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How to Clean a Watch: The Do’s and Don’ts of Watch Cleaning

Written by Anna Currell
January 13, 2023

It’s perfectly natural for residue to build up on your watch, especially when you’re wearing it often or every day. Whether or not that build up is visible, it’s a good idea to make sure you keep your watch clean and polished to keep it in working order over (ahem) time. If you’re wondering how to clean a watch, you’ve come to the right place. 

Do’s: How to Clean a Watch at Home

Cleaning your watch at home should never replace professional care. Instead, it’s something you should think of as a maintenance practice between the thorough cleanings that only an expert jeweler can provide. Especially if you wear your watch daily, you can consider cleaning it at home a part of your regular watch care routine, along with keeping it in a safe place when you’re not wearing it and taking it off while doing activities that could damage it (like swimming at the beach, working out at the gym, or playing certain sports). Here are some of the best practices for how to clean a watch at home:

Do use antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes will do a great job of getting rid of the germs your watch comes into contact with on a daily basis. This doesn’t have to be aggressive; just a quick wipedown of the watch’s entire surface should be sufficient (unless you have a leather band, try not to get that part wet). Be sure to hit every area — the crown, the engraving crevices, all of it — to get rid of any bacteria, germs, or anything else that has accumulated on your watch.

Do take your watch off the band

If you’re looking to get into the nooks and crannies of your watch, you can remove the band. You’ll be able to get a better angle when you work into those small spaces that you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise. But if your watch band isn’t easily removable, skip this step. Experimenting with taking your watch apart can be risky if you’re not a pro.

Do use a specific watch brush 

Make sure to use a brush made specifically for watches and fine jewelry — this will ensure that the bristles aren’t too thick, harsh, or tough for the delicate and intricate parts of your watch. This is a good way to clean out the tiny particles that can get crammed inside your watch, like sand from the beach or dust from everyday life. Use gentle motions with your watch brush and be extra careful so you don’t scratch either the metal or the crystal accidentally.

Do use a microfiber cloth

A microfiber cloth is made of a really soft fabric, so we recommend using one to polish the exterior of your watch as a finishing touch. This is also a great regular cleaning step to use when you take your watch off at the end of the day; it can remove the residue buildup from the day and prevent the layers that accumulate naturally. Even if you don’t perform a deep cleaning between getting your watch professionally scrubbed, doing a simple wipe down at the end of each wear can help keep your watch in great shape. 


Don’ts: Skip These Mistakes Many Watch Owners Make

Here are the things you should avoid doing while cleaning your watch at home:

Don’t soak your watch in soapy water

Some soaps contain chemicals and might harm your watch. Since every soap and every watch is different, we recommend not dunking your watch in anything. You don’t want to run the risk of damaging your watch, and its water resistance might be lower than you think. It’s harder to repair damage after the fact than it is to prevent it in the first place.

Don’t try taking apart your watch 

There are tons of tiny parts that come together to make a watch work. While it may seem like a simple or even an exciting task, it’s not worth the risk to try and take apart your watch at home. You certainly don’t want to risk losing any of the tiny pieces, and you don’t want to accidentally damage the inner workings that make your watch tick. It’s going to be less expensive to take your watch in for a cleaning than it would be to take it in for a cleaning and a repair. 

Don’t forget to get your watch professionally cleaned 

Trust the professionals; they clean and service watches all the time. Jewelers have a comprehensive understanding of how each watch works and the kind of care it needs. They’re trained to give your watch the special attention it deserves and keep it in perfect working order — not to mention that it’ll be gleaming once it’s been polished.

Professional Cleaning Process

The professional cleaning process is six steps, and while simple, each requires a set of skills and tools that you likely won’t have at home. Every jeweler or watch repair expert will have their own process. And the process depends a lot on the kind of watch you have. Here's how we do it at Quick Jewelry Repairs:

Step #1: First, the jeweler will open the watch. This involves removing the back cover so that the movement, which is the mechanism that powers the watch, can be accessed. This can be done with a special tool called a case opener.

Step #2: Then the jeweler will put in the oil, lubricating the various moving parts of the watch movement, such as the gears, escapement, and balance wheel. This is typically done using a small oiler, which is a tool that allows for precise application of the oil.

Step #3: Next, the jeweler will clean the entire watch, including the case, the bracelet or strap, the movement, and the crystal. This typically involves using a variety of cleaning solutions and tools, such as a soft-bristled brush and a mild soap solution.

Step #4: Then, the jeweler will dry the watch, removing any remaining cleaning solution or moisture from the watch. This is typically done by carefully wiping down each component of the watch with a soft cloth or by blowing compressed air over the parts.

Step #5: After it’s dried, the jeweler will reassemble the watch, putting all the parts of the watch back together in the correct order and making sure that everything is properly aligned and functioning.

Is it time to have your watch professionally scrubbed squeaky clean? If so, our team of expert jewelers at Quick Jewelry Repairs would be thrilled to help you make your watch sparkle again. And if you’re already having us take the best care of your watch, why not add on a little something extra while we’re at it? Throw in a battery replacement to keep your watch running longer, select a band replacement to update your watch’s look, or have it engraved to add a personal touch. You’ll be wearing your watch in its shiny new condition before you know it!

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