We all have those pairs of earrings—be it diamond studs or gold huggies—that are so comfortable, you can sleep, shower and workout in them. Which is great...until it’s been two weeks since you’ve taken them out and ew, they’re not looking quite so clean anymore. Here’s exactly how to clean earrings, from the simplest water and soap mixture to one method you should use exclusively on pearls and other soft, porous stones. Now, it’s time to make your jewels sparkle.
1. Microfiber Cloth
If you’re in a pinch and need your jewels cleaned up ASAP, skip the liquids (and subsequent drying process) and grab a microfiber cloth ($9). Styles similar to the ones that come with glasses or sunglasses are best and are rather efficient at removing oil, dirt and fingerprints. You’ll want to avoid terry cloth towels because their loops can get caught around prongs or other settings, and paper towels, which can scratch the surface of softer stones.
Step 1: Using a small circular motion, rub the microfiber cloth across the surface of the earring, making sure to also clean the post and the earring back.
2. Dish Soap
Plenty of jewelry designers and jewelry stores will tell you to use just a bit of soapy water to clean your precious jewelry. And they’re not wrong! But if you really want to get into all the nooks and crannies, there’s one tool you should have on-hand: a soft toothbrush. Just, ya know, make sure it’s not the same one you use on your actual teeth.
Step 1: Create a soapy mixture from three to five drops of dish soap ($6) in about a cup of warm water.
Step 2: Submerge your jewels and let them sit in the soapy water for a few minutes.
Step 3: Use a soft toothbrush to suds up your gems, including around progs and settings.
Step 4: Rinse under running water with the drain covered, or dunk in a cup of water.
Step 5: Lay flat to dry.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Forget about multi-purpose spray; hydrogen peroxide is our all-time fave way to clean, well, everything. And yes, that includes your precious Tiffany & Co. earrings. Not only does it work as a disinfectant (which is great if you’re dealing with newly pierced ears), but it can also wash away gunk and dirt in no time, without damaging precious metals or gemstones.
Step 1: Fill a small cup or bowl with hydrogen peroxide and submerge your jewelry.
Step 2: Let it sit for a few minutes.
Step 3: Remove jewelry and soak in hot water for an additional minute.
Step 4: Use a Q-tip to scrub away any additional dirt or to get around settings or mountings.
4. Ultrasonic Cleaner
Jewelry aficionados swear by this Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner ($34) because it scrubs their finest gems in less than ten minutes. Using only water, the small machine emits ultrasonic energy waves that “create millions of microscopic cleansing bubbles.” Cute but mighty? We’re all about that. If you want your silver or gold to get a deep clean, add a drop of simple hand soap or dish soap.
Step 1: Drop jewelry into the ultrasonic cleaner.
Step 2: Add some hand or dish soap, if necessary.
Step 3: Set to the setting necessary for your product.
Step 4: Once finished, buff with a dry cloth.
5. Steam Cleaner
Sure, the GemOro Brilliant Spa Black Diamond Personal Jewelry Steam Cleaner ($120) is an investment, but it comes with jewelry tweezers, a basket, a steam residue mat and more. And yes, you’ll actually need all those items. However, many reviewers note that presoaking super dirty metal in soapy water or jewelry cleaning solution before using the steamer makes it even more effective.
Step 1: Fill the steam cleaner with water.
Step 2: Once the water has heated up (this model features an LED light notification), use the tweezers to hold the item you’re cleaning.
Step 3: Release the steam in one-second bursts, repeating until your jewelry is totally clean.
6. How to Clean Porous Stones, Specifically
Here’s a gentle reminder that you definitely don’t want to forget: Never soak pearls or other porous stones (such as opals, coral, onyx and amber). Submerging them in water will actually make the stones lose their luster. However, spot cleaning them with very gentle soap and as little water as possible shouldn’t harm your family heirlooms (or the pearl earrings you bought for yourself). Similarly, steer clear of most chemical cleaners, as they can damage the surface of the stone.
Step 1: Lay the jewelry on a soft cloth.
Step 2: Create a soapy mixture with warm water and a few drops of shampoo. Opt for baby shampoo or other delicate/unscented formulas.
Step 3: Dip a soft toothbrush into the mixture and scrub the jewelry.
Step 4: Use a damp cloth to wipe clean.
Step 5: Lay flat to dry.