How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry

Stainless steel jewelry is a popular choice for its durability, affordability, and hypoallergenic properties. However, like any type of jewelry, stainless steel pieces can get dirty and require cleaning to keep them looking their best. Maintaining stainless steel jewelry properly not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also prolongs its lifespan. This guide will provide useful tips and methods for cleaning stainless steel jewelry and keeping it sparkling.

Assessing When Stainless Steel Jewelry Needs Cleaning

Stainless steel jewelry is susceptible to dirt, grime, body oils, and other contaminants that can dull its surface over time. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to clean your stainless steel jewelry:

  • Loss of shine and luster – Stainless steel is known for its ability to take a high polish that gives it a bright, shiny appearance. When that becomes lackluster, it means oils and dirt have built up.
  • Smudges and fingerprints – Oils from skin can leave noticeable smudges and fingerprints on stainless steel jewelry. This is especially visible on pieces with a highly reflective finish.
  • Cloudiness or residue – Hard water deposits, soap scum, and skin products can leave cloudy residues or spots on the surface of stainless steel.
  • Discoloration – Stainless steel shouldn’t change color, but residues can sometimes stain it or cause discoloration. This is a sign of a deeper cleaning needed.
  • Odor – Jewelry rubbing against skin all day can cause odor to build up over time. A good cleaning helps remove odors from stainless steel.

Giving stainless steel jewelry a quick cleaning anytime you notice these signs will help restore its original pristine condition. For routine maintenance, aim to clean it every few weeks.

Gathering the Proper Supplies

Cleaning stainless steel jewelry doesn’t require much in the way of special supplies. Simple, gentle cleaning solutions and soft cloths or brushes are all you need for basic upkeep. Here are some recommended supplies:

  • Mild dish soap – Look for an odorless, sulfate-free dish soap. This lifts grease and oils without damaging finishes.
  • Water – Lukewarm, clean tap water works well for most cleaning purposes. Avoid hot water as it can damage some adhesives.
  • Soft cloths – Have some clean microfiber cloths or soft cotton cloths on hand. Old t-shirts also work.
  • Toothbrush – A soft-bristled toothbrush is useful for scrubbing in crevices.
  • Q-tips – The cotton ends help clean small spaces and hard to reach areas.
  • Baking soda – Its mild abrasiveness helps remove tarnish and restore shine.
  • Distilled white vinegar – This cuts through residues and has antibacterial properties.
  • Plastic container – Use one for mixing cleaning solutions. Avoid metal containers.
  • Drying cloth – Have a clean, lint-free cloth ready to dry jewelry after cleaning.

Avoid using harsh chemical cleaners, aggressive scrubbing pads, and ultrasonic or steam cleaners on stainless steel jewelry, as these can damage the finish and settings.

Mixing Safe, Effective Cleaning Solutions

Specialized stainless steel cleaners and polishes are available to purchase, but chemical-free homemade solutions using ingredients like dish soap, vinegar, and baking soda work just as well for routine cleaning.

Here are some simple cleaning solutions for stainless steel jewelry:

Dish soap and water – Mix a couple drops of mild dish soap into a bowl of lukewarm water until slightly sudsy. The soap helps cut through oils, while the water rinses away residues.

Baking soda paste – Make a paste by sprinkling baking soda into some water. Rub this paste onto jewelry with a soft cloth or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.

Vinegar soak – Soak pieces for 10-15 minutes in undiluted white vinegar. This dissolves hard water deposits and disinfects.

Vinegar and baking soda – Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a small container of warm water. The chemical reaction helps remove tough grime.

Always avoid bleach, ammonia, alcohol, and acetone, as these can damage stainless steel finishes. Plain water is all that’s needed for quick cleaning in a pinch.

Step-By-Step Cleaning Methods for Stainless Steel Jewelry

Follow these methods carefully to clean various types of stainless steel jewelry while avoiding damage:

Cleaning Stainless Steel Rings

Rings tend to get grime in crevices and require some extra attention:

  • Rinse under lukewarm water to remove loose dirt. Rotate the ring while holding underneath to get all areas.
  • Apply a small amount of cleaning solution (soap and water or homemade mix) directly onto the ring.
  • Gently scrub entire ring surface with a soft-bristled toothbrush, including the underside and engraved areas.
  • Rinse thoroughly until all soap residue is removed.
  • Pat dry with a soft microfiber cloth, or let air dry to prevent water spots. Buff dry with cloth if needed.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Necklaces and Bracelets

Longer jewelry like chains requires a different approach:

  • Lay the necklace or bracelet down on a soft cloth. If the chain is delicate, place it inside a zippered pouch first.
  • Apply cleaning solution onto the chain and let soak for 2-3 minutes. For heavy buildup, make a baking soda paste.
  • Gently brush along the chain’s length using a soft-bristled toothbrush or jewelry cleaning brush. Avoid pulling too vigorously.
  • Rinse off all soap residue under running water. Run water through the entire length of the chain while holding at each end.
  • Pat dry thoroughly with a clean lint-free cloth or microfiber towel. Let air dry flat on a towel if needed.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Earrings

Earrings need attention paid to both decorative and clip-on parts:

  • For decorative metal hoops or shapes, follow same steps as for rings. Soak, scrub with toothbrush, and rinse gently.
  • For metal backings, dip a q-tip in cleaning solution and rub along the clip area to remove grime and skin oils.
  • Use fresh q-tips with water to rinse backs thoroughly after soaping. Remove all residues.
  • Dry fronts and backs well with a clean lint-free cloth. Buff with a microfiber towel if needed.

Take care not to submerge the earring backs in water or let moisture penetrate joint areas. Clean these parts with caution.

Extra Tips for Stubborn Tarnish and Grime

Over time, stainless steel jewelry may develop more stubborn tarnish, corrosion spots, or thick buildup that requires some extra elbow grease to remove. Here are some tips:

  • Make a baking soda paste – Add just enough water so the baking soda forms a thick paste. Apply and let sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Soak in vinegar – For tough grime, soak the piece in undiluted white vinegar for 15-20 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Use a knife sharpening stone – Rub very gently over corrosion spots using a fine grit sharpening stone intended for knives. Rinse thoroughly after.
  • Try a silver polishing cloth – The fine abrasives in these cloths help remove tarnish from stainless steel. Gently rub to restore luster.
  • Use non-bleach scrubbing powder – Make a paste with powdered cleanser and water. Apply with a soft toothbrush and scrub gently before rinsing.

Avoid using steel wool or harsh scrubbing pads, as they can damage the finish. Take care with abrasives and test in inconspicuous spots first.

Storing Stainless Steel Jewelry Correctly

Proper storage between wears helps keep stainless steel jewelry in excellent shape:

  • Keep pieces in a dry, cool place away from air and humidity. Stainless steel can corrode if exposed to moisture.
  • Store inside non-tarnishing storage pouches or tarnish-preventing cloth to limit air exposure.
  • Place every piece in its own compartment or slot in a jewelry box or armoire to avoid contact and scratches.
  • Lay chains flat in a storage pouch. Hang necklaces on a stand or hook to avoid tangling.
  • Remove stainless steel jewelry before showering, swimming, exercising, cleaning, and applying lotions or perfumes.
  • Use jewelry cleaners and polishes sparingly. Overuse can strip the protective finish.

Proper care between wears reduces the amount of cleaning stainless steel jewelry requires. Handle pieces with care to avoid scratches.

How to Make Stainless Steel Jewelry Shine Like New Again

With repeated wear, stainless steel jewelry eventually loses its like-new shine and needs re-polishing. Here are some DIY ways to restore its high luster:

  • Use a sunshine cloth – These microfiber cloths contain super-fine polishing compounds that buff out dullness. Gently rub jewelry with a sunshine cloth to renew shine.
  • Try a silver or chrome polish – Such gentle liquid polishes contain tiny abrasives that buff stainless steel to a brilliant, renewed finish when used as directed.
  • Make a DIY polish – Mix equal parts baking soda and dish soap into a paste. Apply with a soft cloth and rub gently to buff out dull spots. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Use a polishing compound or rouge – Jewelers rouge (a fine red iron oxide powder) can be mixed with water into a mild abrasive paste. Gently rub with a soft cloth onto steel. Take care not to overdo it.
  • Buff with a microfiber or chamois cloth – After cleaning, use a super soft cloth to gently buff jewelry until its shine returns. Chamois works well.
  • Use a polishing wheel – Those with access to a compact jeweler’s polishing wheel can carefully buff pieces to a brilliant mirrored finish. Caution is needed to avoid over-polishing.

With the proper techniques, cleaning products, and a delicate touch, stainless steel jewelry can be restored to looking its best. Just take care not to over-polish pieces with abrasives or buffers.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry Back to New Condition: Step-By-Step

Follow this complete step-by-step guide to thoroughly clean stainless steel jewelry and make it sparkle like brand new again:

Supplies Needed:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Small plastic container
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Soft cloth
  • Q-tips
  • Microfiber cloth or chamois

Step 1:

Examine jewelry under bright light to see where dirt and grime have collected. Heavily soiled areas will likely need extra attention during cleaning.

Step 2:

Fill plastic container with warm water and add a drop of mild dish soap. Mix to make a sudsy cleaning solution.

Step 3:

Submerge stainless steel jewelry fully into the soapy water. For chains, lay the entire length in. Let soak for 2-3 minutes.

Step 4:

Remove jewelry and scrub every surface with a soft toothbrush – front, back, undersides, crevices, chain links, etc. Get into all tiny spaces.

Step 5:

Rinse thoroughly under warm running water while continuing to scrub with the toothbrush. Flush away all soap residues.

Step 6:

Examine closely under light. Use a q-tip dipped in soapy water to spot clean any areas still showing dirt or grime.

Step 7:

Rinse once more until 100% residue-free. Shine a flashlight at an angle to see any remaining soapy film. Rinse again if needed.

Step 8:

Pat dry thoroughly with a clean soft lint-free cloth. Air dry on a towel if moisture remains and could cause water spots.

Step 9:

Your stainless steel jewelry is now fully clean. To make it shine like new, use a sunshine cloth or chamois to gently buff and polish each piece.

Step 10:

Admire your freshly cleaned and polished stainless steel jewelry! Proper storage will help maintain its refreshed brilliance.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Watch Bands and Smart Watches

Stainless steel is commonly used for watch cases and bands because it is hard and corrosion resistant. However, stainless steel watchbands still need periodic cleaning. Here are tips for keeping them looking pristine:

  • Rinse the watch under warm water to remove dirt. Rotate the watch while holding underneath to rinse all sides of the band.
  • Mix a couple drops of mild dish soap with warm water. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or cloth to gently scrub the watch band, including between the links. Avoid getting water inside the watch itself.
  • Carefully clean the watch face with a damp soft cloth, wiping delicately. Do not submerge the watch face in water.
  • Rinse the watch and band thoroughly under running water. Dry immediately with a soft cloth to prevent water spots on the band.
  • For stubborn grime in crevices, use a soft toothpick. Avoid metal tools that can scratch.
  • Sanitize the watch band by wiping occasionally with rubbing alcohol using a soft cloth or cotton pad. This helps kill germs and odors.
  • Every few months, remove built-up dirt from between band links using an old soft-bristled toothbrush. Soak in warm soapy water if needed.
  • Use a polishing cloth designed for stainless steel to occasionally buff out scratches and restore shine. Rub gently in direction of grain.
  • Rotate wearing different stainless steel watches to give each a chance to thoroughly dry out between wears.

Avoid submerging leather, cloth, or canvas watch bands in water. Surface clean those with a damp soft cloth instead. Also, exercise care when washing watches with embellishments like gems.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Earrings After a New Piercing

Caring for a new stainless steel body piercing requires diligent cleaning while the piercing heals. Here are some tips for safe cleaning and avoiding infection:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling newly pierced ears or earrings. Keep the area clean.
  • Use a sterile saline spray or solution on ear piercings 2-3 times daily. Avoid touching the area with fingers.
  • After 1-2 weeks when initial swelling and tenderness subside, remove earrings and clean daily by:
  • Soaking in rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic piercing cleaner to disinfect.
  • Gently wiping crusty buildup off earring posts with a cotton swab soaked in cleaning solution.
  • Using a soft toothbrush and mild antibacterial soap to gently cleanse the earring fronts and posts. Avoid moving the earring around.
  • Carefully rinsing away all soap residues and dried discharge until earrings are squeaky clean.
  • Drying the area and earrings thoroughly with a clean tissue or gauze.
  • Repeating the cleaning routine at least once daily until the piercing fully heals, usually within 6-8 weeks.

Avoid overcleaning piercings as this can delay healing. See a doctor if significant redness, swelling, oozing, or pain occur. With proper aftercare, stainless steel earrings allow piercings to heal cleanly.

Best Practices for Keeping Stainless Steel Jewelry Clean

Stainless steel jewelry stays looking its best when given consistent proper care and cleaning. Here are some best practices to maintain shine and prevent buildup:

  • Clean jewelry regularly, every few weeks at minimum. Don’t allow dirt to accumulate.
  • Rinse stainless pieces with water after contact with hair products, lotions, chlorine, cleaning chemicals, etc. to prevent possible damage.
  • Use only mild, chemical-free cleaning solutions like dish soap, vinegar, or baking soda mixed with water. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Dry pieces thoroughly after cleaning to prevent water spots or moisture-induced tarnishing.
  • Store jewelry in a dry, cool place inside a tarnish-preventing pouch or slotted box. Avoid humidity.
  • Periodically buff stainless steel jewelry with a sunshine cloth or chamois to keep the mirrored shine looking fresh.
  • Take care to not drop pieces on hard surfaces. This can chip, crack, or scratch stainless steel.
  • Remove stainless steel jewelry before swimming, showering, exercising, cleaning, yardwork, and other activities where it can get dirty or damaged.
  • Have pieces professionally cleaned and polished once a year by a reputable jeweler. This revitalizes the finish.

With consistent care and cleaning, stainless steel jewelry will last for many years looking as beautiful as the day it was first purchased. The small effort is well worth it.

Commonly Asked Questions About Cleaning Stainless Steel Jewelry

Stainless steel jewelry care generates many common questions. Here are helpful answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can I use toothpaste to clean stainless steel jewelry?

No, avoid using toothpaste. The abrasives in whitening toothpastes can lead to scratches. However, a soft-bristled toothbrush can be useful for scrubbing stainless steel with the proper cleaning solutions.

What are the black spots on my stainless steel jewelry?

Black spots can be corrosion starting to occur if the protective finish is compromised. Try cleaning with baking soda first. If spots remain, have the piece re-finished by a professional jeweler.

Why does my stainless steel jewelry turn my skin green?

Green skin discoloration is caused by nickel, a common stainless steel alloy. Seek medical-grade 316L stainless steel or surgical steel, which have nickel free options and are less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

Can I use stainless steel jewelry cleaner solutions?

Yes, store-bought cleaners formulated specifically for stainless steel are safe to use. Avoid general jewelry cleaners or d