On the list of belongings I should probably be washing regularly but admittedly (albeit embarrassingly) don't, jewelry takes the number two spot (after makeup brushes — I know, gross). More specifically, I rarely polish my earring collection, which is ironic, considering earrings are the one piece of jewelry I consistently wear on a daily basis aside from my wedding rings. This is partially because I'm lazy when it comes to tedious tasks, but also the fact that I have no idea where to even begin when it comes to how to clean earrings (save for under the tap in the shower whilst still wearing them) probably has something to do with it, too.
For starters, it's important to know how often you should be tending to your accessories. Spoiler alert: It's probably (a lot) more often than you already do. In an exclusive interview with InStyle, piercing experience manager at Banter by Piercing Pagoda, Tim Bovasso, explained that, ideally, you should clean any earrings you wear daily not just once a day, but twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. The same rules apply for earrings you wear on occasion. They should be cleaned before you wear them, and after you remove them to be stored, Bovasso says. Lastly, silver earrings should be cleaned "at least once a month even when not actively worn" because they tarnish naturally in exposed air.
If this is shocking news to you, rest assured you're not alone. But while such a rigorous polishing routine might sound unnecessary, Bovasso says not only is it important for the longevity of your jewelry, it's also important for sanitation purposes and good ear hygiene (aka it will help to prevent infections).
So now that you know how often you should be cleaning your earrings, the next step is to know how to clean your earrings properly to ensure you aren't damaging your jewelry. I asked a few experts in the space to share their best tips, below.
Understand Some Materials Will Require More Care Than Others
Certain materials require a little more TLC beyond the time you dedicate to polishing them up, Justine Lançon, Mejuri's chief creative officer, tells InStyle. For example, Mejuri's 18k vermeil is more durable than gold-filled, so Lançon says you'd have to remove these pieces before showering or working out while the brand's14k gold, though a precious metal, will not oxidize or discolor from water exposure.
There's a reason why jewelry comes with a warning tag stressing the items should be handled with care. According to Bovasso, this is especially true for earrings that contain more sensitive materials, like porous opals or silver that can easily oxidize. For these types of materials, you'll want to use gentle cleansers on the posts to remove any buildup of sebum, as well as Q-tips soaked in applicable solutions to clean tighter areas. "Avoid offsetting prongs or removing stones in the jewelry. Use a polishing cloth to shine exposed surfaces," Bovasso adds.
Washing With Soap and Water Works On Silver
Tarnishing is, unfortunately, inevitable on silver earrings (or any silver jewelry), especially once any additional coating like rhodium wears off, says Bovasso. However, "some people intentionally tarnish silver for a 'patina' look," he tells us. If that's the case (if you're intentionally tarnishing your silver), Bovasso says a gentle clean with soap and water will remove any biological material from the accessory.
Cleaning Chemicals Are Necessary to Restore the Luster of Silver
If you'd ideally like to remove oxidization from silver entirely, there are specific silver cleaning chemicals that remove tarnish and won't damage the silver. However, these agents are slightly more abrasive than gold cleaning chemicals, so it's highly recommended that you use a jewelry polishing cloth on broader surfaces of silver earrings.
Thick Polishing Fluids Should Be Removed With Microfiber
That, or a very soft polishing cloth. This is because leftover chemicals on your earrings will eventually "sand off the surface at an extremely slow rate," Bovasso tells InStyle. "Skin can react to these chemicals as well," he adds, so make sure you've removed all of the product.
Soak Fine Jewelry
On a time crunch? CEO of The Clear Cut, Olivia Landau let us in on a little secret: you can soak your fine jewelry (earrings, pendants, necklaces, or anything that is platinum, 14K/18K gold with diamonds) in a DIY solution of warm water and a pea-sized amount of dish soap. After 15 minutes, "use the toothbrush to gently brush any remaining dirt off — make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies," says Landau. "Rinse it under a sink with the drain covered, and finally pat dry with a paper towel."
Invest In a Jewelry Care Kit
According to Lançon, one of the easiest ways to stay on top of your earring hygiene is to invest in a jewelry care kit like the Mejuri Jewelry Care Kit, which consists of a cleaning spray, a 100% cotton polishing cloth that's been treated with an anti-tarnishing agent, and a brush to help keep your pieces looking their best. In order to get the best results using these tools, Lançon says, "simply buff your pieces until any imperfections or marks are no longer visible." It's also important to be mindful of the materials your jewelry is made from when using anti-tarnishing agents in your routine. For example, Lançon warns against using the brand's polishing cloth on delicate gemstones, hard gemstones, pearls, black titanium, or purposefully oxidized jewelry.
Use a Bling Brush On-the-Go
The Clear Cut is the maker of the Bling Brush, a tool both Landau, and this writer can't live without. "If you are on the go, you can use our Bling Brush so that your diamonds stay sparkly anytime," Landau tells InStyle. All you have to do is gently scrub the pen's soapy solution over your stones, rinse with warm water, and if you have the time, blow dry your jewels to enhance their glow. Trust us, it works every time.
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