that extra oomph you needed for your style.
You can get your jewelry cleaned or polished in a couple of different ways. You can take it to a certified (professional) jeweler and have them clean and polish or you can do it at home. There are a lot of ways to clean or polish your jewelry at home. Step one clean. Step two polish.
We wash our clothes, dishes, sheets/blankets, and our cars, and clean our homes and other things in our life. We clean things to be able to reuse them, to take care of them, and to make them last. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to wear the same t-shirt every day without washing it. I’d start to smell and my shirt would wear down faster.
Just like if you didn’t take care of your car, eventually it’d stop running. We should clean and polish our jewelry just like we take care of other aspects of our life. So because you need to clean your jewelry first, we will cover that, then well talk about the polishing.
Going to A Jeweler
Going to a professional jeweler is a common way to get your jewelry cleaned and polished. Most will even do it free while you’re there. However, if your ring (or whatever piece) is not under warranty and they accidentally blow a diamond or jewel out while they are cleaning it, they may charge you to replace the diamond (it’s really up to the jeweler).
Different jewelers (or even people who fix and clean jewelry) may apply different methods. Some may soak it in an ultrasonic for a bit and then brush it. Ultrasonic cleaners make sound waves at a high frequency. The frequency creates bubbles in the water (or solution).
The continuous agitation from the frequency bubbles (this process is called cavitation) which helps break down dirt and gunk off your jewelry. This can be very helpful for getting into hard to reach spots on your jewelry.
Jewelers also use steamers a lot as well. Steam is a great cleaner. The heat also helps loosen that lotion that gets stuck in your ring (yea, that’s me too. No judgment). After the steam, your jewelry will look brand new. But depending on the item, the jeweler must be careful.
I speak from experience. My engagement ring has small tiny diamonds on the band surrounding the main diamond. When I take mine to get cleaned, it’s not uncommon for one of those to fly out while they are blowing steam on it. Get your warranty, it’ll save you from paying for new ones.
Once they’ve cleaned it really well, like practically perfect, they’ll use a polishing cloth for the final touches. In my experience, they try to avoid touching it with their bare hands. So they’ll use a soft cloth to hold as they give it back to you. If they’re good, you will not see a touch of grime or a smudged fingerprint on your piece when they are finished with the entire cleaning and polishing process of your jewelry.
You may or may not be like me, but I hate taking my ring to the jeweler. The one my husband got our rings from is no longer in a convenient location and it’s just annoying to me to drive out there to take it in. And whenever we happen to be in that area, they’re closed (it’s like when you want Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday). So, the best solution for me and people like me, you clean your jewelry at home.
There are lots of options for cleaning your jewelry at home. You can check out the ones I have tried here:
For those who know me, know I’m all about the natural remedies and natural ingredients. I like the things I use in my home or on my body to be safe and made up of harmless ingredients (bonus points if they are safe for the environment too). Baking soda is one of the most common cleaning ingredients (yes you can use it on jewelry too).
If you have some tarnished silver, give baking soda a try. In a small bowl, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. This recipe creates a paste-like substance. After making the baking soda paste, wet your piece of silver and apply the paste with a soft, lint-free cloth (you could also use a clean sponge or cotton swab).
Rub the cloth all over your piece of jewelry. As you rub the paste on it, the tarnish should wipe off. Once you’ve wiped the entire piece, rinse well and buff it dry.
Caution: Jewelers will caution you not to use baking soda on antique silver. The baking soda can be too abrasive and may ruin the finish. (So only use it on something “newer”)
Another baking soda recipe is to mix ½ a cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda. You soak your plain silver in this mixture for a couple of hours then rinse and dry. It’s as simple as that (you can also clean your gold this way as long as there aren’t pearls or gemstones that have been glued).
Dish soap is another common household item that most people keep on end. This first way of cleaning is a common practice for gold jewelry. Grab yourself a bowl, add a couple of drops of dish soap to some warm water and then gently drop or place your jewelry in the bowl. Let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes. After soaking your piece of jewelry, you can gently scrub using an old toothbrush. Once you’re satisfied with it, rinse and dry your jewelry.
You can also do this with silver, however, do not use a toothbrush. If you’re trying to clean a piece of silver jewelry, dip a soft cloth into the water/soap mixture and rub it over the silver to remove the tarnish. When you’re finished, rinse with cool water and dry.
Special Tip: Do not soak jewelry that the gems have been glued. Soaking could cause water to get to the glue, which would result in loosening the glue and weakening its hold on the gems.
Club soda will bring your jewelry cleaning game up a notch. Club soda is great for cleaning jewelry with gemstones. All you have to do is soak your piece of jewelry in a glass or small bowl of club soda overnight. This will return its shine. (Remember, don’t soak your costume jewelry. You may regret that decision in the future when the jewels fall out.)
When cleaning something with gemstones, you have to be extra careful. If the stones were glued down instead of a set, you’ll want to avoid boiling or super hot water because that might weaken the glue. That could result in lost stones, which would turn into a whole other list of emotions that will come with having to get the stones replaced. So, be careful.
You can also use club soda with a couple of drops of dish soap for cleaning your gold jewelry. If your dish soap with warm water mixture isn’t quite getting the grime off, try club soda instead for an extra cleaning boost. Make your mixture, soak your jewelry for about 10 minutes and brush gently with an old soft-bristled toothbrush. (My engagement band needs this treatment, I admit I have been neglecting cleaning it.)
Rinse with cool clean water and dry. You may want to let it air dry a little bit (an extra 10 minutes) after wiping the water off to make sure it’s completely dry.
Fun Fact: In ancient Egypt, gold was highly coveted for its rarity and luxury (even in death, we all know about King Tut’s tomb that was filled with gold artifacts). It was worn as a symbol of power and wealth.
Yes, you read that right. Toothpaste. Toothpaste is great for cleaning teeth (of course) and drying out pimples but it’s also great for cleaning your jewelry. Dab a little toothpaste on an old toothbrush and brush away. When you’re finished, rinse it off with warm water and just wipe away the toothpaste residue with a damp cloth. It’s great for removing the tarnish off of silver or even gold (if it’s gold plated).
Some say white toothpaste is better than the gel. Regardless of the toothpaste you chose, start small. Use a small amount and increase if you need to and don’t be too aggressive with that toothbrush. You don’t want to use too much or be too rough while using toothpaste to clean your jewelry.
Toothpaste can be kind of abrasive so you do need to be careful with it on your jewelry, rings especially. Depending on the ring, sometimes you can see the scratch lines from the toothbrush and toothpaste. If you’re cleaning something made of soft gold, you might want to use a different method just because that type of gold is so delicate.
If you find that the toothbrush just isn’t working, it’s leaving scratches, just use your finger or a soft cloth and rub the toothpaste on your piece of jewelry. Then rinse with warm water and buff to a shine with a soft cloth. Be gentle and start small.
Fun Fact: In Meso-America, jewelry was only worn by nobility and the more they wore the higher their rank in their society was.
Vinegar, while smelly, is also an effective cleaner that you probably have in your pantry. Some people don’t know that it’s a great home remedy cleaner. It’s great in a lot of house cleaner hacks (like cleaning your coffee maker) but it’s also great for cleaning your gold and your jewelry with gemstones and platinum.
Just drop your jewelry into a bowl or cup of white vinegar for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently shake the bowl occasionally to agitate it. After soaking, take out your piece of jewelry and gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush if it needs a little extra help. If it doesn’t, you just rinse off the vinegar and dry using a soft cloth. Ta-da. You have a clean and shiny piece of jewelry.
For some extra cleaning power, mix ½ cup of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Soak your jewelry in this mixture (this is great for pure silver and platinum) for two to three hours (depending on how bad your jewelry looks). Then rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth.
Now that we’ve learned some different ways to clean our jewelry at home. Let’s talk about polishing. Cleaning is the process of removing the actual dirt and grime off your jewelry. Polishing is when you make the surface smooth and shiny, usually by rubbing it.
Some of the home remedies for cleaning double up as a polishing solution (the ones involving baking soda make great polishers as well as cleaners). They do both. The final step for each one should be to dry it (if it’s wet) and use a soft cloth to give it the finishing touches.
You can, of course, take your jewelry to a jewelry store or repair shop and they will clean and polish it. However, get yourself a good old fashioned polishing cloth and you can do it at home. Polishing cloths are made from a special material that is extra soft and lint-free. Typically one side is used for cleaning off the tarnish and the other side is used to polish it up to that shine. These are typically inexpensive as well.
Something I recently learned is that they make a polish for most metal types. My mother in law has copper pans and polishes them after every use! It’s amazing dedication however it’s for a good reason. The copper pans she has are very very old but they still look amazing and work perfectly because of the dedication she has for properly cleaning and polishing after every use. The same thing can be done for jewelry.
There are different polishes available on the market. Silver polish (like this one) is probably the most common. But there are so many other options available if you are looking to use an actual polish instead of a homemade remedy. Connoisseurs brand carries one you can use for gold or jewelry with diamonds or other gemstones, like this Connoisseurs Precious Jewelry Cleaner, 8 Fl Oz.
So as you can see, there are polish options available if you are not into the homemade variety. When using these, be sure to follow the directions on the packaging to avoid damaging your jewelry or causing injury.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “How could ketchup possibly be used to polish my jewelry? That’s just plain silly.” But I’m here to tell you, it works. And what’s better is that you probably already have some in your house. You don’t have to go out and buy anything, which is a bonus if you ask me.
All you have to do is submerge your piece of jewelry into a bowl with ketchup. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then remove it and gently brush with an old toothbrush. When you are finished, rinse off the ketchup with warm water. Dry it off with a clean soft cloth. Bam! Your dull piece of jewelry is back to its shiny beautifulness and it’s immediately ready to wear!
Special Note: Do not let your piece of jewelry sit too long in the ketchup. The acid from it (you know tomatoes and vinegar) could cause damage to your jewelry.
Many things can be cleaned and polished with chemicals and sonics and the other solutions previously mentioned. However, some things are more delicate and need to be handled a little differently. Pearls are very delicate and need to be handled carefully. Costume jewelry can also be a challenge to clean (depending on what it’s made of). Costume jewelry isn’t usually the best quality of metal and needs to be taken care of to keep it from tarnishing or breaking.
Let’s talk about our pearls. Pearls are very soft and very delicate and cannot be cleaned the same way that metals can be cleaned. You have to be very careful with your pearls. When you take your pearls off you should wipe them off with a soft cloth to prevent any oils from your body building up onto the pearls (every time you wear them).
If for whatever reason, your pearls get dirty and you want or need to clean them off. You can use a slightly damp cloth (wring out the water) and wipe the pearls with that. If they are really bad, you can make a solution of lukewarm water and a couple of drops of mild dish soap and wipe your pearls down with that. Lay them out and let them dry before you put them away. I know it sounds silly, but do not hang them to dry. If you do the string could stretch out.
Please note DO NOT SUBMERGE YOUR PEARLS! You want to avoid over saturating your pearls to keep the elastic silk thread that holds it together from getting wet. Whenever that thread gets wet it weakens the thread (which then runs the risk of your necklace, bracelet, or earrings breaking and we don’t want that).
Also avoid using harsh cleaners, any type of rubbing alcohol, ultrasonic cleaners, and steam when cleaning your pearls. The harsh cleaners and alcohol may cause the pearl to dry out and crack. The ultrasonic cleaners and steam are great for metals but with pearls, it can damage that outer layer of the pearl or destroy the original color. Let’s not have that happen.
Once you’ve finished cleaning or just wiping your pearls after wear (and they are dry), make sure you wrap them in a soft cloth or pouch (you know those cloth jewelry pouches) for storage. They should be kept kind of separate so they aren’t rubbing up against other jewelry (that could cause the pearls to become scratched). I beg of you, do not store them in a plastic bag or airtight container. Pearls need some moisture to keep their coating and coloring and overall appearance. If they get dried out, they can crack and then the owner would be sad.
Fun Facts: Pearls used to be presented as gifts to Chinese royalty in early civilizations. Up until the 1900s pearls were reserved for the highest of royals or wealthy class in many cultures. Acquiring pearls used to be difficult (because they would have to dive for it). The shallow water mollusks were reserved for the royals and the wealthy. Today pearls are farmed so that they are easier to come by (a natural pearl from the wild is super rare and worth lots of money).
I love wearing costume jewelry. It’s such a great way to add to your look or style without breaking the bank (and let me tell you, this girl is on a budget). When cleaning your costume jewelry, you really want to avoid the harsh chemicals (though I like to avoid them all the time). If you choose to use chemicals on your costume jewelry that’s fine. Just keep in mind that because they are made with imitation metals, they are more susceptible to chipping or discoloring if not cleaned properly.
The best way to clean your costume jewelry is a couple of drops of mild soap (like baby shampoo) in some warm water, not hot. Use a microfiber towel like this one (if you have one if not a soft towel will work) to gently rub your cleaning mixture over your piece of jewelry. Rinse with cool water. Avoid using very hot water. Super hot water may loosen the glue if there is a glue used on that jewelry. After rinsing, dry immediately with a soft cloth. Lingering moisture can also cause damage.
Just like with pearls, you want to just take care of your costume jewelry from the day you get it. Store it in separate cloth pouches if you can. You want to keep it separate from your other costume jewelry. If you store them together they can get scratched and then the metals start to oxidize and tarnish faster. Keep them separate and stored properly and it’ll keep those metals from tarnishing.
Fun Fact: The ancient peoples living on earth originally made their jewelry using shells, feathers, and colored pebbles (the colored pebbles were the equivalent of colored gemstones we use today).
Don’t Forget Jewelry Care
There are a lot of unique ways of cleaning and polishing your jewelry. It’s important to remember that if you take care of your jewelry, whether it’s real or costume, it will continue to look good and it will last.
Proper jewelry care is important, just like you have to take care of other things in your life. If you take care of your things, if you clean your jewelry and store it properly when you’re not wearing it, you will be able to wear it for years to come. You may even be able to pass some pieces down to your children or someone else in your family (yay family heirlooms).
There are a few other things you can do other than cleaning and polishing that will help keep your jewelry looking good. When you’re doing your hair or makeup, take your jewelry off or just put it on after you’re finished. You don’t want to get any product on it that will cause it to discolor or dull its appearance. If you use lotion, take off your jewelry before you apply it (I’m the worst with this one honestly).
You should also remove your jewelry before showering. The soap can build up on your jewelry and make it gross and more difficult to clean. Lastly, make sure you are storing your pieces safely in a jewelry box or in pouches to keep the metals from getting scratched or tarnished.
Jewelry has such an amazing lengthy history. Costume jewelry isn’t really made to stand the test of time but jewelry made of real metal and real gemstones are made to last. Each piece of jewelry has a story (we may know it or not). Jewelry is a part of history and a part of many cultures (it wasn’t always like it is today). Take care of your stuff, so one day it could be a part of your story.
Be sure to check out some other nifty functional craft ideas through our other posts here on Craft-ILY as well as checking out some videos on DIY and How To’s over on YouTube. Look for “Crafting Unedited” to see!