Wardrobe 101: How To Clean & Store Your Jewellery At Home

By Dan Ahwa
Take care of your jewels with a little TLC. Photo / Nicole Brannen

We’ve tried and tested these top tips, and they do work.

How often can you honestly say you clean your jewellery? Apparently, you should be cleaning them at least once a month.

Like most accessories, it’s not the base of an outfit but an addition to the main story. A

Either way, for a wardrobe item that puts in plenty of mileage, it’s surprising how little we pay attention to cleaning and maintenance. Over time, dirt and debris can build up and impact the lustre of your jewellery.

While some of the precautionary cleaning we adopted during Covid times has recently relaxed, it’s still important to not skimp on cleaning your jewellery, whether it’s a stately pair of earrings passed down from your grandmother’s jewellery box to be worn on special occasions, or the chain around your neck that is has become like a permanent appendage worn every single day. Taking care of your bling is not only an essential part of wardrobe maintenance and longevity but also vital in ensuring the pieces that adorn our bodies so close to our skin aren’t impacting our health too.

Several jewellery specialists and retailers will, of course, have tips and products to upsell that can help with jewellery cleaning and maintenance, but when you’re counting your pennies at a time when the cost of living is high, home remedies continue to be a time-honoured way to prioritise a household budget.

Whether it’s precious gemstones or sterling silver, raid the pantry or your laundry cabinets for these easy-to-find household items that provide plenty of support when it comes to caring and cleaning for your precious jewels.

“As long as the stones are held in securely, don’t be afraid of putting pieces under a tap (with the plug in!) and scrubbing them with soapy water and a soft toothbrush,” advises design consultant Caroline Moore from Auckland-based Jewellers Workshop, where they also offer free cleaning, polishing and checking of all jewellery (including jewellery not purchased from them). “Plus, make sure to get the bristles into the holes behind the stones — the holes are there to allow built-up dirt to escape.”

Cleaning silver jewellery

If you’re part of the 2-3 per cent of people who have skin chemistry that causes alloys in sterling silver to discolour, take note. Silver jewellery often turns black when it reacts to sulphur compounds in the air, known as tarnish, and you’ll find this in everyday products and food items.

What you’ll need

Baking soda, salt, aluminium foil, hot water, a toothbrush and a soft micro-fibre cleaning cloth. If baking soda is unavailable, you can also use gentle dish soap or ammonia glass cleaner.


Ensure you heat the water first so there’s a bit of cooling time while preparing your other cleaning necessities. Line a small bowl with aluminium foil before adding to it a small tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of baking soda. Add the heated water to the bowl and soak your silver jewellery for 8-10 minutes. Once the time is up, remove excess tarnish with your clean soft cloth or toothbrush, rinse in warm water, then dry with a fresh cloth.

If you have any gemstones, ensure you don’t leave your jewellery soaking for longer than 10 minutes. In this instance, it pays to take these to a jeweller to take a closer inspection and ensure all settings are in place.

“Keeping them clean makes a huge difference. Scrubbing with a toothbrush is great but, for a quicker fix, a lens cloth works wonders,” says Caroline.

Cleaning gold jewellery

Unlike silver, gold doesn’t tarnish and is slightly easier to clean than your silver jewellery. Do not use baking soda with gold jewellery.

What you’ll need

White vinegar, warm water, a toothbrush and a soft microfibre cleaning cloth. If white vinegar is unavailable, you can also use gentle dish soap.


Keep it basic with gold — a rinse under warm water followed by a soft toothbrush to gently remove dirt is a good starting point before soaking in warm water with a bit of dishwater. Leaving it to soak in a water and white vinegar solution is also helpful. Its acidic nature means it’s a good way to kill bacteria and germs. A reminder, this only works on pure gold jewellery.

And no matter what anyone tells you, using toothpaste to clean jewellery is not a good idea. The paste can often be too abrasive and can leave unsightly micro scratches. Caroline agrees. “Avoid anything abrasive such as toothpaste, and any harsh chemicals. Gold and silver cloths are great to invest in.”

Cleaning costume jewellery

Some of your favourite costume jewels are also an important part of your wardrobe, and it pays to take just as good care of these as you would fine jewellery or pure gold and sterling silver.

What you’ll need

A soft micro-fibre cloth, a cotton swab, and a toothbrush.


Wipe each item with your cloth and use the cotton swab to clean hard-to-clean areas. A toothbrush is another great way to brush any hard-to-clean areas. If you have glass jewellery or jewellery with pearls, it’s okay to use warm water in this instance to help further clean your jewels.

Essential tips for jewellery maintenance

Good-quality jewellery often has some sentimental value attached to it, and more often than not, can be even more valuable than any garment in your wardrobe. In order to take care of your jewels, knowing how and when not to wear them is a vital part of their life cycle.

Take off jewellery before showering, the constant exposure to high temperatures and soap isn’t going to help. The same goes for swimming, whether in a chlorinated pool or in the ocean. Prolonged exposure to salt water is another contributing factor to long-term damage.

Skincare and cosmetics should be applied and set to dry before putting jewellery back on.

Storage is also important when it comes to jewellery maintenance. Felt bags are a great barrier to prevent moisture buildup. It’s also a good idea to invest in a jewellery box or organiser, and keep different types of metals separate from each other.

A quick-pro tip is to ensure you are investing in jewellery boxes lined with silk, velvet or cotton, as the gentle nature of these fabrics won’t damage or scratch your jewellery. If you like to have your jewels on display, just make sure to line them with a soft piece of fabric for protection.

Add to cart

This stylish jewellery box is made from taupe vegan leather.

This five-tier jewellery box is an ideal option for smaller, hard-to-find pieces like studs or fine bracelets.

The Ferrari of jewellery boxes, this super-sized option is perfect for those with a sizeable collection of jewels that need good storage. Featuring multiple large and small compartments throughout, this box also includes the option of customising your box to ensure you have the compartments that work with your personal jewellery collection.

In collaboration with Yon Kavvas of Claybird Ceramics, this handcrafted porcelain dish is sprinkled with East Coast sand, stamped with the Runaway Girl in 18k gold.

Hand-moulded in Auckland, this collaborative effort with Lil Ceramics is a beautiful glazed ceramic dish to add to any bedroom or wardrobe space.

These beautiful flower-shaped paper mache jewellery dishes are painted in vibrant colours, crafted by the rural artisans of Kwanza, Tanzania.

Available in an assortment of fresh colours, this dish is handmade with durrable stoneware clay.

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