Keep Gold Jewelry Sparkling With These Expert-Backed Cleaning Tips
Like any material, gold loses its shine over time due to products we wear like lotion and perfume as well as oils and sweat from our skin. Depending on the karat, gold can sometimes develop a subtle patina (a brownish film on the surface) that’s caused by oxidation or build-up. Unlike silver, though, gold won't tarnish. This durable material has one of the highest levels of corrosion resistance among metals, making it very popular for jewelry. But general wear and tear does happen, so if you've invested in any type of gold jewelry (be it a bracelet, necklace, ring, or pair of earrings), you want to keep it gleaming.
To do so, you’ll need to know how to properly clean, store, and maintain your gold jewelry. The good news is you can successfully clean your gold jewelry with materials you already have at home. Read on for professional-backed tips for keeping your gold jewelry sparkling and the factors to consider before cleaning it.
What is the difference between 14, 18, and 24 karat gold?
Understanding gold as a metal and the properties of different karat options will help you understand how you wear each piece, which can help prevent them from tarnishing. According to Madeline Fraser, founder and CEO of Gemist, “Karat references the percentage of gold in an alloy—a combination of two metals.”
For context, Fraser tells us that 24K gold is 100% pure, 18K gold is 75% gold and 25% alloyed metals, and 14K gold is 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals. “Because of its higher percentage of alloyed metals, 14K gold offers more resistance to wear and tear because it’s the least soft option," she says. This is ideal for everyday wear and one of the most popular options for jewelry we never take off, like engagement rings and wedding bands. Since 18K and 24K are softer and may scratch easier, they're best worn for special occasions and can require a bit more care.
No matter what, though, Fraser says to always put your jewelry on last when getting ready. "This will limit the exposure of your jewelry from your skincare products, which can help keep it clean—regardless of what metal it is made of."
How can I store my gold jewelry to keep it clean and scratch-free?
"Using a jewelry box with velvet-lined trays helps to prevent scratches and tangles," says Cleo Escarez, COO of Boma Jewelry. You can also take it a step further by wrapping each piece of gold jewelry in a soft cloth. “The most important thing to remember is to store your jewelry separately to prevent damage,” she explains.
How often should I clean my gold jewelry?
"Aside from taking your most cherished or expensive pieces to jeweler once a year for a professional cleaning—and to check-in to make sure there aren’t any loose parts, especially around gemstones—there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often you should clean your gold jewelry at home," says Escarez. Because it is pretty durable, it’s safe to take it off and clean whenever you notice it dulling a bit. Chelsea Moser, Los Angeles-based jewelry production consultant and founder of Billie Simone Jewelry says her general rule of thumb is to clean her everyday pieces about once a month.
How to clean gold jewelry:
“The ultimate tip for cleaning jewelry is using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner,” says Fraser. According to her, if you are an avid jewelry wearer, you should consider investing in one. “It’s like a dishwasher for your jewelry,” she says. The machine uses ultrasonic vibrations with warm water and gentle soap to clean gold so it comes out looking brand-new.
But depending on the nature of the piece, Moser says that sometimes, ultrasonic cleaners can do more harm than good. You'll want to pay special attention to your pieces that have precious gemstones and/or diamonds in them. According to her, “The ultrasonic waves could loosen prongs with the pressure that's applied during the cleaning process and although they might not fall out inside the device, they will have a greater chance of falling out while you're wearing the piece,” she says.
Instead, an easy, DIY cleaning method using mild dish soap and warm water is a gentle yet effective way to keep gold clean.
- Mix a drop or two of dish soap with warm (not hot) water.
- Soak your jewelry for five to 10 minutes.
- Dip a soft bristle toothbrush into the solution.
- Very lightly scrub the jewelry, focusing on small areas that may be dirty.
- Use a soft cloth to gently pat the jewelry dry.
- Finish off with a polishing cloth for extra sparkle.
"It's really that easy!" says Moser. "Just be sure to never leave your pieces soaking in any sort of solution," she says. Believe it or not, it can break down the metal over time. So when it comes to cleaning gold, remember that simple and gentle is key.