What Not to Clean Jewelry With

A box with jewelry.

Proper care and cleaning will keep your jewelry looking as beautiful as ever. Not all cleaners, however, are created equal and some can do serious damage to your jewels. Here is a quick rundown on what chemicals you should avoid when cleaning your favorite jewelry.

Baking Soda

Baking soda.

A few home remedies for jewelry cleaning call for a mixture of baking soda and other chemicals. The problem with baking soda is that it is abrasive and can leave tiny scratches on certain types of jewelry. If you have soft stones or metals, avoid using baking soda at all costs.

Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines

Never use an ultrasonic cleaning machine on jewelry. These machines work by cleaning items via sound waves and vibrations. While effective as a cleaning agent, the sound waves are too abrasive for certain types of jewelry, such as coral, pearls, opals, and emeralds.

The only gems that are safe to use in an ultrasonic cleaning machine are copper and silver. If the gem has been treated, however, avoid these types of machines.

Witch Hazel and Vinegar

Vinegar in a bottle.

Vinegar and Witch Hazel are commonly used as household cleaners. Although they do a good job cleaning up around the house, they should not be used to clean jewelry. These substances are acidic and can damage jewels that are porous or soft. They also do not mix well with plated items.


Never use plain water when cleaning jewelry. You should either use denatured alcohol as a rising agent or mix water with mild dish soap and ammonia. Using plain water can leave behind oils and it will likely produce water spots on the gem’s surface once you are done cleaning. The only exception to this rule is if you are cleaning porous gems, like opals, shell, bone, and coral, which can handle water just fine.

Old Toothbrush

A toothbrush in a cup.

An old toothbrush is a go-to cleaning supply for many homeowners, but you should not use it on jewelry. An old toothbrush can contain contaminants that damage stones and precious metals. Depending on the type of toothbrush, it may also be too abrasive for soft metals. If you are set on using a toothbrush to clean jewelry, opt for a brand new baby toothbrush, which is soft enough to clean jewelry without damaging it.

Abrasive Materials

Avoid using abrasive materials, like brushes, to clean jewelry. Anything too abrasive can leave tiny scratches on the surface of the metal or stone. Instead, clean with a cotton swab or cleaning cloth to wipe away imperfections.

Tips on Cleaning Jewelry

Always consider the type of jewelry you are cleaning when picking out a solution. Not all jewelry should be cleaned in the same manner and stones will react differently to certain types of chemicals. Always double check that the cleaning solution will not damage the stone or metal before you begin cleaning with it.

Things to Consider

A woman cleans jewelry.

One of the best homemade cleaning solutions for jewelry is a simple mixture of warm water and dish detergent. When cleaning jewelry, remember to use a soft cloth or brush, taking care not to pull too hard on the stone. If you are unsure about what to use on a particular piece of jewelry, you can always reach out to your local jewelry store and ask what they recommend. You can even purchase cleaning supplies from them that are safe for cleaning.

Daily Care Advice

Taking care of your jewelry is the best way to avoid frequent cleaning sessions. As a general rule of thumb, jewelry should be the last thing you put on in the morning and the first thing you take off. Following this rule will help avoid exposing your jewelry to harmful chemicals, like lotions and hair products. You should also never wear jewelry when doing physical activity, especially when it comes to swimming. Pool chemicals, like chlorine, are very bad for jewelry and can lead to serious damage.