Summer is starting to bloom around us, and during this time of year our minds may turn to summer cleaning. What better way to get a fresh start than getting your home clean and organized? After all, a clean and decluttered space is good for your peace of mind. But one part of our summer cleaning ritual regularly goes neglected; cleaning up our jewelry collection!
Jewelry spends a lot of time in contact with our skin and exposed to the elements, and because of this it’s best to clean it regularly. For pieces that are worn regularly, especially for engagement and wedding rings, you’ll want to clean them every few months. For jewelry worn less often, like more formal pieces, you’ll want to clean them once a year.
Cleaning jewelry will help your favorite necklaces, earrings, and bracelets stay beautiful and even last longer. Here’s a great guide for cleaning and maintaining your jewelry.
Gather Your Supplies
You’ll want to gather a few things before you get started. Nothing fancy, they’re probably just things you already have around the house.
- A Soft Toothbrush - Toothbrushes are excellent tools for getting into the crevices of chains, stone settings, and carved or molded pieces. Just save one that’s lightly worn once you’ve replaced it.
- A Soft Cloth - You’ll want a soft cloth for wiping and probably one for drying as well. Microfiber cleaning cloths or well-washed flannel rags work well for this.
- Silver Polish - This is good to have on hand if you have a lot of silver jewelry, but it’s not essential.
- Dish Soap - Dish soap used for hand-washing is a gentle soap that will clean your jewelry without damaging it.
- Baking Soda - Just plain baking soda from your pantry can be used to make a mild abrasive paste for cleaning and polishing.
- Toothpaste - Toothpaste is another mild abrasive that can be used to polish many kinds of jewelry.
- A Large Bowl - A bowl, like a mixing bowl, can be used to make a cleaning solution and soak pieces of jewelry that need to be soaked. Don’t do this directly in the sink; some small pieces might slip down the drain!
- Tea Strainer - For small pieces like delicate chains and small stud earrings, putting them in a tea strainer before soaking them can make them easier to retrieve.
How to Clean Gemstone Jewelry
When gemstones come into contact with skin oils, lotions and cosmetics, or even environmental pollutants, it can dull their sparkle and shine. To clean them, mix a small amount of dish soap with some sparkling water. Lab tests show that carbonated water is more effective in loosening dirt and debris in the settings and on gem facets. Place your jewelry into the water to soak for about five minutes, and then give them a swish in the bowl to dislodge dirt. Take the pieces out, lay them on a soft cloth, and go over them with a soft toothbrush to clean in and around the settings. Rinse the pieces and then dry with a soft cloth. Enjoy their renewed sparkle!
Note: stones like pearls, opals, and turquoise shouldn’t be soaked in water; they’re porous stones and soaking can discolor them!
How to Clean 14kt Gold and 14k Gold Fill Jewelry
Add a couple of drops of dish soap to a bowl of warm water, and put your jewelry in to soak for about five minutes. Swish them around to dislodge any dirt and debris, and then remove from the soap solution. Lay your gold jewelry out on a soft cloth, and go over any crevices with a soft toothbrush.
Rinse in clean water, and buff dry with a clean soft cloth. They should be shining like new!
* a clean soft cloth is different than a "polishing cloth". Do not use a polishing cloth on Gold Plated or Gold Vermeil jewelry. It will remove the gold. Instead very lightly buff with a soft cloth.
How to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry
Sterling Silver is subject to tarnish, which is a darkening layer on the surface that results from silver being exposed to sulfur containing gasses in the air. Other metals are subject to tarnish, but silver tarnishes very easily.
The best way to clean up silver jewelry is with a good silver polish; some of them not only remove tarnish, but leave behind a temporary protective layer that keeps silver from tarnishing quite so quickly.
If you don’t have silver polish, there are some DIY solutions for tarnish removal. For light tarnish, use some warm water and a couple of drops of dish soap, and wet a soft cloth in the solution. Gently rub the silver to remove the tarnish, and rinse in cool water. Buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.
For heavier tarnish, you can make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver jewelry first, and then apply the paste with a soft cloth. Rub the paste on the silver, working it into crevices if necessary. Turn and fold the cloth to expose clean areas as it picks up tarnish from the jewelry. Rinse in cool water and buff dry.
The baking soda method can be done with toothpaste as well, but you have to use a paste style toothpaste, not a gel.
How to Clean Pearls
You’ll want to clean pearl jewelry a little differently, because the pearls are porous, and they’re typically on strings, which can become waterlogged, weakened, and break as a result of soaking.
Lay your pearl jewelry out on a soft cloth, and mix a small amount of mild shampoo into some warm water. Wet the tip of a small, very clean makeup brush into the solution, and gently go over the surface of each pearl. Once you’ve cleaned them, rinse by wiping them clean with a clean, damp cloth. Dry strings of pearls lying flat to prevent the string from stretching. Enjoy your pearls’ renewed luster!
This cleaning method works well for other porous stones, like opals and turquoise.
How to Clean Wood Jewelry
Wood jewelry provides a warm, organic look and has been becoming more popular these days! Taking care of wood jewelry is a little bit different. You don’t ever want to soak wood jewelry in water or any cleaning solution, because wood, even finished wood, is porous, and water will discolor it. You can use a soft microfiber cloth to wipe your wood jewelry after each wear, and every month or so you can polish it with a beeswax based wood polish to remove any accumulated dust and dirt and to protect your wood jewelry and give it a lustrous shine.
Regular Jewelry Maintenance
There are a few things that you can do to keep your jewelry in good condition. This makes cleaning easier, and can prevent things like lost stones!
- Remove Your Jewelry When Applying Cosmetics - some of the ingredients in cosmetics can dull metals and gemstones, discolor porous stones, and attract and hold dust and dirt, especially in crevices and settings.
- Don’t Wear Jewelry While Swimming - Whether swimming in a pool or in the ocean, the chlorine and salt in these waters can damage your jewelry.
- Wipe Pearls With A Soft Cloth - This should be done after each wear. It keeps the pearls from collecting body oils, perfumes, and cosmetics that can cause discoloration.
- Wear Your Silver! - The friction of silver against skin and clothes helps slow the tarnishing process and makes your silver really shine! When you’re not wearing it, you can store silver in a special anti-tarnish bag.
- Get Precious Jewelry Checked Regularly - A reputable jeweler can check over your valuable jewelry to ensure that the stones are in good condition and the settings are still secure.
There you have it! You’re now ready to add jewelry cleaning to your summer cleaning routine. This will help keep your jewelry, whether gemstone, silver, or gold, shining and in good condition for years to come!