Jewelry is the perfect accessory to any outfit, when it isn’t dull and tarnished. Proper storage in a jewelry box that keeps pieces separate and away from direct sunlight and moisture is a great way to keep jewelry in tip-top shape, but even so, tarnish happens. Luckily, restoring gold, silver and even costume jewelry’s shine is pretty easy, especially if you follow these steps from the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab. Before you try any of these methods on your jewelry, make sure that your jeweler or jewelry’s manufacturer doesn’t recommend a cleaning method specific to that brand. Some jewelers, like Pandora, have instructions and cleaning products specifically formulated to clean pieces from their line.
Keep in mind that all of these methods call for gentle rubbing, brushing or wiping. You don’t want to be too rough with your most delicate treasures! If you aren’t sure what kind of jewelry you’re working with, it is best to leave the cleaning up to a professional jeweler who can assess the piece, determine the material it’s made from and use a cleaning method less likely to cause any irreparable damage to your jewelry. Read on to find the best ways to clean all your jewelry (even those precious gemstones).
How to Clean Silver Jewelry
The best and safest way to clean tarnished silver pieces and keep them from re-tarnishing as quickly is with a good silver polish, like Good Housekeeping Seal-holder Weiman Silver Polish, which contains ingredients that dissolve and remove tarnish while leaving behind a protective coating to prevent new tarnish from forming, plus can be used to clean other silver products. Liquid and paste polishes can be a bit messy to use, especially if you’re in a hurry. Disposable silver cleaning wipes are a neater, more convenient alternative, as are reusable specially treated mitts or multi-layer cloths, which have one cloth to clean and remove tarnish and a second one to shine.
If you don’t have silver polish on hand and you need to brighten silver ASAP, you can try one of the DIY methods below. Just know that these treatments won’t keep tarnish from returning, and silver experts caution against using them too often (if at all) so use them, especially the toothpaste trick, for emergency spruce-ups only. For silver-plated jewelry, avoid excessive rubbing to keep from wearing away the metal finish.
Connoisseurs Silver Wipes
Weiman Silver Wipes
Connoisseurs Silver Polishing Cloth
3 DIY Silver Cleaning Hacks
Dish soap: Mix a few drops of dish liquid with warm water. Dip a soft cloth in the solution and rub the silver to remove the tarnish. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with another soft cloth.
Baking soda: For heavier tarnish, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver and apply the paste with a soft, lint-free cloth. Work it into the crevices and turn the cloth as it picks up the tarnish. Rinse well and buff dry.
Toothpaste: In the same way mild abrasives in toothpaste remove stains from your teeth, they can also remove tarnish from silver. Apply a tiny dab of white paste toothpaste (not gel) to your finger or a soft cloth and very gently rub it on the tarnished silver. Then, rinse well with warm water and buff to a shine with a soft cloth.
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How to Clean Gold Jewelry
It’s easy to restore the shine to gold jewelry with things you already have at home. If your gold jewelry has precious or semi-precious stones, like diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, follow the same steps below, but use seltzer water instead of plain water. In our Lab tests, we found that the carbonation from seltzer water helped to loosen soil and remove debris trapped in the settings and on the facets. To clean rings and other jewelry with set stones while on the go (or more easily at home), tuck a jewelry cleaning wand, like those from Connoisseurs or Baublerella, in your purse.
What You’ll Need:
Soft microfiber cloths
Prepare a solution of warm water and dish soap. Mix together about one cup of warm water with just a few drops of dish soap.
Soak gold jewelry for up to five minutes. Put small jewelry pieces into a strainer before placing in the solution. Swish the items around to dislodge dirt.
Remove any stuck on grime with a soft toothbrush. Take the jewelry out of the soapy water and lay them on a soft cloth for easier brushing.
Rinse gold jewelry with running water. Return small pieces to the strainer and rinse everything under running water. Buff dry with a soft cloth.
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How to Clean Jewelry with Pearls
Because they’re porous, pearls hold on to dust and dirt and easily lose their luster. Whether real, cultured or faux, you must clean them with care. Rule number one: Never soak pearls as doing so can cause the string to weaken and break. This no-soak treatment also works well for turquoise and opals (which are also porous stones). Special pearl care cleaning kits, like the one below from Town Talk, include tissue sachets of cleaner and a polishing cloth to make cleaning strands of pearls easier and less tedious.
What You’ll Need:
Small makeup brush
Clean microfiber cloth
Lay the strand of pearls on a soft cloth.
Mix together a cup of warm water with a light squeeze of mild shampoo. Dip a clean makeup bush into the mixture and shake off the excess, then go over all sides of each pearl. Apply minimal pressure and use gentle movements to avoid causing any damage.
Rinse the pearls. Use a well-wrung damp cloth to rinse the pearls well then allow to air dry flat to prevent the string from stretching.
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How to Clean Costume Jewelry
Costume jewelry (sometimes called fake jewelry) tarnishes notoriously quickly because it is made from less precious metals like brass, copper and aluminum. You can keep this kind of jewelry shiny with some of the same tips for keeping precious jewelry looking its best, like keeping it away from water, storing away from direct sunlight and applying lotions and perfumes before putting any jewelry on.
What You’ll Need:
Mix together a solution of water and dish soap. Just a few drops of dish soap are enough.
Dip a cloth in the solution and wipe the sudsy water over the jewelry. Wring the cloth well and wipe gently to avoid damage. Because stones are often glued on rather than set, don’t soak costume pieces in water or the glue could loosen and the faux gems could pop off.
Rinse the jewelry with plain water. Dip a clean cloth in plain water and wipe gently over the costume jewelry to rinse.
Pat dry and allow to air dry. Lay the pieces upside down on a clean microfiber cloth or towel so moisture doesn’t soak into the setting.
Expert Tips to Keep Jewelry Clean and in Tip-Top Condition
Remove rings when washing your hands, applying beauty products, cleaning the house or applying lotions to keep the settings grime-free. Apply perfume before putting on necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Wipe pearls with a soft cloth after each wear to remove body oils and perfume that can yellow them.
Take off all jewelry before swimming — chlorine and saltwater can damage it.
Silver becomes shinier the more it’s worn (the friction slows down tarnishing), so don’t let it sit in your jewelry box for long. When you’re not wearing it, store pieces in an anti-tarnish bag.
Get valuable jewelry checked regularly by a reputable jeweler to make sure the stones are in good shape and the settings are secure.
Lauren is a senior editor at Hearst. She was previously the senior editor at WomansDay.com and the home editor at GoodHousekeeping.com and HouseBeautiful.com. Her book club, ramen, and jean jackets are a few of her favorite things.
Home Care & Cleaning Lab Executive Director
Carolyn Forté brings more than 40 years of experience as a consumer products expert to her role as executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Home Care and Cleaning Lab. Using deep analytical testing and writing expertise in appliances, cleaning, textiles and organizational products, she produces cleaning and home care advice for GH, has authored numerous books and bookazines for the brand and partners with the American Cleaning Institute to co-produce the Discover Cleaning Summits. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Queens College, City University of New York.