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polishing necklaceAll jewelry owners should make a habit of cleaning their pieces, be it gold or silver necklaces, earrings or bracelets. Dirt and other debris can mar the jewelry’s appearance until the exterior becomes tarnished, decreasing its luster.

In addition to the usual tips, cleaning jewelry during the COVID-19 pandemic should also involve thoroughly disinfecting each piece, without damaging its metal or stones.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a ring creates a haven for germs to congregate. For this reason, avoid wearing non-essential accessories when you go outside.

Jewelry also acts as a magnet for sweat, oils and can hold onto all types of particles, unless cleaned and disinfected regularly. Whether you want to clean your wedding ring or other items, here are some strategies for disinfecting your jewelry.

Soak, Clean and Brush

For most jewelry items, except certain antique pieces from the Victorian and Georgian eras, soaking and brushing can remove what has accumulated on the surface or between the links.

Start by filling a bowl with warm water and a mild dish soap, then leave your jewelry submerged for up to 20 minutes. At this point, take a toothbrush or similarly small brush and go over the surface, including behind stones and all places where dirt, grease and grime could be embedded.

In today’s climate, schedule this activity at least a couple of times per week for jewelry pieces you regularly wear – for instance, rings, watches and your go-to bracelets and necklaces.

Avoid using harsh cleansers and alcohol-based products. These substances can dry out certain stones, resulting in cracks or surface-level damage that affects their appearance. Anything porous – opals, tourmaline, emeralds and pearls – should be soaked in water, no soap, and gently brushed to avoid permanent damage. If you have a locket with a photo inside, keep it out of water.

Carefully Dry Your Jewelry

Another factor affecting your jewelry’s appearance, water can be trapped in rings with closed-back mountings or beneath its stones. This can create a cloudy appearance and may lead to skin irritation. With this in mind, allow your jewelry to fully air dry before putting it back on. Check behind all stones and around settings to make sure the moisture has completely evaporated.

Other Methods

The above technique helps to remove dirt, oils, debris and grime – all factors that can hold onto bacteria and germs. However, the method doesn’t kill any microorganisms inhabiting your jewelry.

If this is a concern, you may want to use a UV disinfecting device. For a more thorough physical cleaning, invest in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner that, through strong but microscopic-level waves, removes buildup from the surface without damaging the metal or stones. This latter solution is often how jewelry gets professionally cleaned.

Additionally, you can adjust your own habits to ensure your jewelry items are picking up less dirt and debris throughout the day:

  • Remove your jewelry whenever you wash your hands.
  • Avoid putting your jewelry back on right away – your skin will be exposed to germs sitting underneath your ring and you may end up contaminating your skin again.
  • Consider cleaning off your ring at the same time you wash your hands. Wait for it to fully dry before slipping it back on.

Also, take care whenever rubbing hand sanitizer on your hands. Aside from the substance’s drying effect on gems and other porous stones, make sure to remove your jewelry before applying the gel. Otherwise, the skin beneath continues to harbor germs.
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