DIY Jewelry Cleaning Hacks That Aren't Worth Trying

Owning fine jewelry is both a privilege and a responsibility. If you want your pieces to really shine, you'll have to clean them properly on a regular basis. If you have access to a commercial jewelry cleanser or an ultrasonic cleaning machine, this shouldn't be a problem. It's all too easy, however, to get sucked into the DIY cleaning hacks you can find online that promise to take your jewelry to its peak shine for mere pennies.


If you find yourself in a pinch and need a DIY jewelry cleaner, stick to a gentle all-purpose option like a drop or two of Dawn dish soap in warm water. When it comes to more complicated or abrasive techniques, like soaking your most prized baubles in cola or tomato sauce, it's always better to wait until you can get your hands on a cleanser designed for jewelry or to bring your piece in for a professional cleaning. 


Many blogs and videos around the internet suggest beer as a DIY hack for cleaning jewelry. The logic behind the idea is that beer contains hops — the green perennial flowers that give the famous brew its taste — which are slightly acidic. The alpha acids contained in hops are what give beer its bitter flavor profile (via Craft Beer & Brewing). According to Pitt School of Engineering, acids can be used to dissolve oils, dirt, and grime such as dead skin cells from surfaces.


Since jewelry comes into contact with the skin and its oils as well as environmental impurities, it makes sense to turn to an acidic substance to clean it. However, fine metals like gold, silver, and many precious gems are too soft and delicate for this type of treatment. According to Kings of Brewing, alpha acids can corrode certain metals and damage soft gemstones. Light-colored metals and gems can also be stained by dark-colored beers.

Baking soda

Baking soda — or sodium bicarbonate — is a leavening agent used to make baked goods rise during the baking process. Unlike beer, sodium bicarbonate is not acidic. Instead, it is naturally alkaline on the pH scale. According to Nicole HD Fine Jewelry, the caustic nature of alkaline substances can cause the same type of corrosion as an acidic substance when applied to fine metals and softer stones. Baking soda is also a fine powder that does not dissolve in water, which makes it an abrasive substance.


Abrasive cleaners are great for scrubbing the baked-on grease off your oven or baking sheet, but the grainy particles they contain can scratch the soft metals and gemstones that make up most fine jewelry pieces. Once a piece of jewelry's metal or gem has been scratched — as explained by Jackson Square Fine Jewelers — the only way to restore its appearance is buffing, also known as a full polish. Since buffing removes the surface layer, it can only be done a finite number of times before it causes irreparable damage, especially for very soft metals like gold. 


Believe it or not, people really do submerge their valuable jewelry (and silverware) in ketchup for cleaning purposes. The concept is very similar to that of cleaning with beer; an acidic substance will strip away the dirt, oils, and dead skin cells that have accumulated on your ring, bracelet, necklace, or earrings. Ketchup, however, combines both tomatoes and vinegar, which results in a much more acidic substance than beer. According to Dentistry at Winbury, the condiment typically has a pH level of around 3.7 while beer comes in at nearly five.


The more acidic a substance is, the more corrosion it can cause in a shorter amount of time. Ketchup is also much more likely to stain your jewelry, since tomatoes — especially when concentrated — are highly naturally pigmented. Basically, even if the mess involved in attempting to clean your jewelry with ketchup isn't enough to keep you away, the potential for corrosion and staining should be. 

Denture tablets

Many people who advise others to use denture cleaning tablets to clean their jewelry assume that the cleaning agents used in them must be gentle, since dentures are worn in the mouth. There is a belief that the cleaning comes from the fizzing of the tablets and not from chemicals. Unfortunately, this isn't quite accurate. Many denture cleaning tablets actually contain harsh and concentrated bleaching agents meant to whiten the appearance of the faux teeth. Bleach and chlorine can cause significant corrosion of fine metals like gold, according to Gems of La Costa Jewelers.


When your gold jewelry has been exposed to a corrosive cleaner like bleach (or ammonia), you'll notice that its appearance begins to wear and age, even if it is brand new. It stands to reason that the cause of the significant wear on much of the used jewelry found in thrift and antique stores is actually due to harsh DIY cleaning methods and not necessarily from age alone. A well-maintained piece of solid gold jewelry, for instance, can remain beautiful for a literal lifetime. 


Ammonia — according to the New York Department of Health — is a highly alkaline caustic agent used in fertilizer, refrigerant, and pesticides, as well as for commercial and residential cleaning. Since ammonia is so strong, even when diluted it can quickly corrode fine metals and eat through the protective resin coatings on gemstones. Even if it was safe for your jewelry, ammonia isn't safe for you. The foul-smelling liquid can cause serious irritation or even chemical burning of the lungs, throat, mouth, eyes, and skin, according to the CDC.


While all the jewelry cleaning hacks on this list have the potential to damage your jewelry, ammonia is the only one that might damage your health along with it. If you must try a DIY cleaning method for your beloved jewelry pieces, at least opt for one that isn't potentially dangerous. You can also skip the risks altogether and snag yourself a 4.5 star solution for less than ten dollars, like this CONNOISSEURS Premium Edition Jewelry Cleaner Solution, designed specifically for cleaning fine jewelry. Either way, stay safe and rock your favorite stylish staple jewelry whenever you get the chance.