Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekend Update::: Bling Cleaning

Photo: By me of my rings

Speaking of bling, I get a lot of questions about how to keep rings/jewelry clean.  It's very simple to keep your pieces in great shape, and takes very little product-wise or much time to maintain that showroom glitter.  If you're ever worried that your ring is suddenly not sparkling like it once was, or your studs look duller than before, it's probably time to give them a little TLC.  And what better time to do it than over a weekend?

The biggest, and most important, "rule" I would share, which is a major factor of keeping them super clean, is to not wear them constantly.  It's really best not to wear, rings especially, while cooking, cleaning the house, sleeping, showering, etc. Waiting until you're done doing your hair and makeup and getting dressed will prevent a film of hair product or any makeup from sticking in there as well.  It's also a good idea to clean them well before you take them off for the day so gunk doesn't have a chance to "stick".  

I know, especially with newly engaged and newly married girls, it's hard to want to remove the ring and put it back in the ring box at night or when you are doing work with your hands, but to preserve the safety of the ring, it's really good to do so.  Obviously you both got it insured right away (right? if not, do it now!) so any damage or losses should be covered, but why tempt fate or speed up the process of wear or tear. 

Most nights when I am removing my rings for the day, I wash my hands with dish soap and warm water, rinse really well, and then dry them with a paper towel, sometimes even with a quick blast of the cool shot on the hair dryer that I never otherwise use.  I use Method dish soap and Target's paper towels, just because I've found those work really well. Afterwards, I take another dry paper towel, get a little 91% rubbing alcohol on it, and wipe down the rings one last time and then put them away in their respective boxes. A (probably-weird) little thing I do with the paper towel that works to get the bottom of my stone dry is to take a corner of the dry paper towel and twist it so it looks like the image below, and then kind of "poke it" between the prongs and wipe the bottom of the stone, if it's open enough in the setting to do so. It makes a difference, since drying it well keeps less gunk from accumulating.

Is this weird? If so, thank my naturally gifted anal-retentiveness.

Diamonds have a natural affinity for grease and it's very easy for them to get grimy, so the best cleaners are those that cut through oil.  I almost always recommend dish soap or Mr. Clean, either of which is diluted well with warm-hot water, the temperature depending on what your skin can tolerate, because you want to handle them without burning yourself.  I am also a big fan of Sparkle Sparkle spray, which comes in a Gold version and a Platinum version, and a JewelJet steamer, which I use very frequently as well, but none of which are a necessary product.  Dish soap and water is just fine.   If the rings or earrings, assuming they are gold, white gold or platinum and diamonds anyway, are particularly dirty, a good long soak in the aforementioned solution of dish soap or Mr. Clean and water will do a great deal to break down any built on grease, food, skin, whatever.  In a super-pinch, 91% rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or q-tip will work as a surface cleaner. 

You'll notice I don't mention Windex or ammonia. Those are ok for platinum rings, and I use them on mine in a pinch as well. They are not, however, as ok for white gold as they quickly wear down the rhodium plating often found on white gold rings, many of which are a gold + nickel alloy that is more of a creamy yellow without the plating.  Just keep that in mind before you use them regularly on your rings, especially if you're concerned about needing them frequently re-plated, or as it's often called, "dipped."

Just a few of my cleaning supplies

Another great tool to have around is a baby toothbrush or similar, however if you have a micropave or channel set ring, you have to brush very gingerly to prevent the bristles from getting between stones or under prongs in such a way that a stone could get loose.  In the Sparkle Sparkle "starter kit", which I linked above for each metal, two little brushes are included. One of those brushes looks like a teeny tiny little q-tip, as you can see in this image above, the little pink brush. That brush is ideal for such a ring as there are no bristles. 

Besides the above brush options, there's a another good one especially for stones set in solitaire settings, and one many people have already, as this product is often given by jewelers:  the little brush in the Connoisseur's jar cleaner, which you can get at Target and CVS if you don't already have it.  I often tell people to buy the jar cleaner (the "delicate" variant), dump the solution out, and keep the rinsed out jar, tray and brush. You can use the jar and tray for soaking with warm water and dish soap, and the brush for cleaning your main diamond(s) on your engagement ring, pendant or stud earrings. Again, be careful and gentle, you don't want any bristles to get under prongs and cause issues.  

Also, it's a good idea to clean over the bathroom sink, with a towel down on the floor below you (softer than a hard tile floor!), and a couple folded paper towels over the drain hole. If possible, partially close the drain as well. That way if anything is dropped from being slippery or loosened, it's not lost down the drain or bouncing across the floor in the bathroom.

:::Sidebar regarding ultrasonic cleaners::: 
I personally own one, and I also never use it, in part because I own a channel set wedding band and have owned micropave in the past, neither of which are particularly safe in an ultrasonic. I have found that regular hand-cleaning and soaking, and the occasional steaming, works better than any ultrasonic, even most professional heated units (which I own.) 

:::One last thought:::
If you discover while cleaning that a stone looks "off" or you're feeling movement or hearing a rattle, immediately rinse (over a cup or dish to be safe) and dry, and put the item away until you can get it checked by a professional. In some cases, a stone may have been held in place by the gunk surrounding it, and a good cleaning identified the issue. Wearing a ring or earring with a loose stone is just asking for a loss, and sometimes your jewelry insurance does not cover such losses.  If you are going in for a checkup every 6-12 months like a good owner would be anyway, a good jeweler will catch those issues at that time (assuming you haven't had a good "whack" in the meantime), and a good deep clean and hopefully polishing is usually included in that checkup. Oh, how I love a fresh polishing job! 

If you have any further questions or any suggestions you'd like to share, please feel free in the comments below! 

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