How to Clean Your Jewelry

Woman cleaning a beautiful ring with a cloth

Jewelry should sparkle, but exposure to dust and dirt, lotions and soaps, even air and moisture can dull your favorite pieces over time and rob them of their gleam. The solution? Regular polishing at home with products that treat your jewelry to a fresh, protective shine without the need for special equipment, expensive cleaners or long hours on your hands and knees.

How to Clean Silver

The best way to clean tarnished silver pieces and keep them from re-tarnishing as quickly is with a good silver polish, like Good Housekeeping Seal holder Weiman Silver Polish, which contains ingredients that dissolve and remove tarnish while leaving behind a protective coating to prevent new tarnish from forming.

If you already use liquid polishes and wipes to clean your jewelry, you can never have too many on hand. If you're in a hurry, you can just tear off a small piece of polish-soaked cloth and quickly wipe the metal surface. If you use liquid polishes as well as wipes to polish your jewelry, aim for one or two cloths for brightening and shining. Wipes are especially useful for cleaning silver earrings, as their fabric can reach those hard-to-reach areas.

Silver is beautiful, but it can tarnish over time. If you don't have silver polish on-hand and you need to clean silver ASAP, try one of the DIY methods below. Just know that these treatments won't keep tarnish from returning, and silver experts caution against using them too often (if at all). For silver-plated jewelry, avoid excessive rubbing to keep from wearing away the finish.

  • Dip a soft cloth in vinegar and gently clean the silver. If you want to use a method that doesn't require physical contact with the silver, try: Spray an aerosol tarnish remover on a cloth and wipe the pieces to remove the tarnish. Remember to always test a small area first to make sure no damage will occur to your jewelry. Once you've removed the tarnish, it's important to buff the silver so it has a shine. To do this, use another soft cloth dipped in warm water or with a bit of mild dish soap added.
  • Try baking soda: For heavier tarnish, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver and apply the paste with a soft, lint-free cloth. Work it into the crevices and turn the cloth as it picks up the tarnish. Rinse well and buff dry.
  • Consider storing the white flecks of toothpaste you are about to throw away. The mild abrasives in toothpaste can be used to remove tarnish from silver. Apply a dab of white paste toothpaste (not gel) to tarnished silver and rub very gently with your finger or a soft cloth. Then, rinse well with warm water and buff to a shine with a soft cloth.

How to Clean Gold

Clean your jewelry. If your jewelry is made of precious metals, it's important to clean it regularly. Most gemstones are almost impossible to clean, so don't soak them in any liquid. Precious metals can be cleaned by wiping them with a warm, damp towel followed by a light polishing with a soft toothbrush. If you're using an ultrasonic cleaner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Don't use ultrasonic cleaners to clean gold, because the motion of the stones or pearls could chip or scratch them. Always protect colored gemstones with a thin film of liquid soap or liquid detergent to reduce the risks of scratches. Also make sure that work spaces are well lit to prevent you from overlooking spots where dust has settled on your jewelry.

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How to Clean Pearls

If the piece is especially dirty, add a few drops of mild dish soap to cool water, and gently wipe each pearl with a soft, clean cloth. If the piece contains pearls coated in rhodium, avoid using any products containing bleach.

How to Clean Costume Jewelry

Dab a cloth into a sudsy solution of dish soap and water and gently wipe any smudges or grime. Then rinse with a cloth dampened in plain water. Pat dry and lay the pieces upside down so moisture won't soak into the setting. Because stones are often glued on rather than set, don't soak costume pieces in water or the glue could loosen and the "gems" could pop off.

How to Properly Care for Your Jewelry

If you like to wear jewelry and want to make sure it looks its best, follow the four steps below:

  1. Remove your jewelry when you shower or exercise, when you do housework and when you go to bed.
  2. Buff your jewelry when it looks dull. Use a soft cloth and a paste of baking soda and warm water (if you don't have baking soda, use toothpaste, which is similar). Rub the paste into the jewelry with the cloth, rinse and pat dry.

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