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How to clean gold

Melanie Whitehouse / 15 February 2016

Find out how to make your gold sparkle with our tips for cleaning gold, including gold jewellery.

Find out how to get your gold sparkling

Just like any other metal, gold gets dirty. Unlike silver, gold jewellery doesn’t tarnish but oil from the skin, make-up, body lotion, scent and other day-to-day muck does get ingrained in the design and the shine dulls. Cleaning is simple, providing you take care, and will restore the lustre with little effort.

Find out how to sell your gold

Using detergent

Add a squirt of mild washing-up liquid to a bowl filled with a small amount of warm water. Drop your gold pieces into the solution and let them soak for about 15 minutes. Lift out and gently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove dirt lodged in nooks and crannies. 

Never use a brush with stiff bristles because it can scratch the soft surface of the gold - and if your jewellery is gold-plated (not solid gold), very stiff bristles can even remove the gold layer entirely. Rinse thoroughly with clean water, buffing it gently to bring back the shine.

Using ammonia

Ammonia is a powerful and quick cleaner but because it is a chemical compound, it can be caustic. While it is very effective at cleaning gold jewellery and removing dirt and grime, it should be used sparingly as it can leave your jewellery damaged or tinted. It is best used for occasional, infrequent deep cleans but should never be used on pieces that contain platinum or pearls.

Begin by mixing one part ammonia with six parts of water in a small bowl. Place your gold jewellery in the solution and allow it to soak for up to 60 seconds. Rinse in running water until you’re sure all the cleaning solution has been removed. Dry with a soft polishing cloth.

What not to do

Jewellery that contains gems that are glued into their setting, such as cheaper earrings, pendants and bracelets, should not be submerged in water. Warm water can loosen the glue, which may cause your gemstones to fall out, especially if they’re brushed too energetically afterwards.

Gold itself can be boiled but never use hot or boiling water if your jewellery contains fragile precious stones like pearls, coral, moonstones or opals, as they can crack if subjected to radical temperature changes.

Keep gold jewellery away from household cleaners like bleach as they can cause damage.

Tips for cleaning and storing

Gold jewellery is best stored away from other metal pieces to avoid scratches. Use separate compartments in a jewellery box or put each piece in a small fabric pouch.

Remove gold jewellery before bathing because soap can cause a film to form, making it appear dull and dingy.

Also remove before swimming, because chlorine can cause little pits in the surface.

Gold is a soft metal, so handle with care to avoid scratching and bending.

To keep in optimum condition, cleaning gold jewellery with a soft cloth each time you wear it will keep it shinier for longer.

Natural remedies

Although ordinary tap water will work fine, fizzy water is said to give even better results because the carbonation (fizz) can help loosen accumulated dirt and debris.

Toothpaste is reputed to be a reliable cleaner. Put about an inch into the palm of your hand, add a little water and mix it up. Then add a piece of jewellery and move it around in the mixture. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth.

Soaking in Coca-Cola overnight is said to bring up gold rings perfectly!

Read our tips for making your home more eco-friendly

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.