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How to Clean Your Jewelry Like a Pro

These tips will remove tarnish and help your pieces sparkle for years to come.

Jewelry should sparkle, but exposure to dust and dirt, lotions and soaps and even sweat, air and moisture can dull your favorite pieces over time and rob them of their gleam.

Luckily, it's possible to clean most items in your jewelry box without heading to a professional jeweler. Restore tarnished silver and dingy gold back to their former selves, get gemstones like diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires glinting again and make those pearls look lustrous once more.

When your bling has lost its, well, bling, consult these tried-and-true DIY cleaning methods and recommended products from the experts in the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab. Just grab the right supplies (and a light dose of elbow grease) to get started.

How to Clean Silver

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.

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.

3 DIY Silver Cleaning Hacks

If you don't have silver polish on hand and you need to brighten silver ASAP, 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.

  • Use dish soap: Mix a few drops of dish liquid, like Dawn, 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.
  • Try 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.
  • Reach for 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.

    How to Clean Gold

    Give solid gold bracelets, chains and earrings a gentle bath in a solution of a few drops of dish soap and a little warm water. Put small jewelry pieces into a strainer before placing in the solution; large pieces can go directly into the bowl to soak for about five minutes to dislodge dirt. Swish the items around, then take them out, lay them on a soft cloth and go over the crevices and chain links with a soft toothbrush to remove the grime trapped there. Return small pieces to the strainer and rinse everything under running water. Buff dry with a soft cloth.

    How to Clean Gemstones

    It's easy to restore the sparkle of precious and semi-precious stones, like diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold. Use the same instructions as the ones above for cleaning gold, but instead of using plain water, mix the dish soap with seltzer water. In Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab tests, the carbonation helped to loosen soil and remove debris trapped in the settings and on the facets.

    Brush stones and settings with a soft toothbrush; then, dip in clear water to rinse or place the pieces in a strainer and rinse under running water. Buff dry and admire the sparkle.

    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. Simply twist the slim wand to dispense the cleaner and use the soft brush tip to remove dirt and grime. Rinse well, and see your gems shine!

    How to Clean 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.

    To clean pearls, start by laying the strand on a soft cloth. Dip a clean, small makeup brush into a mixture of warm water and a little mild shampoo. Shake off the excess solution and go over all sides of each pearl. To finish, rinse the pearls with a clean, well-wrung damp cloth. Let the strand dry flat to prevent the string from stretching.

    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.

    How to Clean Costume Jewelry

    Dab a cloth into a sudsy solution of dish soap and water, wring it well and gently wipe any smudges or grime. Then, rinse with a cloth dampened with plain water. Pat dry and lay the pieces upside down so moisture doesn't soak into the setting. Because stones are often glued on rather than set, don't soak costume pieces in water or the glue could loosen and the "gems" could pop off.

    How to Properly Care for Your Jewelry

    • Remove rings when washing your hands, applying beauty products, cleaning the house, or applying lotions to keep the settings grime-free. And apply perfume before — not after — putting on necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
    • Don’t wear jewelry while swimming — chlorine and saltwater can damage it.
    • Wipe pearls with a soft cloth after each wear to remove body oils and perfume that can yellow them.
    • Don't let silver sit in your jewelry box — wear it! It becomes shinier the more it's worn (the friction slows down tarnishing). 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.
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