How to Clean Your Jewelry at Home With No Time, Tools, or Training

You’re pretty sure your jewelry wasn't that dull grey color when you wore it last Christmas. And aren't diamonds supposed to sparkle more than that? Or maybe you forgot that last year it got dipped in the chocolate fondue by accident and it’s still a little... sticky. 

Not much time? No special tools? No idea how to clean jewelry? This is the tutorial for you.

Stage One: Removing Dirt*

*... it's not dirt. It's mostly shed human skin and oils, pet dander, makeup residue, food residue, and sometimes playdough. I suggest you don't think about it too hard.

Safety warning: Removing physical dirt by hand is the safest way to clean jewelry. But it is possible to dislodge a set stone. If this happens to you, don’t worry! If the stone was so loose that it fell out because of a toothbrush, it was going to fall out soon regardless. Be glad it happened at home in a dish where you can easily find the escapee, because later you can take the stone and empty setting to a jeweler to get it fixed.

Tools list:

- a new, clean, soft bristle toothbrush.

- two small bowls 

- mild dish soap

- a clean cotton cloth 


1: Fill both bowls with pleasantly warm water. Lay the dry towel flat to one side.

2: Use the soap to make one of the bowls into a bubble-bath. The other bowl is for rinsing.

3: Swishing occasionally in the soapy water, scrub the jewelry with your soft toothbrush. Think about everything your dentist ever told you: Small circular motions, gentle pressure, change the angle to hit all the surfaces, particularly the sheltered recesses. If the piece has set stones, be sure to get into the setting from the underside.

4. Swish in the clean water to rinse, and blot dry on the towel.

5. Look it over carefully. Dirt loves to hide under stones, in corners, beside and under prongs, and in moving parts. And it can be amazingly easy to overlook a missing 1mm diamond in an engagement ring with a pretty standard amount of dirt, best to check while it's nice and clean.



Stage Two: Removing Tarnish.*

*We will not be polishing to remove tarnish today. Polishing is a large and complicated subject that I'll talk about another time. For now, please don't use abrasives like baking soda or toothpaste. 

Safety Warning: If you know your piece is only sterling silver or gold, has only solid stones like diamond, sapphire, ruby, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, amethyst, garnet, ect., and has no spring-loaded clasp, you’re safe to continue. Vinegar can damage your jewelry IF:

- It has porous stones like old Emeralds, Turquoise, Opal, and Moonstone, or organic stones like Pearl and Coral.

- The piece includes any kind of steel or iron, including the spring inside of some kinds of clasps.

- You don’t know what your piece is made of.

You can still use a tarnish removing vinegar bath if you have a questionable stone or clasp, provided you’re careful. Just use a chopstick or other wooden tool to hold that bit out of the bath, and leave the rest to soak.

Also... It's vinegar. Please don't squirt it in your eyes.

Safe: Gold and silver with no stones or with solid stones, and no steel anywhere.

Caution: Gold and silver with porous stones or steel-bearing clasps that  can be held out of the bath. 
Nope: Integrated porous stones. There's no way with these earrings to soak the silver and keep the shell dry.


Tools List:

- a ceramic or glass mug

- boiling water

- white vinegar, commonly used for cleaning and pickling

-  a wooden spoon, or chopstick

- the dish of clean water you used in Stage One


1. Fill your mug half-way with room temperature white vinegar. Top it off with boiling water. The resulting bath should be quite warm, but not too warm to dip your fingers in briefly.

2. 'Safe' pieces can be dropped directly in the mug. If you are working a 'caution' piece, use the wooden tool to suspend the questionable bit out of the bath, and let the rest soak as in the picture below. Now go do something else for ten to twenty minutes. (It works better if you don't stare at it, I promise.)

3. Use the wooden tool to fish the piece out of the bath, and rinse in the dish of clean water.

4. Wipe firmly with the dry cotton cloth, some grey residue will probably come off on the cloth.


And that’s it! Your jewelry is physically clean and de-tarnished. Wear your newly spiffy pieces with pride! 


If you're wondering how to keep your jewelry looking its best all the time, keep an eye out for my upcoming post on how to wear and store jewelry to increase its longevity and reduce daily wear and tear.

Happy Holidays!

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