How to clean your jewellery in an eco-friendly fashion
Silver pieces are the most difficult to keep in good condition as they tarnish naturally when the metal comes into contact with air. Regularly wearing silver jewellery and then removing it can help to keep this to a minimum but pieces will still need some regular maintenance.
The ingredients in toothpaste which are designed to remove stains from teeth also work effectively to remove marks or tarnishing from silver. Just rub the paste over your jewellery with a cloth, leave it to dry and then rinse with another clean damp cloth.
For silver jewellery which is very ornate such as charm bracelets, you can use a toothbrush to remove the toothpaste from intricate areas. Soaking in a bowl of warm water is another way of making sure all the residue is removed from nooks and crannies.
If you only use natural toothpaste it can be difficult to remove engrained tarnishing. Try mixing eco-friendly toothpaste with ammonia free window cleaner to make it more powerful, then clean using the same method.
Alternatively, for a really potent but still environmentally friendly cleaner, mix together water, one tablespoon of salt and one of baking soda. Add a small piece of aluminium foil to the mixture before placing your jewellery into a bowl. A chemical reaction between the ingredients and the foil magnetises the tarnish and it should disappear with no rubbing whatsoever. This mixture is really great for severely tarnished silver and is excellent to use if you’ve found some second hand or vintage silver in need of a spruce.
All of these methods will also help clean up sterling silver cutlery or other household objects.
Regular wear is actually good for pearl jewellery- the oils in your skin help them to look luminescent. Just remember to put them on last when you’re dressing to prevent any snags. Storing pearls away from precious metal or diamond jewellery will also help to prevent any scratches. Dirty marks will sometimes occur in day to day wear but these are relatively easy to take care of, just rub them away with a duster or chamois leather.
Never use any kind of detergent, no matter how eco-friendly, to clean pearls. If the silk string joining them together becomes dirty take them to be restrung rather than cleaning them. It’s worth doing this when buying more sustainable vintage or second hand pearls, as it is a cost effective way of insuring your piece lasts longer.
Gold is the easiest precious metal to keep clean. It doesn’t tarnish in the same way silver does but can still become dirty simply from wear. In order to remove ordinary stains like this, warm soapy water is all it takes. When washing jewellery in this way make sure you use a bowl, rather than the sink, as small attachments are difficult to see and can easily be washed away.
Make sure you rinse your items properly and leave them on a piece of kitchen towel until they are completely dry.
If your stains are a little more stubborn, adding some baking soda to the water can help this recipe pack more of a punch.
What to Avoid:
- Homemade recipes which include ammonia. Although cheap it is terrible for the environment and your skin. What’s more it smells just awful.
- Lemon Juice: While it is completely natural, it is actually too abrasive for most jewellery items, but particularly soft stones and anything with silver plate.
- Neat Vinegar: While some variations on the above recipes contain a drop or two of vinegar, using it by itself can have disastrous consequences. It may be good for de-scaling your kettle but leave it at that.
- Too high a concentration of bicarbonate of soda: While lemon juice and vinegar are just too acidic for most gemstones and plated silver to handle, bicarbonate of soda is very alkaline (the opposite of acidic) which is as harmful to some substances jewellery is made from.