Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cheap Trick: Jewelry Cleaning

The tools
I was once told by a woman who sold beautiful Native American jewelry that wearing silver keeps it from tarnishing because the skin keeps it from oxidising. I don't know if this is true, but not wearing jewelry for a while certainly allows it to tarnish.

Taking one's jewelry to be professionally cleaned is worth the extra sparkle, but it can be annoyingly time consuming. I'm always pulling out jewelry to put on only to realize it has tarnished a bit since the last wear, so I've used this trick my aunt taught me many, many times.

It can be used on most jewelry, but I would not suggest it for amber, as soap of any type clouds amber. It should never be used on pearls, as the brush will scratch their delicate surface. (Although the earrings shown have pearls, I was very, very gentle and tried my best to not touch the pearls with the brush.) I would also be extremely gentle with old costume jewelry because the glue is often starting to go on those old pieces. Silver, gold, platinum, diamonds, and other real stones are excellent pieces to use for this trick.

Before: Tarnish, and pearls stuck inside the "bell."

After: Clean, and the pearls are free to swing from their hidden chains.
If you look closely in the before picture, you can see that the pearls are stuck inside the "bell" more than they should be, and that there is green tarnish on the metal. After cleaning, these two problems have been corrected.

Supplies needed:
-Old, soft toothbrush

Using a little water to make the toothpaste brush on more smoothly, brush the item back and forth as much as needed. As the toothpaste turns dark in color, rinse the item off and repeat brushing until the desired shine shows through. Rinse the item off, pat dry with a paper towel, and wear the newly gleaming piece!


  1. I'm sorry, but I believe you're giving out bad advice on this subject and doing your readers a disservice. There are many sources that strongly advise against using toothpaste to clean jewelry as it contains abrasives that can actually damage your pieces. If you're going to put yourself forward as an authority on such matters, it might benefit you to do a bit more research beforehand. My jewelers have always warned against using toothpaste and instead recommend using Windex, either by soaking the jewelry in it in a small container or gently using a toothbrush to get at those harder-to-reach spots (either a new brush or an old one if you can be sure it has absolutely NO toothpaste residue on it). I could provide you with many reference points on the subject, but will only attach four (easily found through a Google search), as follows:

    "Never use toothpaste to clean jewelry. You may have seen toothpaste recommended elsewhere, but it's never a good idea to use toothpaste to clean jewelry because even the gentlest toothpaste contains abrasives that will harm jewelry. I've also seen baking soda recommended as a cleaning agent, and again, that's too abrasive. It's best to use a gentle liquid detergent carefully applied if your jewelry needs more cleaning than just a wipe with a damp cloth." (

    "And don’t ever use anything for cleaning jewelry that has abrasives or bleach. Both of these damage silver and many stones! That includes toothpaste (especially tooth-whitening toothpastes), scouring powder, baking soda, or creamy opaque jewelry cleaners.
    And although it’s sometimes helpful to use a small brush for cleaning jewelry, I don’t recommend using an old toothbrush. It’s likely to have a tiny residue of toothpaste on it, which may scratch your metal and stones. Use a brand-new toothbrush, and keep it just for scrubbing jewelry!" (

    "Never use toothpaste or other abrasives to clean metal or stones. You will find countless websites that recommend toothpaste as a cleaner, but this is not an accepted practice by fine jewelers. Although the abrasives in toothpaste are great for your teeth, they can damage the surface of the metal requiring the skill of a professional to buff and refinish. Toothpaste will also scuff the surface on amber, lapis, turquoise and other soft stones resulting in the fine polish which was produced by the skilled lapidary to be permanently marred." (

    Lastly, from the Gemological Institute of America (I think we can both agree they are a reputable source):

    "A simple plan to keep your diamond jewelry looking beautiful is to soak each diamond in an ammonia-based household cleaner (such as window cleaner) overnight, once a week. The next morning, remove the diamond from the cleaner and brush it with a soft, clean toothbrush (a new brush reserved exclusively for cleaning your diamond) to remove any leftover dirt.

    While the instructions above will keep your diamond sparkling, there are a few things to be aware of:

    Not all gemstones are as hard as diamonds, and some can easily be scratched with a toothbrush. Be sure to check the best method for cleaning your particular gemstone.
    Fragile settings and older estate jewelry may not respond well to the scrubbing of a toothbrush, so use a soft touch.

    Finally, avoid harmful solutions. Chlorine (as in household bleach) or abrasives (such as household cleansers or toothpaste) should never be used when cleaning diamonds, especially those set in jewelry. These types of products can erode some of the metals often used in diamond settings, and they may loosen prongs or even dissolve the metal completely."


  2. Hi, Anonymous!

    Thanks for reading -- I'm sorry that we disagree! There certainly are lots of differing opinions on the internet about how to clean jewelry at home. While my aunt was the first to suggest this method, the jeweler where we got my wedding ring also suggested toothpaste for the stones. In the past, I have also used a solution (there's an all-natural one I like and will have to post about), but using toothpaste is a great quick-fix when time is in short supply, or one is away from home.

    With a soft toothbrush and rinsing off the toothpaste after cleaning, I've never had a problem with residue. Even after years of using toothpaste, there doesn't seem to be any kind of buildup of residue, or abrasiveness with the stones, but I certainly would avoid very soft items like pearls.

    Personally, I'd be wary of the chemicals in Windex, but it's a great alternate suggestion -- I'm so glad it works for you!


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