Expensive jewelry is an investment. At least that's what we tell ourselves after spending three months' rent on a new watch, a pair of earrings or a diamond engagement ring. Like any other investment, jewelry needs to be cleaned and maintained to preserve its beauty and value. Some people are swindled into buying expensive cleaning kits or polishes, while more affordable remedies are sitting in the bathroom.
Before running out to a jeweler and racking up a cleaning bill, try these 10 ways to clean and maintain jewelry with bathroom stuff. These products are gentle enough to polish diamonds, silver and crystal and aren't filled with mystery chemicals like many other jewelry cleaners out in the market. Don't spend more money than your bracelet cost making sure it doesn't look dingy.
Brush Your Silver
Silverware and jewelry are usually made of sterling silver, which is harder and more durable than pure silver. It can develop a dingy film over time and lose its shine. To restore its luster, silverware and jewelry must be periodically polished.
If toothpaste can clean and whiten teeth, it should be able to do the same thing for jewelry, right? Put a little toothpaste on your fingertips, then rub it on silver jewelry. Let it sit about 1 hour. Rub off with a soft cloth.
At-home Diamond Cleaning
Dust and dirt can get trapped in the tiny grooves of diamond jewelry. Even though diamonds are the strongest metal, small dust particles can create imperfections and, over time, could cause these gems to discolor and lose their luster.
Jewelers recommend that a diamond be brought in for a cleaning every six months, but try this at home before running out to the store. Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush. Use this to scrub the diamond gently, rinse, and then dry. Toothpaste has a soft texture and is mild enough to clean any diamond without tarnishing it.
Green Be Gone
It is a common misconception that a green ring around your neck, wrist or finger is caused by an allergic reaction to the metals in your jewelry. Though it is true that some people are allergic to metals like nickel and copper, that green ring is usually caused when metals rub off onto the skin. This is more likely to happen in areas where we sweat the most, like the palms of our hands and the backs of our necks.
Does a ring discolor your finger? Apply clear nail polish to the inside of the band. This will act as a barrier between your skin and the metal while locking the metals into place. Try this on inexpensive costume jewelry that may be fun to wear, but hard to clean.
It's a fact of life that the glass face of your watch will get scratched through daily use. And having a jeweler resurface or replace it can become expensive. So before you go that route, try this strategy first.
Use toothpaste to remove those annoying scratches on your watch crystal. Put a small amount on your fingertips, rub it on the crystal with a light touch, and wipe it clean with a soft, dry cloth.
Grimy Watch Bands
There is a whole subculture of people in the world who prefer their plastic digital watches over expensive analogs. But don't think that your plastic, quasi-geeky watch won't have to be maintained and repaired. Plastic can scratch, too and sometimes those surface imperfections can be harder to fix than glass.
Is your plastic watchband a bit grimy? Put a dab of toothpaste on the band and gently rub it with your moistened fingers. Rinse clean, then dry with a soft cloth. If the watch itself is not water-resistant, be careful not to get it wet during the process.
Melt Away Watch Scratches
Don't replace one cheap, plastic watch with another cheap, plastic watch. There are plenty of reputable watch brands on the market that sell custom and high-end plastic pieces. Now that you've taken the grown-up step of buying a nice timepiece, plastic though it may be, you have to take care of it.
To remove scratches from a plastic watch face, dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover. Wipe the swab across the face and watch the scratches disappear. The remover is designed to melt plastic nail polish off fingernails and the same logic applies to the watch face.
Clean Your Dentures, Clean Your Diamonds
A diamond's worth is determined by the brilliance of the stone's color and clarity. A dirty diamond will turn a yellowish color and fog up on the inside. Make sure to take the time to clean your diamonds to maintain their monetary worth, whether you plan on selling them or not.
Use denture cleanser tablets dissolved in a glass of water to make your diamonds sparkle. Just drop jewelry in the solution for 2 minutes. The gentle cleanser is designed to clean dentures without dissolving or tarnishing them. If it's good enough for grandma's teeth, it's good enough for diamonds!
Jewelry tarnishes if it is overexposed to the chemicals in makeup, which are often harder than the jewelry itself and can scratch the piece. Also, soft metals may corrode on skin that has a high salt content, meaning sweaty skin. Make sure you remove your jewelry on occasion, especially before bed, but here is a scrub to restore brilliance in your necklaces, bracelets and rings.
Dissolve 2 antacid tablets in a glass of water and use to soak dull or tarnished jewelry. Let soak for only 2 minutes, then rub dry. The effervescent tablets release bubbles that will attach to the jewelry and remove any dirt or dust. As the bubble rise to the surface, so do the stains.
Restring Broken Necklaces
Necklaces are a great, and often inexpensive, way to spice up an otherwise dull outfit. Today's necklace trends are bold with bright colors, oversized beads and multiple strands in one set. However, these styles can hang heavy on the dainty little strings that hold everything together and might eventually break.
Don't let your jewelry box fill up with broken necklaces. Restring a broken beaded necklace with dental floss. The floss is made of bundles of either woven nylon or plastic, so it is stronger than simple string. When it's knotted, the floss holds strong and is too tight to untie.
Untangle a Chain
Another reason necklaces are a pain: we have to worry about the oversized ones snapping and the small, demure chains twisting themselves into a knotted mess. I'll never understand how a long, knot-free chain can be laid down flat in a jewelry box only to contort itself into a giant ball by the next morning.
Untangling a fine gold or silver chain can seem hopeless but it's not. Try setting the chain on a piece of plastic wrap and putting a small drop of baby oil on the knot. Using 2 sewing needles, gently work apart the knot. Wash with water and a little dishwashing liquid; rinse and dry well.
Adapted from "Amazing Uses for Household Products: Toothpaste" © 2009 Publications International, Ltd.
Holly and Tracy of Stuff You Missed in History Class explain why the stories of the Hope diamond have been greatly exaggerated.