How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry

Wondering if stainless steel jewelry is easy to clean at home? Read this post to figure out easy ways to clean stainless steel jewelry with commonly found household products.

A variety of silver bracelets lined up

If you have stainless steel jewelry then you’ve probably noticed that with time they’ve lost some of their original shine which drew you to them in the first place. Or maybe you’ve noticed that it is turning into a weird shade of green or black. Don’t fret because there is no need to throw your favorite pieces of stainless steel jewelry away! 

Stainless steel jewelry is by far the simplest kind of metal to clean. Not only can it be revived, but it can also look new again and retain its sheen with regular maintenance. 

As a general rule, cleaning stainless steel jewelry requires the use of various homemade cleaners formulated with commonly found household items such as soap or vinegar. Knowing how to properly care for your jewelry is essential to maintaining its quality which will allow you to wear your favorite pieces for a lifetime.   

Read on to discover easy, cost-effective cleaning methods involving readily available ingredients that will restore your stainless steel jewelry’s original beauty. We will also provide you with pro tips on how to adequately preserve your stainless steel jewelry. 

Table of Contents

Is Stainless Steel Jewelry Hard to Clean?

A woman's hands holding a blue rag drying a silver ring

Stainless steel is an affordable and durable metal that is virtually resistant to rust, scratches, and corrosion but can dull over time. Its beauty and durability make it one of the most loved metals for jewelry yet cleaning it is still a must. 

When we wear jewelry it touches our skin, which means it is exposed to the dirt, oils, salt, and sweat that covers our skin requiring frequent cleaning. Whether you need to clean your stainless steel necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks, or rings, the methods are nearly always the same.  You’re in luck because stainless steel is the easiest type of jewelry to clean and we will show you tried and true techniques!

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with Soap and Water

A man using a soapy toothbrush to clean a diamond ring

This is by far the simplest method to use to clean light dirt from your stainless steel jewelry and remove dullness. Everyone can use this method because it requires ingredients that you already have readily available at home. This technique involves warm water, soap, and a soft cloth, such as microfiber or terry cloth, and works best for jewelry with minor dirt and grime. For the easiest DIY apply this method to your dirty stainless steel jewelry.

Steps:

  1. Fill two bowls with warm water.
  2. Add four drops of mild soap (such as Dawn or Joy) into one bowl of warm water. Whatever gentle soap you use, be sure to choose one designed to work on grease.
  3. Soak your jewelry in the bowl with the soap and water solution for a few minutes, 3-5 will do. Soaking will help soften the dirt that has likely built up from multiple uses and make it easier to remove. 
  4. Optional. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach areas of your jewelry, such as prongs, if applicable.
  5. Remove your jewelry from the bowl of the soap and water mixture and dip it into the other bowl of just warm water.
  6. Rub the jewelry with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove the dirt and grime. Avoid causing scratches by drying along the grain, not across the grain. 
  7. Rinse the jewelry thoroughly under running water to remove any lingering dirt. 
  8. Dry using a soft, lint-free cloth. Set the jewelry on a dry towel to allow it to air dry completely. Your jewelry’s shine should be brilliantly restored.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with Vinegar

Bright green spray bottle, silver spoon, a bottle of vinegar, yellow with pink polka dot rag, glass measuring pitcher

For a more powerful cleaning, that doubles as a disinfectant from your stainless steel jewelry by removing bacteria, you will want to use the vinegar method. For this technique, you have two options which will both require white vinegar, water, and a soft lint-free cloth. Option 1 requires a bowl and is good for deep cleaning. Option two requires a spray bottle and is great for spot cleaning. Both methods will also remove tarnish from your jewelry.

Both Options Begin with the Same Step:

1.     Mix equal parts white vinegar and water into any container. 

2.     Follow the steps listed under your preferred method:

Option 1: The Bowl Method

3.     Pour the vinegar and water mixture into a bowl. 

4.     Soak your stainless steel jewelry in the mixture for 15-30 minutes, the dirtier 

                   the jewelry the longer it needs to soak in the solution. 

5.     After waiting 15-30 minutes, remove the jewelry from the mixture. 

6.     Wash the jewelry using the highest water pressure available from your sink 

        to remove any visible dirt particles.

7.     Use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe the jewelry and dry thoroughly, going with 

        the grain to avoid scratches. 

Option 2: The Spray Bottle Method

3.     Pour the vinegar and water mixture into a clean spray bottle. 

4.     Spray a soft, lint-free cloth with the mixture.

5.     Gently rub your jewelry with the cloth while going with the grain, not against 

        it. Be sure to lightly scrub any dull areas or sticky areas to restore your 

        jewelry’s sparkle.

6.     Gently dry the jewelry by using a dry section of the soft cloth or a new cloth if 

        necessary. 

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with Baking Soda

A glass storage container full of baking soda, a glass of water and a toothbrush with baking soda on it

Baking soda, known by its scientific name Sodium bicarbonate, is a multipurpose kitchen ingredient that is incredibly versatile outside of the kitchen. It is a powerful cleaning agent that is tough on dirt and can also be used to restore that like-new shine to your favorite stainless steel jewelry pieces. For this method, you will need a bowl, warm water, baking soda, a soft bristle toothbrush, a soft lint-free towel, and vinegar or water (more on this below). 

Directions:

  1. Create a baking soda paste by mixing three parts baking soda with one part water or vinegar. The amount of paste made depends upon the amount of jewelry being cleaned, so make more mixtures if you plan on cleaning multiple pieces.

Vinegar is a more astringent cleaning agent meant for jewelry that is very dirty and thus requires a more powerful cleaning. If using vinegar be careful when mixing because of the bubbling reaction that occurs. If your jewelry has light dirt or grime, simply using water will be adequate.

  1. Dip a soft bristle toothbrush into the baking soda paste. Gently scrub the entire piece of jewelry, paying extra attention to heavily grimy areas. Scrub lightly to avoid any scratches. Let the mixture remain on the jewelry for about three minutes. 
  1. Wash the jewelry in warm water and remove the baking soda paste entirely. 
  1. Completely dry your freshly cleaned stainless steel jewelry with a soft, lint-free towel, and be sure to remove all liquid. Your jewelry’s luster should be returned in all its former glory.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with Aluminum Foil

A woman using a toothbrush, aluminum foil, and a cup to clean a ring

This technique combines the use of aluminum foil with baking soda i.e. Sodium bicarbonate to make a simple DIY jewelry cleaning solution. The process being used here is baking soda ionization which is simply a chemical reaction that breaks down dirt and oils removing them from stainless steel jewelry. This cleaning method requires hot water, a bowl or dish, salt, dish soap, a soft-bristle toothbrush, and aluminum foil. It is also considered safer than the baking soda and vinegar mixture described above because the solution is less acidic and reactive.

Directions:

  1. Line the bowl or dish with aluminum foil.
  1. Add equal parts baking soda, salt, and soap. (The amount of mixture created depends on the amount of jewelry being cleaned so double up if you have a lot of pieces to clean.)
  1. Add enough warm water to be able to fully submerge the stainless steel jewelry.
  1. Fully submerge the jewelry into the cleaning mixture and let soak for approximately 15 minutes. 
  1. After soaking, gently scrub the entire piece of jewelry with the grain, not across it to avoid scratches.
  1.  Fully rinse the jewelry with warm water.
  1.  Dry completely with a soft, lint-free cloth by going with the grain. 

To see baking soda ionization in action, watch this short YouTube that shows the step-by-step process outlined above. Complete with a before and after reveal, witness the breathtaking results for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh8Y9bhYlUE

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with Toothpaste

Close up of a clear blue toothbrush with blue gel toothpaste on it

Just as gel toothpaste cleans hard-to-reach areas in your mouth, it also cleans tough-to-reach areas in your jewelry. Toothpaste is an effective cleaning agent that is particularly great for spot cleaning because it is not too abrasive for the metal. It will not work for polishing due to its lack of abrasiveness, so use the baking soda or vinegar outlined above to remove tarnish. This solution requires gel toothpaste, a soft bristle toothbrush, and water. 

Directions:

  1. Apply a small amount of gel toothpaste onto the jewelry.

Avoid using a toothpaste with whitening or tarter control agents or silica since they are harsh chemicals that can stain and damage your stainless steel pieces. 

  1. Lightly brush the jewelry with a soft bristle toothbrush until visibly clean and avoid brushing over any gemstones which may loosen them from their setting. 
  1. Rinse the jewelry under warm water until thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to remove all the toothpaste. Even a small amount of left-over toothpaste can slowly corrode your jewelry. 
  1. Dry the jewelry entirely using a soft, lint-free cloth by wiping gently along the grain. Your jewelry should be restored to a beautiful shine.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Jewelry with a Homemade Cleaner

Small bottles of club soda

Another method that provides a deep clean and leaves a nice shine, you will want to use a homemade cleaner than requires an ingredient you likely have in your pantry: club soda. Involving two ingredients, club soda, and dish soap, this technique will restore your jewelry’s luster and will return the sparkle to gemstones in your jewelry such as diamonds, sapphires, and turquoise. The carbonation lifts the dirt from your pieces while the soap simultaneously removes oil and grime. 

Steps:

  1. Combine two cups of club soda with ten drops of mild dish soap, making enough solution to fully submerge your jewelry.

Choose a dish soap that removes grease as described in the first cleaning method to ensure dirt and oils are eliminated.

  1. Let the jewelry soak in the solution for 5 to 15 minutes. 

Pro tip: If the piece is heavily soiled, you may leave the jewelry in the solution overnight. 

  1. Gently stir the cleaning solution to release any remaining grime.
  1. Remove the jewelry from the club soda and soap mixture. 
  1. Use a soft bristled toothbrush to lightly scrub the jewelry and remove any leftover dirt, do not scrub roughly as this can lead to unsightly scratches.
  1. Rinse the jewelry with clean, cool water. 
  1. Gently dry your jewelry with a clean microfiber cloth and place on a soft towel to remove any lingering moisture. 

Tips for Maintaining Your Stainless Steel Jewelry

To keep your stainless steel pieces looking beautiful for many years, follow these easy tips:

  • Avoid Using Commercial Jewelry Cleaners

These are often too abrasive for stainless steel and can damage your jewelry.

  • Avoid Using Bleach and Chlorine 

These harsh chemicals will stain your jewelry and can cause corrosion because stainless steel is not a reactive metal.

  • Do Not Use Silver, Gold, or Brass Polish

These types of polishes are abrasive and may stain your jewelry permanently. These polishes are also intended for precious metals and stainless steel is an alloy which means they have different chemical makeups that require different cleaning methods. 

  • Properly Store Your Jewelry

Even though stainless steel is very unlikely to tarnish or corrode, proper storage is necessary to maintain its cleanliness and to avoid scratches and a lackluster appearance.  Store your jewelry in the fabric box it initially came in or in cloth pouches if you no longer have the original package. Keeping your jewelry in sealed zip lock bags is another option if you do not have cloth pouches. Do not store your stainless steel jewelry with jewelry made of different metals as each metal has varying hardness. 

  •  Polish Your Jewelry When Needed

If your stainless steel piece requires more polishing to bring out its shine, add a drop of olive oil to a microfiber cloth and gently rub the jewelry. This simple solution will restore the metal to a stunning luster and shine. 

In Closing

Proper care is vital to keeping your stainless steel jewelry shining like new. Along with following the steps to clean dull jewelry, you can also take steps to prevent corrosion and dullness to your favorite pieces by keeping proper maintenance. 

It is highly recommended to avoid placing multiple pieces of stainless steel jewelry together as it can lead to scratching. Placing your jewelry in the box it originally came in is an easy, foolproof way to ensure you’re storing your pieces safely.  Also, avoid using harsh chemicals to clean your jewelry and opt for one of the gentle and proven cleaning methods described above. 

With adequate maintenance and cleaning, you can enjoy your stainless steel jewelry for a lifetime!

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