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How to Sanitize Jewelry and Watches

Written by Annabelle
March 17, 2020

While 20 seconds of washing might do the job for your hands, the items on your hands require much more thorough cleaning. Germs and viruses can live on your rings, bracelets, and watches for up to 72 hours without proper disinfection. Read on to learn more about how to sanitize jewelry and watches.

How to Properly Clean Jewelry

While there are no confirmed cases of transmission of diseases via jewelry at the moment, the fact that your items are made out of metal is still a cause for concern. Recent studies have shown that germs can live in the crevices under rings and the novel coronavirus can survive for days on surfaces made out of plastic and stainless steel. 

Due to the way many of these items are constructed, your routine handwashing for 20 seconds may sanitize your hands, but it’ll fail to do the job properly when it comes to your jewelry. This is because of the way dirt and other grime accumulates under settings and other hard to reach places. Lotion, hand soap, dead skin cells, and other substances collect together and harden, forming a stubborn film that is near-impossible to get off with your regular water faucet. To properly clean your jewelry, you’ll have to send it off to a jeweler.



A dramatic before and after of a ring with a lot of dirt behind its stones.


Sanitizing Jewelry and Watches

Unlike your humble kitchen sink, a jeweler has two pieces of industry equipment that allows them to do a much more thorough job of cleaning jewelry. 

  1. Ultrasonic cleaner: This tank contains a cleaning solution, and uses soundwaves to generate bubbles. These bubbles reach spots that are impossible to clean by hand, and knock or loosen grime out of those areas. 
  2. Steam cleaner: A highly-concentrated blast of hot steam comes out of a nozzle and runs over the jewelry, taking out any other dirt left behind from the ultrasonic cleaning process. The temperature itself acts as a sanitation procedure, as the heat can kill off many germs. 

Watches cannot be immersed in ultrasonic cleaners without removing the case, as there is a chance that the liquid will enter the watch and destroy the clockwork. Fortunately, alcohol or Clorox is an efficient way to safely sanitize the watch without ruining it. We don’t recommend using alcohol for jewelry cleaning purposes, however; some stones and metals will react adversely to its exposure.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind

If you have a ring that's on the tight side, chances are you might be used to licking it in order to get it off. Aside from the obvious implications of licking your hands at this time, it's just not a safe thing for you to do to yourself, or your poor jeweler! Try using lotion or Windex to wiggle it off, and get it sized so you don't have to resort to using your tongue every time you want to remove it.

For those of you who are into DIY cleaning at home or haven't had the chance to ship your jewelry off for a proper cleaning, just remember that you really won't be as thorough as an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. Temporary solutions such as dunking your rings into alcohol or wiping it down with a Clorox wipe can work for a quick cleanse, but keep in mind that some gems cannot be exposed to harsh chemicals, or need a quick wipe down with a wet cloth after exposure. Make sure to avoid harsh caustic chemicals such as bleach, chlorine, ammonia, or hydrogen peroxide; these cleaners will permanently damage stones such as pearls, coral, opals, and emeralds, and even eat away at metals such as gold.

How Can I Safely Sanitize My Jewelry With a Jeweler?


This sterling silver onyx ring was heavily tarnished and very dirty before cleaning.

With the current situation, it’s not surprising that you might be concerned about visiting a local jeweler. Fortunately, you can keep to social distancing guidelines by sending in your items instead. Our facility also follows a stringent sanitation protocol to ensure that any jewelry you send in and receive is germ-free. 

In these times, every extra precaution helps not only you, but also the people around you. After all, by cleaning your jewelry, you’re eliminating another potential source of contamination. Check out our jewelry spa service today to get started.

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