Now more than ever, people have become conscious about carrying and transmitting bacteria and viruses that can potentially be harmful to their health. This mindfulness has impacted the health and safety practices across different aspects of our daily lives.
It’s important to regularly disinfect your jewelry, not just to keep it in good physical condition but to also ensure that it does not become a hotspot for pathogens which can then be transferred to your body.
For example, according to the CDC, some studies show that there are more germs found in skin trapped underneath rings versus skin on fingers without rings.
First, let’s look at the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Cleaning an object entails removing physical particles or debris, but not necessarily pathogens. So, you can clean a table by wiping it with a tissue, but you may not be killing the germs present on the surface.
On the other hand, disinfecting involves the usage of solutions to remove germs that are present on a surface. The solutions would typically have to be left on the surface for some time to effectively kill germs.
When disinfecting your jewelry, take the time to assess and research your jewelry. Some materials and designs may require more delicate handling than others, like accessories with gemstones. The last thing you want to do is damage your jewelry.
The Golden Rule of Disinfecting Jewelry
As a general rule of thumb for most types of jewelry, mild dish soap and warm water are the go-to ingredients for disinfection. Start by carefully scrubbing your jewelry with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove residue or particle build-up. Then dilute a small amount of gentle soap or mild dish detergent in warm water to create a jewelry cleaning solution.
If your jewelry doesn't have fragile stones that may react to the soap, you can leave them to soak in the solution for up to 20 minutes to soften and loosen physical debris. Afterward, give it another gentle scrub to clear away particles you may have missed the first time.
Rinse the jewelry with clean water to remove the soap solution, then dry it with a lint-free soft cloth.
It’s also worth noting that applying hand sanitizers or alcohol while wearing jewelry, particularly rings and bracelets, does not count as sanitizing it. Many types of jewelry are designed with hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, so you’ll likely miss crevices that can house germs and viruses.
Furthermore, alcohol is not recommended for jewelry as it may harm materials like gemstones.
Silver polish is highly recommended to keep your silver jewelry in top shape. But it’s also easy to DIY with common household items you’ll find in your kitchen. To make your own silver polish, you’ll need baking soda, salt, water, tinfoil, and a disposable pan.
- Use the aluminum foil to line the base of the pan, ensuring that the shiny side is facing up. Put your jewelry in the pan on top of the foil.
- Sprinkle in both the baking soda and salt, the proportions of which are dependent on the water you’re going to use. A safe estimate is a 1:1 ratio – 1 tablespoon of baking soda and salt each for 1 cup of water.
- Boil water, then pour it into the pan with the jewelry and baking power + salt mix until the jewelry is fully soaked. Leave your silver jewelry in the mixture until any tarnishing fades.
- Pat dry with a clean cloth and allow to fully air dry.
If you’re pressed for time or prefer an even simpler method, you can also use toothpaste. Apply a small amount of white toothpaste to tarnished silver and scrub it carefully with a soft lint-free cloth. Because of the mild cleaning agents in toothpaste, it should be able to remove silver tarnish similar to how it reduces teeth stains.
Once the tarnish has faded, rinse it thoroughly and buff your jewelry to make it shine.
Keep in mind that this won’t eliminate silver tarnishing forever, but it’s important to do this periodically as needed to keep your silver jewelry in prime condition.
You can follow the general rule for sanitizing gold. Create a mild disinfectant solution by mixing a small amount of gentle soap or dish detergent in warm water, and soak the jewelry in it to loosen residue and debris.
You may want to place smaller jewelry pieces in a strainer while soaking them to avoid getting lost between bigger pieces or getting left behind when you toss out the used solution.
After soaking, run a brush or cloth over the jewelry to remove any remaining particles that may have been lodged in tight spots. Finish by rinsing your jewelry and gently drying it with a clean cloth.
Disinfecting precious stones can be tricky because they can be sensitive to harsh chemicals. Alcohol and hand sanitizers can cause drying, cracking, clouding, and other types of surface damage, particularly to porous stones like opal.
As a general rule for most gemstones, you can disinfect them with mild dish detergent diluted in seltzer water. Based on findings from tests conducted by the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, the carbonation in seltzer water is more effective than flat water in loosening and removing particles that may be stuck between gemstone settings and stone facets.
You can use a soft-bristled brush to scrub away debris, then rinse your jewelry with clean water and buff dry with a soft lint-free towel.
If you need to disinfect jewelry with hard gemstones set in platinum or premium-grade solid gold, you can sanitize it with a small amount of disinfectant like bleach, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, that's diluted in boiling water.
Other General Cleaning Methods
If you’re looking for other general cleaning methods, try these out if the items are available to you:
- The steaming wand found in many standard espresso machines can be used to give your jewelry a deep clean. Just ensure you know how to handle it properly to avoid burning yourself.
- The usage of UV-C technology for sanitation has also grown in popularity in recent years. While it cannot help with physical residue and debris that can be left behind by hand soap or lotion, UV-C light can neutralize bacteria and viruses on a surface. This can be used as a final step after washing your jewelry to be doubly sure you’ve covered all bases.
If you sanitize and care for your jewelry on a regular basis, it'll not only remain safe and clean to wear but will last for a long time.
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