We often receive questions about the care and cleaning of metal jewelry. While there are many products out there that promise to make your bling blindingly shiny, you might be surprised to learn just how simple (and inexpensive) it can be to clean your jewelry using common household products. Check out our 10 tips for cleaning metal jewelry below and be sure to visit our FAQ for even more finished jewelry tips.
Giving a handmade gift this season? Download our FREE jewelry care sheet to print out and give to your recipient so they can keep your work looking as beautiful as it looks right now!
1. Keep pieces in an air-tight container when not being worn.
The absolute best way to keep your jewelry looking beautiful longer is to store it in an air-tight container such as a Ziploc® bag when you’re not wearing it. Even though the cleaning methods below are pretty gentle, it’s best to not have to clean your jewelry more often than you need to.
At Blue Buddha Boutique, we go through a heck of a lot of blue Dawn. Why? Because it is the perfect soap for cleaning almost any metal. It’s super gentle and super affordable. To clean most metals (sterling silver, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, niobium, and gold-fill), soak jewelry in soapy water for several minutes. Then lather with soap and gently but briskly rub the jewelry between your palms. Rinse with warm water and let air dry, or use a blow dryer on lowest and coolest setting.
If you prefer your copper and jewelry brass pieces to stay bright and shiny but don’t own a tumbler, you’ll love this trick. Simply soak pieces in vinegar for 5-10 seconds. After removing the piece from the mixture, lather with non-lotion dishwashing soap and water, and rub the jewelry briskly but gently between your palms. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Dry the piece completely right away with a blow dryer on lowest setting to prevent water spots. Make sure the piece is fully dry before you return it to its Ziploc® bag.
4. Cold water and air ONLY for tarnishable metals.
Hot water and air will cause tarnish to return to your freshly cleaned piece so use cold water and air only when cleaning pieces made from copper, jewelry brass or silver.
We often have folks ask us how to clean pieces that use multiple metals. Our rule of thumb is to cater to the metal that needs to most careful cleaning. For example, cleaning a piece that combines aluminum and copper? Use lemon juice and cold water only. If your piece uses anodized aluminum along with any other metal, the cleaning method for the base metal should be just fine for the AA, however you’ll want to clean the piece less frequently to prevent color-fading.
6. Speaking of AA, never use polishing cremes or clothes on anodized aluminum.
These products may cause the color to rub off of anodized rings – a total bummer! Anodized aluminum will come clean using our general cleaning method described above and can even be dipped in lemon juice if it’s in a piece with tarnishable metals (see above.)
7. Invest in a small tumbler.
You can polish most chainmaille in a tumbler. Use stainless steel shot, or simply add a bit of water and non-lotion dishsoap. If not using shot, make sure to tumble several pieces at once so that there is enough friction to shine the rings.
8. Pieces with glass or crystal components are actually pretty resilient.
You might be worried that a piece that uses these components would be hard to clean, but actually they are quite easy to take care of. You can use most of the methods above to clean pieces that contain glass or crystal components. (Yes, even tumbling!) However, if your piece contains foil-backed crystals, be careful as the foil can be scratched off. We recommend cleaning pieces with these components by hand. For more information about cleaning these piece, check out our blog post “Care & Cleaning: Chainmaille Jewelry with beads, crystals, and glass rings“.
9. Use ArmorAll to shine up rubber pieces.
Yes! ArmorAll can be used to shine and condition pieces that use rubber rings. To condition your chainmaille, place the item(s) in a Ziploc® bag. Spray items 2-5 times with the ArmorAll. (A little goes a long way!) After closing the bag, place between your hands and rub them together (like you’re trying to warm them up) for roughly 30 seconds. Once removing your item(s) from the bag, you may choose to simply wipe the excess away with a clean dry towel, or rinse the piece under running water. Dry item(s) with a towel or rag after rinsing. This process is generally safe for all other metals that might be combined with the rubber, however it can cause anodized aluminum to fade more quickly. For tarnishable metals, make sure to use cool water if rinsing.
10. Don’t rest your sterling silver jewelry on wood surfaces.
This one might sound a little odd, but wood surfaces, especially oak, usually contain acids that can mar the surface of sterling. Once again, it is best to keep your piece in an air-tight container. It is also recommended to store silver away from direct sunlight.