5 Tips for Cleaning Dirty Jewelry (Even That $5 Necklace)
There comes a point in the lifespan of your favorite necklace or ring when you look down and realize that it’s not quite the same color it was before. Maybe you’ve worn it every day for years, or maybe it’s August and you’ve been sweating buckets into that discount costume jewelry for days. Whether it’s 24-karat gold or silver-plated nickel, a little elbow grease can restore that like-new luster to your accessories. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. INVEST IN A POLISHING CLOTH.
For just a few dollars, you can buy a microfiber cloth (like these ones) specifically made to remove tarnish from silver and gold jewelry. It’s pre-treated with a polish, so it cleans and shines far more effectively than your regular eyeglass cleaning cloth. Lighter-colored cloths make seeing your progress easy, because the tarnish and grime comes off in clear lines as you rub, which is good for both knowing when you can stop and feeling super productive about your cleaning regimen. You can use it repeatedly until the whole cloth turns black.
2. SOAK IT IN WARM WATER WITH A HINT OF SOAP.
Most jewelry, from delicate stones to cheap costume pieces, can be cleaned with a little gentle soap (jewelers recommend a dish soap like Dawn) and a lot of care. As soon as you’re done, rinse the piece in a bowl or glass of clean water, then lay it out and dry it with a paper towel or cloth, making sure not to catch any errant parts of that dangly necklace or bracelet.
3. GET A TOOTHBRUSH.
You may think that your fingers can do the job just as well, but a brush will serve you much better. Grab a soft toothbrush and go to work on the tiny crevasses of your necklaces and bracelets. It’s better to buy a new one rather than use an old brush, since residue builds up in the bristles.
4. BE WARY OF TOOTHPASTE.
While many sites recommend using toothpaste to polish silver, it’s actually pretty abrasive stuff. For that silver-plated $5 necklace, that means the minty paste can damage the top coat of silver and reveal the cheaper metal underneath. Gold and gemstones can also be scratched if you use toothpaste.
5. USE ULTRASONIC CLEANERS WITH CAUTION.
Some gemstones are too delicate for those vibrating, ultrasonic cleaning devices, especially organic ones like pearls. Most metal jewelry, however, can be safely stuck in an ultrasonic cleaning machine to knock them clear of dirt. When in doubt, ask the jeweler you bought the item from. If you bought it from the Claire’s at the mall, it’s probably best to avoid the automated cleaning process, though, since the metal plating or finish might be too thin to safely expose to powerful sound waves.