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If you’ve noticed your favorite baubles are collecting grime or simply not shining the way they used to, you may be looking for ways to safely clean them at home.
Earrings can catch and accumulate a layer of grease, dirt, sweat, and shampoo, as well as other hair and skin products.
This buildup can cause your earrings to lose their shine and even irritate the skin around your earring, increasing risk of an infection.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get your earrings disinfected and shimmering again.
Diamonds are resilient, but you’ll still want to be cautious when cleaning them to avoid discoloration. Believe it or not, mild dish soap gets the job done.
- Soak your diamond earrings in gentle dish soap and water for about 30 minutes.
- When they’re finished soaking, gently brush them with a soft toothbrush.
- Rinse them with water and let them air dry, or gently dry them with a lint-free cloth.
Important: If you’re working above a sink, remember to plug the sink to avoid dropping earrings down the drain.
Jessica D’Amico, jewelry designer and owner of the Lady J +1, recommends this DIY treatment for removing oxidation, or the discoloring of silver metals only.
What you’ll need:
- baking soda
- a soft brush
- boiling water
- Line a glass dish with tinfoil.
- Generously coat your silver earrings with baking soda.
- Boil water and pour it over your jewelry. Use just enough to create a paste-like consistency.
- Using a soft brush like a paintbrush or soft toothbrush, gently scrub the jewelry to help loosen the dirt and oxides.
- Repeat until the silver sparkles.
- When finished, rinse with hot water and dry with a soft cotton cloth.
Important: Keep all stones separate. This cleaning method isn’t recommended on gems, especially not opals, pearls, or amber. They’re porous and soft, so using this method could damage them.
Like diamonds, gold earrings can be cleaned using just mild dish soap and water.
- Soak your gold earrings in dish soap and water for about 30 minutes.
- Gently brush them with a soft toothbrush.
- Rinse thoroughly and gently dry with a lint-free cloth.
To lift away grime, oils, and dirt off gold earrings, you can also soak them in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes.
This works best for plain pieces, however. Avoid this method if your gold earrings use adhesive to hold stones in place. The alcohol may melt the glue.
“Pearls are very fragile and need only a few gentle steps for effective at-home cleaning,” says Jess Hannah, designer and founder of J. Hannah and Ceremony.
According to Hannah, it’s best to simply use a soft cotton cloth to remove traces of cosmetics or other residue.
If you’d like to include a bit of water when cleaning your pearls, consider following these simple steps:
- Using a damp cloth, gently wipe pearls clean.
- Using a clean, dry cloth, gently pat the earrings to get rid of leftover water.
- Let the earrings sit out to dry for about 30 minutes.
- Store them a dry, safe place.
Hannah also says that for pearls, it’s best to avoid ultrasonic cleaners or chemicals that are routinely used to clean gold, silver, and other metals.
D’Amico says jewelry polishing cloths are the best for quickly getting rid of tarnish.
“I highly recommend Sunshine Polishing Cloths for silver, gold, or platinum,” she says.
“They even come in different finishes. Sunshine Polishing Cloths are not good for plated jewelry, however, they can remove the plating,” D’Amico explains.
“That being said, most people don’t know that their jewelry can be replated! If you have vermeil jewelry, which is gold plating over silver, it can be replated by a jeweler. I often compare this to getting your shoes resoled. About every 3 years you should take in your jewelry for replating.”
Even the priciest earrings can become dirty and cause an infection.
D’Amico recommends cleaning your earrings — especially the posts of your earrings — as often as possible.
“If you can manage to take an alcohol swab to the post or hook before each wear,” D’Amico says, “it will help with buildup and keep your pierced ears healthy.”
If you’ve just gotten your ears pierced, it’s best not to take them out to clean them.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends keeping earrings in for 6 weeks or more after piercing, even at night. Taking earrings out of new piercings too soon may lead to the piercings closing up.
Even so, you should still clean your new earrings and the piercing daily. The AAD suggests washing your ears with soap and water daily as well as using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol twice daily to avoid infection.
Be sure to keep up with the aftercare instructions and cleaning solution your piercer sends home with you.
To avoid infection, it’s best not to wear the same earrings for an extended period without washing them. Signs of an infection include:
Unless your piercings are new, it’s also best not to sleep with your earrings in. Along with risking infection, sleeping in your earrings can lead to:
- torn skin
- allergic reactions
According to D’Amico, there are some tried and true ways to keep your earrings (and all your other pieces of jewelry) shining.
- When you’re not wearing them, keep your earrings sealed in airtight bags. Air can oxidize metals like silver and brass, causing discoloration or tarnish.
- Avoid working out or cleaning your home with your earrings on. Sweat can alter the color of the metal and mix with any lotions or hair products you already have on, which also adversely affects the metal. “Chemicals you use to clean your house with can slowly reduce the quality of metals and wreak havoc on precious gemstones,” D’Amico says.
- Avoid swimming with your earrings on. Over time, chlorine and saltwater can lead to the disintegration of alloys.
There are plenty of easy ways to safely clean your earrings at home. It’s best to clean your earrings as often as possible to avoid infection and keep them looking like new.
Carefully storing them also helps prevent the buildup of grime and discoloration.