How to Clean Jewelry Without Jewelry Cleaner

By Marilee Nelson |

How to Clean Jewelry Without Jewelry Cleaner

Jewelry makes a statement. It showcases your style, personality, and holds sentimental value.  

With wear, jewelry can lose its shine and dazzle. Keeping your jewelry clean frees it from bacteria, dirt, grime, and natural skin oils, maintaining its value and beautiful appearance.

Jewelry cleaners found at the store are often filled with toxic ingredients that harm your health and may cause damage to precious metals and gemstones.

In this article, you’ll learn how to clean jewelry without a jewelry cleaner. We’ll show you how to use non-toxic products and DIY recipes with items you probably already have in your pantry.

Ingredients to Avoid in Jewelry Cleaners

Jewelry requires special care and cleaning products that won’t damage metals and precious stones. 

Never use jewelry cleaners that contain the following toxic ingredients:

  • Triclosan - Some sources will suggest using antibacterial products, such as soaps and hand sanitizer, to clean jewelry. We recommend avoiding these harmful and toxic products, as they often contain the ingredient triclosan - a known carcinogen with many negative health effects including cancer, organ damage, thyroid disruption, and much more.
  • Ammonia - When ammonia enters the body, either through breathing, touching, or swallowing, it reacts with the water in your body to produce ammonium hydroxide. This highly toxic chemical causes cell damage almost immediately. [source]
  • Corrosive alkali - Overuse of cleaners containing corrosive alkali can cause damage to metal jewelry. Over time, it eats away at the metal and is highly toxic to the user. Labels on jewelry cleaners will suggest wearing gloves, eye protection, and a mask. Why? Because when this extremely harmful chemical is touched or inhaled, it deteriorates skin and lung tissue. [source]
  • Detergent - Used as a soap ingredient in jewelry cleaners, detergent is packed with synthetic fragrances, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, carcinogens, and many other toxic chemicals. Even a small amount of detergent can leave behind toxic residue on your jewelry, that you later wear and is absorbed through your skin.
  • Alcohol - Although found in many jewelry cleaners, alcohol is very drying, especially to gemstones, causing them to crack. Used as a cleaner, the fumes from alcohol can cause dizziness and headaches. Also, if alcohol comes in contact with your skin, it can cause irritation.
  • Tetrachloroethylene - This toxic chemical comes with high concern for causing cancer. It’s also an endocrine disruptor and can wreak havoc on the central nervous system.

To avoid these, we recommend using the products and DIY options listed in this article.

Materials Needed

Here’s what you’ll need to naturally clean jewelry without a jewelry cleaner.

  • A gentle dish soap - we recommend Branch Basics All-Purpose or Foaming Wash
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Soft bristled brush or toothbrush, such as a baby toothbrush
  • Bowl
  • Aluminum foil
  • Soft microfiber cloth
  • Coated tongs

How to Clean Jewelry With Dish Soap 

Gentle dish soap is safe for cleaning just about any type of jewelry.* Gentle, non-toxic dish soap options, such as Branch Basics, work to rid jewelry of grime and stains, leaving it sparkling and tarnish-free.

When in doubt, choose to clean your jewelry with gentle dish soap and water before using an acidic or more abrasive option.

How To:

Step 1: In a bowl of warm water, add a few squirts of dish soap, Branch Basics All-Purpose, or Foaming Wash.

Step 2: Add jewelry pieces and let soak for about 3 to 5 minutes, or even overnight (yes, it’s that safe!). 

Step 3: Using a soft toothbrush, gently scrub the jewelry to remove any buildup of dirt, grime, and natural skin oils.

Step 4: Rinse in cold water and dry with a microfiber cloth. 

*Note: Not recommended for pearls and opals.

Head to our YouTube to watch this simple how-to video: Easy Way to Clean Jewelry

How to Clean Jewelry With Baking Soda 

A versatile and natural cleaner, baking soda can clean just about anything around the house, including jewelry. We recommend using baking soda to clean metallic and silver jewelry, but it can also be used on some gold.*

How To:

Step 1: Line a bowl with a layer of aluminum foil.

Step 2: Add about 1 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda and plenty of hot water - enough to cover the jewelry. Allow the solution to fizz before proceeding.

Step 3: Using coated tongs, gently lower your jewelry pieces into the solution. Soak for about 10 minutes.

Note: Make sure the jewelry is touching the foil for the chemical reaction to take place. If you’re cleaning gold, we recommend only soaking for a few minutes.

Step 4: Carefully remove the jewelry from the bowl and rinse in lukewarm water.

Step 5: Dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

How does it work?

Although it may seem like magic, science is to credit for this gentle, practically hands-off jewelry cleaning method. The aluminum foil, baking soda, and hot water work together to create a chemical reaction known as ion exchange. The solution removes tarnishes, dirt, and grime, without the need for scrubbing. 

*Note: Baking soda can be slightly abrasive to some metals and gemstones. Instead of scrubbing, just let jewelry soak in the baking soda solution and rinse clean. Do not use this solution on pure gold pieces.

Learn more about Cleaning With Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate): 12 Surprising Uses 

How to Clean Jewelry With Vinegar

An ‘old wives tale’ that has stood the test of time - white vinegar is an excellent and natural way to clean jewelry without a jewelry cleaner.

Durable metals such as pure silver, copper, and brass can be soaked in distilled white vinegar to remove dirt, grime, and debris.* Even costume jewelry can use a soak in vinegar every once in a while. Do not use vinegar on softer metals like gold!

How To:

Step 1: Place your jewelry in a bowl and pour white distilled vinegar over it until fully covered.

Step 2: Let sit for 15 minutes or up to 3 hours. Lightly swish the jewelry around in the vinegar at least once.

Step 3: Remove and scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush to agitate any stains.

Step 4: Rinse in cold water and dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

*Note: Not recommended for use on gold, plated jewelry, soft gemstones, and pearls.

Related Read: 12 Ways To Use Vinegar In Your Home 

How to Clean Different Types of Jewelry With Natural Ingredients 

Cleaning different types of jewelry isn’t complicated, but requires some information about each individual piece. Understanding the composition of each piece will guide you on what type of natural ingredients to use (or what not to use). 

As mentioned above, when in doubt, opt for cleaning with gentle dish soap and warm water.

Cleaning Gold Jewelry 

For most cleaning jobs involving gold, a mild dish soap and water solution gets the job done. Depending on how pure the gold is, the amount of scrubbing will differ. For example, a pure 24-karat gold ring shouldn’t be scrubbed with a brush as it is prone to scratching. Gold jewelry mixed with other metals, however, can usually withstand a gentle scrub.

What to avoid when cleaning gold jewelry:

  • Abrasive cleaners, especially on higher-quality, pure gold.
  • Boiling water. Cleaning multiple pieces in boiling water can cause gold jewelry to stick together. Always opt for warm or slightly hot temperatures.
  • Avoid using vinegar on gold
  • In most cases, do not scrub pure gold jewelry. If scrubbing is required, opt for a very soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Know your gold! Know how pure your gold jewelry is to ensure you’re cleaning it with the proper natural ingredients.
  • When in doubt, consult a jeweler.

Store gold in a soft jewelry or microfiber cloth to protect it from dust and scratches.

Cleaning Silver Jewelry 

Silver jewelry is notorious for tarnishing, requiring regular cleanings. As a hard metal, silver is one of the simplest metals to clean. Use any of the above-mentioned products and recipes to return your silver jewelry to its shiny appearance in a matter of minutes.

What to avoid when cleaning silver jewelry:

  • Avoid soaking for an extended period of time, as silver can easily tarnish.
  • Hot water can cause silver to warp and expand. Opt for warm water.
  • Do not use harsh scrubbing material such as scrubbing pads or steel wool. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Highly abrasive cleaners, but a gentle baking soda cleaning should be okay.
  • When in doubt, consult a jeweler.

Store silver in a cool, dry place, such as a soft cloth or a jewelry box to prevent exposure to hydrogen sulfide (a tarnishing chemical compound) found in the air.

Jewelry Cleaning FAQ’s 

New to cleaning jewelry naturally without toxic jewelry cleaners?

Let’s answer some FAQs. 

What should I not use to clean jewelry? 

Before you begin cleaning, consider the material, type of metal, and gems that make up your jewelry. Not all metals and gems are created equal, meaning the cleaning processes will differ. Be sure to check Mohs Scale of hardness to measure a metal or stone’s resistance to scratching. The higher the mineral is on the scale, the safer it is to clean with more abrasive or acidic solutions (usually).

As always, if in doubt, wash in a solution of gentle dish soap and warm water. Soap and water is your best bet!

Despite recommendations and homemade recipes found online, you should not use the following to clean any type of jewelry:

  • Harsh and toxic chemicals such as detergents, bleach, ammonia, and rubbing alcohol. These chemicals can dry and crack precious stones, tarnish soft metals, and are toxic to you and your household.
  • Overly abrasive ingredients and solutions like toothpaste and salt. These gritty substances can scratch and ruin the fine finish of most jewelry.
  • Lemon. Even though this is often a natural go-to, lemon is considered too acidic to clean valuable pieces of jewelry and can cause damage to some metals. In fact, lemon juice is so acidic it can disintegrate pearls.
  • Paper towels should not be used to dry jewelry. Surprisingly, they are too abrasive and can scratch metals and soft gems. Stick with a microfiber cloth to protect and dry your jewelry.

Also, keep scrubbing tools simple and gentle. A baby toothbrush is soft enough to ensure jewelry doesn’t get scratched, while rubber-coated tongs are gentle enough to grab jewelry during the cleaning process.

How do you disinfect jewelry without ruining it? 

Soaking jewelry in a bowl of warm water and mild dish soap is sufficient for safely cleaning and removing germs from jewelry. Although it doesn’t disinfect, the physical action of gently scrubbing the jewelry’s surface and tiny crevices with soap loosens and removes germs, dirt and grime to be rinsed down the drain.

Also, drying your jewelry with a clean microfiber cloth can potentially remove up to 97% of illness-causing bacteria and viruses.

How do you remove green tarnish from jewelry? 

Mix baking soda and water to create a paste. Gently rub the paste onto the tarnished piece with a soft-bristled toothbrush or microfiber cloth. Rinse in lukewarm water and thoroughly dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics

As you can see, it is possible to clean jewelry without a jewelry cleaner. It doesn’t require toxic solutions or chemicals and can be accomplished with items hanging around the house. Opt for non-toxic, gentle dish soap cleaners, like Branch Basics, or the DIY options listed here, like vinegar or baking soda.

Interested in trying Branch Basics as your natural, pure, safe, gentle, and non-toxic jewelry cleaner?

Check out Branch Basics Premium Starter Kit, complete with everything you need to make your own non-toxic household cleaners. The kit includes All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, Foaming Wash, Laundry, and a full-size bag of Oxygen Boost.
Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.