How to Clean Costume Jewelry the Right Way

hands cleaning costume jewelry
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

If you're like most people, you probably have a few pieces of costume jewelry that you wear on special occasions—and often, those pieces tend to be tarnished or in need of a good cleaning.

A fabulous pair of earrings or sparkling bracelet can take any outfit from drab to fab, but dust and dirt on your jewelry can ruin it. If your jewelry is looking a little lackluster, don't worry. We are going to show you how to clean costume jewelry quickly, easily, and effectively so it shines like new. Gather up your jewelry, and let's get started.

How Often Should You Clean Costume Jewelry?

Most people only clean their costume jewelry on an as-needed basis, but to keep it looking shiny and lustrous, it's best to give it a good clean after you wear it so it is fresh the next time you need it. For pieces that you wear frequently, sweat in, or get products like hairspray and perfume on, you'll likely have to clean the jewelry more frequently to avoid tarnish and keep your pieces looking new.

The best tip for preserving the look of costume jewelry is to clean it before you store it. For costume jewelry you wear only occasionally, wipe it down after wearing and keep it in an enclosed jewelry box to protect it from dust and oils in the air. If you have some favorite costume jewelry pieces you wear all the time that never really get put away, you can get in the habit of wiping them off whenever you can get yourself to remember and commit to really inspecting them and cleaning them more thoroughly once a month.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • 1 microfiber cloth
  • 1 toothbrush or small scrubbing brush
  • 1 large cup
  • 1 cup of hot water

Materials

Cleaning Products

  • 1 bottle of mild dish soap

Instructions

  1. Collect Your Jewelry and Cleaning Materials

    Costume jewelry is often delicate, so it's important to take a gentle approach when cleaning it. Gather all of the costume jewelry you need to clean, and sort it by material. Costume jewelry can be made from a variety of materials, including metals, glass, beads, and stones, so it's important to clean each type separately to avoid damage.

    Next, find your cleaning supplies. You'll need a soft brush (a toothbrush will do the trick), a microfiber towel, mild dish soap, and warm water. Find an area where you can lay out all of your pieces and won't have to worry about them getting lost or damaged. Once you have everything you need, you're ready to start cleaning your costume jewelry.

  2. Dry Clean the Jewelry First

    Because costume jewelry can be very delicate and tarnishes easily, it's best to clean it without using any water or products, if possible. Start by carefully rubbing the jewelry with a dry microfiber towel. This will help to remove any dirt, oil, or buildup that may be on the surface of the jewelry.

    Tip

    If you're struggling to get your pieces clean, gently scrub them with a dry toothbrush to remove stubborn buildup. For any grime that's left over, break out the soap and water.

  3. For Gold Plating, Use Soap, Hot Water, and a Toothbrush

    If you have a gold piece of costume jewelry, it is most likely gold-plated. Gold plating is a process in which a thin layer of gold is applied to another metal, typically brass or copper, to give it a more lustrous appearance. Over time, however, the gold plating can become dull and tarnished.

    To restore the plating to its original shine, mix a solution of warm water and mild dish soap in a sink or large cup. Dip your toothbrush into the soapy water, making sure to get some suds on the bristles, and gently scrub to clean the piece of jewelry. Once you're done, rinse the piece thoroughly with clean water and dry it with a soft cloth. The gold should shine like new.

  4. Use the Same Method for Gemstones

    To clean costume gemstones, you'll use the same method as we used to clean gold plating. Soak a toothbrush in hot soapy water, then gently scrub the surface of the stone to remove any dirt or grime. If you can, remove the stone from its setting to get the most thorough clean. Once you have removed all the dirt and grime, rinse the stone thoroughly with warm water and dry it with a soft cloth.

    For an extra bit of shine, you can buff costume gemstones with a microfiber cloth after cleaning them. This will help to restore their original luster. However, be sure not to use too much pressure, as this could damage the surface of the stone. 

Tips for Keeping Costume Jewelry Clean Longer

  • A great tip is to use metal sealants on plated metal jewelry that tarnishes. Product like Protectaclear can be painted on costume jewelry to either stop tarnishing or protect decorative patinas.
  • If you're going to use lotions, perfumes, hairsprays, or any other self-care products, apply those before putting on your jewelry and allow them to sink into your hair and skin to avoid transfer.
  • Avoid wearing costume jewelry in the shower or at the gym.
  • As with any cleaning task, regular maintenance helps keep the dirt at bay. Get into a habit of cleaning your jewelry about once a month, and you'll be glad that you did.