Cleaning jewelry, copper and brass without scratching

Cleaning precious metals around your home can be done many different way, often with products you already have in your home. Use these simple tips to keep your jewelry and precious metals looking bright without harming their finish.

Cleaning jewelry, copper and brass without scratching

Cleaning jewelry

  • For diamonds and hard stones such as rubies and emeralds, if settings are secure, use dishwashing soap and soak for 10 minutes in hot, sudsy water in a small bowl. Use an old toothbrush to remove ingrained dirt around settings. Rinse, then dry with a soft cloth.
  • For soft stones such as opals and coral, wipe with a silk cloth but never wash.
  • For pearls and strung beads, wipe after each wearing with a barely damp, really soft cloth. Very occasionally, wash quickly in mild soap suds in lukewarm water. Rinse, then dry with a soft cloth.

Cleaning tarnished copper

Decorative copper items are usually lacquered. Cookware is unlacquered.

  • For cleaning laquered copper, wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Use warm soapy water to remove grease and a medium bristled brush to get into crevices.
  • For cleaning unlaquered copper, never use a scourer (it will scratch) and avoid bleach, which causes discolouration. Instead, sprinkle with salt and a little white vinegar, or use the cut side of half a lemon dipped in salt.
  • For heatproof items, boil in a large pan of water with 100 millilitres (1/2 cup) white vinegar and 50 grams (1/4 cup) salt. Rinse well and dry with a tea towel.
  • For grimy crevices use an old soft toothbrush and denatured alcohol.
  • Remove green corrosion by soaking in washing soda (heat baking soda in the oven for an hour at 100°C/200°F to make washing soda).
  • Swab small items with ketchup, using a makeup sponge.

Cleaning brass

Before cleaning brass, make sure you know whether it's protected with a lacquer coating or is "raw."

  • To clean lacquered brass apply a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap with a soft cloth or sponge. Rinse with clean water, dry thoroughly then buff with a soft cloth, chamois leather or old T-shirt.
  • To clean raw brass, use a soft cloth to apply a sparing amount of commercial metal polish, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • To remove green corrosion, soak for several hours in washing soda, rubbing occasionally with an old cloth. Use an old toothbrush to get into crevices.
  • Alternatively, rub with a cut lemon dipped in salt. Rinse well and dry.
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