CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM (Part 2): Eco friendly and chemical free ways to clean your jewellery at home.
Jewellery is such a powerful and emotive thing, and it can be sad to see our most treasured items not looking their best. Dirt, pollution and tarnish all dull the sparkle of a gemstone and the surface of our precious metals.
Many people ask me the best way to rescue their favourite pieces at home without using harmful or harsh chemicals. Proprietary brand silver cleaners all contain ingredients such as ammonia, Isopropanol and Silica – Not only are these poisonous if ingested; they can also cause skin irritation, respiratory irritation and allergic reactions.
Below are some greener alternatives for cleaning your jewellery and restoring its true shine and brilliance!
What is tarninsh?
If you own silver jewellery, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say tarnish. When you go to get a piece to wear, and you discover it has gone grey/black!
Tarnishing is the natural process of metal oxidisation. Oxidisation occurs when silver comes into contact with chemicals like sulphur and the natural oils in your skin, and is then left out exposed to oxygen.
This chemical reaction happens over time, but is sped up in damp environments – for example, if you leave silver jewellery in your bathroom. Thankfully this film/layer of tarnish only forms on the surface and is completely removable.
Below are some eco friendly and non-toxic alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners:
1) Polishing cloths:
Regularly using a polishing cloth can keep your jewellery looking shiny. I recommend investing in a polishing cloth, which can be bought in most big supermarkets, or through your local independent jeweller if you are shopping small and local.
You can also use a lint-free flannel, or any other soft nonabrasive cloth to polish your pieces. Don’t be too vigorous with your polishing and do not use tissues or paper towels as these can contain scratchy fibres.
2) Baby Soap:
A very mild soap is the perfect cleaner for a variety of jewellery including Silver, Diamonds, and even delicate Pearls. If you don’t have baby soap to hand you can use natural hand soap or washing up liquid, but please double check that it doesn’t contain chemicals, such as ammonia or phosphates.
Simply mix the soap with some warm water and dampen a soft cloth in the solution. Gently rub the pieces with the solution and rinse thoroughly in cool water. If you want to clean around Diamonds, which can become grubby when worn daily you could use a soft bristle brush (like a bamboo toothbrush) to gently clean them. Never vigorously rub settings or claws as this can loosen stones.
Gemstones are very delicate and need to be treated with extra care. Stones like Rubies and Sapphires can withstand soapy water when you want to clean them, others can’t so make sure to check the stone type before cleaning.
When cleaning Pearls you should only dip them in soapy water for short periods of time, leaving them submerged or scrubbing them vigorously can damage them, dry them with a soft cloth immediately after cleaning.
Fill a small plastic container* with vinegar and place your jewellery in it (gold or silver). Leave it submerged for no more than 20 minutes, use a soft bristle brush to get at any stubborn grime, then rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth. Do not exceed 20 minutes or the vinegar could damage your metals.
*some ceramic bowls may have a texture that can scratch metal, so plastic is the best option.
Never use vinegar on Gemstones or Pearls as it can damage them!
4) Baking Soda:
Baking soda is probably the most commonly used eco-friendly cleaner for a wide range of tasks in your home, and it is great for cleaning tarnished silver jewellery too!
Dampen a soft lint free cloth and dip it into a little baking soda, and use this to gently polish your Silver. This method can also be used on Gold, however wiping with vinegar should be enough for this as this does not tarnish as silver does!
To get into the crevices of detailed pieces or behind stones, create a thin paste with baking soda and a small amount of water. Use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush with the paste to get into even the smallest parts.
With these simple and cheap solutions your jewellery will remain looking its very best! But remember, if you are unsure as to whether you should attempt to clean an item, please don’t be afraid to contact a jeweller who are usually more than happy to help you or advise you!