While it’s tempting to reach for conventional cleaners to remove grime and tarnish from your jewelry, all it really takes is some simple cleaning, plus good everyday habits. Avoid these 7 mistakes—and see how to keep your baubles sparkling naturally.
The best way to clean your jewelry is simpler than you might think. Wash it in warm water with mild soap and then rinse it carefully. Air dry or dry with a microfiber cloth to prevent bending any prongs or getting fibers from the towel stuck. For intricate pieces, you can use a compressed air duster to get water out and avoid spotting.
For really tough dirt or tarnish, McKenzie Santimer, exhibit designer for the Gemological Institute of America Inc., recommends letting your jewelry soak in a bowl full of slightly warm water and mild soap for up to 24 hours. Look for soap that will cut grease—like a non-toxic dish soap. We Like: Ecover’s Natural Plant-Based Liquid Dish Soap. You can also scrub with a soft bristled toothbrush before rinsing and drying like normal.
While this solution works for 99 percent of all jewelry according to Santimer, pearls and other organic materials like leather should be left out. Instead, gently wipe these pieces off with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. She also recommends cleaning your jewelry at least every other week to keep it looking its best and to prevent damaging buildup.
Beauty products can wreak havoc on your jewelry. From hand lotion to hairspray, products can build up and create a layer of dirt that’s difficult to remove. Put your jewelry on last to avoid getting any product on them, and be sure to take jewelry off before reapplying lotion or sunscreen.
Going from the sauna to a cold shower might feel great to you, but the temperature change can actually harm your stones, says Santimer. Take off your jewelry before cooking, and avoid storing it near very hot or cold areas.
Between water spots and chlorine deposits, it’s best to stay away. Water spots can build up on stones and metals, causing them to look dull. Technically, you should even take off your rings before washing your hands—just be careful not to lose them down the drain!
Give your jewelry a break while you work out. Grinding your ring against metal dumbbells or on the ground while doing push-ups can scratch and damage it. It’s best to take off necklaces and bracelets, too, so they don’t soak up sweat, body oils, and lotion. “The necklace that you constantly wear to yoga is going to get gunked up,” says Santimer.
Did you know that you should take your wedding ring to the jeweler every year? The jeweler will check for damage, loose stones and prongs, and will also give it a good buffing so that it sparkles like new. Santimer recommends taking rings in every year near your anniversary so you don’t forget.
Household cleaners can damage some metals and stones, so play it safe and wear gloves or remove your jewelry altogether.
Some jewelry (especially pearls) is sensitive to light, and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause bleaching or discoloration. It may also break down leather and other organic materials. To properly store your jewelry, hang in a place away from windows or keep in a cloth-lined box.