How to Clean Your Engagement Ring at Home

How to Clean Your Engagement Ring at Home

Written by Harriet Kelsall on 31 March 2020

How to keep your rings clean during the covid-19 pandemic – it only takes about 3 minutes 

A few people have been asking me what to do about keeping their rings clean during this covid-19 / coronavirus pandemic because we are all washing our hands for 20-30 seconds many times each day. Many of course take their rings off when they wash their hands and then put them back on, so they are conscious that this may be a way of carrying the virus on the jewellery.

And if you do leave your rings on whilst washing your hands, will this cause them any harm? 

And with all of this hand washing and hand cream, our rings can quickly look dull with soap or cream residue. So people would like to know how to safely and quickly wash their rings at home to keep them clean and sparkly.

The advice here in this article only applies to jewellery made from precious metal (sterling silver, gold, platinum, palladium) and with precious or semi-precious stones.  This advice also only applies to rings with hard stones like diamond, ruby, sapphire, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet, amethyst, peridot, topaz, citrine.  If your ring contains a sensitive stone like an emerald, opal or tanzanite or an organic gem like a pearl, amber or coral do not follow this advice as water and detergents will damage them. Rings with these materials are ideally to be left unworn during this pandemic and are best only cleaned by a jeweller.

Also, do not follow this advice for costume jewellery, which usually does not like being washed at all and can be damaged or rust with water and detergents. 

  • Before you wash your hands with a ring left on or wash your ring yourself, you must first carefully check that all of the gemstones are secure and that nothing is moving.  Also check that none of the metal is catching - in case a claw is coming loose.  If you notice anything is loose or not quite right: take your ring off, stop wearing it and consult a jeweller.  But assuming all is well…
  • If your ring contains a hard gemstone like a diamond, ruby, sapphire, aquamarine, garnet, amethyst or peridot then it will not cause the ring a problem to leave your ring on whilst washing your hands.
  • Hand sanitiser gel won’t cause your rings with hard gemstones any problem, so it is OK to use it whilst wearing these kinds of rings.
  • If you have sensitive skin, you may well be sensitive to liquid soap which can get trapped underneath rings when washing your hands and can quickly cause allergic symptoms. So, if this might be the case for you, make sure you rinse the hand soap off very thoroughly including underneath your rings when you wash your hands or this may cause ‘contact dermatitis’ which is uncomfortable and unsightly.  If you have developed this by not washing so carefully, I’d advise leaving your rings off until it has healed up and then switching to bar soap rather than liquid soap which does not generally cause an allergic reaction.  For sensitive skin, bar soap is usually much better.
  • If your ring has got quite mucky, first soak the ring for half an hour or more in hand-warm water with a squeeze of washing up liquid.  You can use a glass or a small bowl for this.  I avoid using the sink as if you drop your ring into a metal or porcelain sink when it is slippery with detergent it can be dented, chipped or damaged, so a bowl or glass is better.  However, if you do use a sink, put the plug in first so that you don’t lose anything down the drain!
  • Use a very, very soft brush. I favour a sable paint brush or a soft cosmetics brush, but you can use an old mascara brush or even a super-soft baby’s toothbrush. Don’t use an adult toothbrush as the bristles are much too hard and abrasive and can cause damage.  There is an old wives’ tale that you should use toothpaste to clean your diamond rings – please don’t, this is just as abrasive and will cause harm to your jewellery!
  • Wet the ring and the soft brush, squeezing a little washing up liquid detergent onto the brush and bubble this gently all around the stone and metal area.  Don’t press too hard, but bubble this into the backs of the stone settings (which should be open in a good quality ring).  When you are satisfied you have given it a really good go, you can then rinse the detergent off thoroughly and repeat if needed. 
  • It might need another soak after the first wash if there is some really caked on dirt and then you can repeat this process.
  • Once you are finished, blot the ring dry on a very soft tissue (just blot, not scrub) to remove most of the water.
  • Finally, use a clean, lint free cloth and rub this all over the ring.  Ideally this should be a jewellery polishing cloth such as the ones we give to our customers when they collect their jewellery, as these are impregnated with polish. If you don’t have one of these, then something like a glasses cleaning cloth will do.  Either way, make sure it is completely clean and has been stored in the packet, as if it has been left out, little tiny pieces of grit or dirt may have formed on it and these can scratch the ring.
  • You can repeat this cleaning process as often as you want to.