How To Clean Thrifted Jewelry & Earrings

You saw a beautiful pair of earrings at a thrift jewelry store and instantly knew they’d be the perfect finishing touches to your outfits. Grabbing a bargain or unique thrift earrings and jewelry finds secondhand can save you cash while adding some glam to your outfit.

However, because they are used, you want to ensure that you clean and disinfect them properly to prevent bacteria and give them a new life.

Cleaning your used earrings, vintage jewelry, or any used jewelry is important to keep them looking sparkly and beautiful. If you are reading this article, chances are you are wondering what to clean your thrift earrings and jewelry with and how to go about cleaning them. 

Read on as we explore simple cleaning methods to keep your new earrings and jewelry finds from a recent second-hand or online thrift store shop ever sparkly and ready to wear. 

Why do you need to clean your thrift earrings and jewelry? 

Why clean thrifted jewelry and earrings
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Cleaning your thrift earrings and jewelry is very important. Not just when you first buy them, but regularly. Here are a few reasons you should clean your thrifted earrings and jewelry often: 

Preventing germs and bacteria 

Your earrings go through one part of the skin and out the other. Because we wear them close to the ear, they are more prone to bacteria and infection. 

This is quite different from other types of jewelry like rings and necklaces, although just like earrings, they can also cause infections. Failing to clean them often could increase your chances of getting an infection, skin irritation, or allergies. Cleaning your earrings and any type of jewelry kills germs and prevents infections in pierced ears and elsewhere. 

Maintaining the sparkle

Jewelry is exposed to dirt and dust from our dressing tables, drawers, and jewelry boxes. This leaves scratches and tiny particles that build up and take away the sparkles. Cleaning your earrings and jewelry keeps them looking ever sparkly and beautiful. 


You not only want your jewelry to stay sparkly, but you also want it to last as long as possible so you don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite jewelry so quickly. You can also save the money you would otherwise spend on getting a new pair. 

Accumulated dirt, dust, and grease could make your earrings and jewelry rusty and weak, decreasing the lifespan of your jewelry. Keeping your earrings sparkly and jewelry clean keeps them looking new and helps ensure they last as long as you’d like them to.

Related: for other jewelry options, check out our list of sustainable jewelry brands for buying new ethical pieces. And to help you along in the hunt for unique second-hand pieces, we have a rundown on how to thrift shop, providing all the tips you need in the search for second-hand jewelry and clothing finds. 

How to clean earrings and jewelry made from silver

We all love silver earrings because they go with almost every outfit. It is one of the most popular metals used in making jewelry. When it comes to silver earrings and jewelry, there are different types. Some silver jewelry includes pure silver earrings or jewelry, sterling silver, silver-plated, and so on. 

These jewelry types vary depending on the silver content. You should know that jewelers do not use 100% silver to make jewelry as it is too soft. They typically mix silver jewelry with other metals like copper, nickel, and zinc.

Sterling silver earrings, for example, are typically only around 90% silver. You can use polish or perhaps a disposable cleaning wipe to clean silver jewelry. You can also try the following DIY cleaning methods for most earrings from thrift stores:

  • Use mild dish soap: You can make use of your dish soap (or zero-waste dish soap bar) to clean your silver. Simply add a couple of drops of liquid dish soap and warm water/hot water to a heat-proof bowl. Next, dip a soft cleaning cloth into the soapy water and rub it on your jewelry to remove the dirt or tarnish. Lastly, simply rinse off with cold water and dry with a soft microfiber cloth. 
  • Try toothpaste: Your toothpaste isn’t just great for removing stains from your teeth. They can also work well for cleaning off tarnish from your silver. Simply add a dab of toothpaste to a soft cloth and gently rub it on your jewelry. Next, rinse them off with warm water and dry them with a clean cloth.  
  • Try using baking soda: For a tougher tarnish, you can attempt to use baking soda (or Sodium Bicarbonate). First, swirl some baking soda and water. You can also add about one tablespoon of white vinegar to the mixture. Sprinkle some water on your silver and then add the mixture with a cloth. Gently rub through every part of the jewelry, then rinse and pat dry. 

How to clean gold earrings and jewelry

How to clean gold earrings and jewelry
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From gold earrings to gold rings and necklaces, gold has a way of making us feel like royalty. They are perfect for almost any outfit and can give even the dullest outfit some class. So, how do you keep your gold clean?

Just like your silver, you can use dish soap. Simply give your gold a gentle bath in a cleaning solution that contains mild soap and warm water. Then, put your gold into the solution for a few minutes to remove dirt. Once soaked, remove them and put them out on a cloth. Next, gently brush your gold earrings with an old toothbrush or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Lastly, rinse them with water and dry them with a cloth. You can also buy jewelry cloth designed for the purpose.

How to clean pearl earrings and jewelry 

Pearls are simply gorgeous. They are a must-have in any wardrobe. Some pearls are even so precious and passed down from one generation to another. They are very delicate and can easily be damaged. If you’ve got some pearls from a thrift store, you need to clean them properly to ensure they look as good and last as long as possible. 

To clean your pearls, lay them on a soft clean cloth and dip a small makeup brush in a mixture of soap and water. Next, use the brush to clean all sides of the pearl and then rinse with a wrung damp cloth.

Lastly, lay them flat and leave them to air dry. This is to prevent the strings from stretching out. Pearls are prone to more scratches, so you want to make sure you avoid harsh chemicals and place them in a fabric-made bag.

How to clean gemstones and costume jewelry 

Gemstones like diamond earrings, rubies, and emeralds are simple yet classy. You'll often find them set in a vintage necklace or antique ring. You can wear your gemstones on any outfit, especially if you have a special outing with friends or a special someone. 

To keep them clean, you can go through the same process as cleaning gold to keep them clean.  Simply wash them using soap and water. Then, you can brush the stones in your gemstone earrings with a soft bristle toothbrush, place the jewelry in a strainer, and rinse them off with running water. Then, gently wipe to clean them dry with a dry, lint-free cloth.

Use mild, gentle soap and warm water for costume jewelry to wipe any smudges off gently. Next, rinse with a damp microfibre cloth and pat dry. Because of the stones, avoid soaking your costume jewelry in water or using a cleaning method with lots of liquid to prevent the glue from weakening.

Furthermore, if you start to get loose stones, the best thing to do is take them to a jewelry store that can reset them before cleaning.

How to disinfect earrings and jewelry 

As we mentioned earlier, your earrings and jewelry are constantly exposed to dirt and dust, natural oils, and skin cells that clog up on jewelry, causing bacterial infections or skin irritation over time. 

You want to ensure that you disinfect them to avoid bacteria-causing infections. To disinfect earrings and jewelry, kill bacteria, and keep them clean, you can use a sanitizing solution like hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. In addition, you will need a cotton ball or cotton pads and a clean towel.

Here’s how to disinfect earrings and jewelry using different sanitizing solutions. 

Disinfecting jewelry with hydrogen peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide can clean, wash, or disinfect any jewelry from gold to silver or costume earrings. Hydrogen peroxide is beneficial if you have sensitive ears. 

To disinfect using hydrogen peroxide, first, wash your hands using antibacterial soap to avoid transferring more bacteria; soak your jewelry in a bowl filled with hydrogen peroxide. Ensure they are completely covered. After ten minutes, wipe with a cotton pad or microfibre cloth, carefully rinse, and let the jewelry or earrings dry. You can alternatively saturate a cotton ball or pad by tipping the hydrogen peroxide bottle over and using the cotton ball to clean your jewelry.

Disinfecting jewelry with rubbing alcohol 

If you have a bottle of rubbing alcohol at home, it will disinfect your earrings and jewelry well. The best part is they work for almost any type of earring or jewelry, like gold, silver, and even diamonds. 

Simply saturate a cotton ball or pad with rubbing alcohol. Next, with your earrings on your ear, apply directly to the front, back, and all angles of the earring. It is important to note that rubbing alcohol may not be a good option for earrings or jewelry with embellishments as it could melt the glue used. 

Another method for disinfecting your earrings and jewelry is to soak them in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, killing bacteria on your jewelry. Next, clean them with a soft toothbrush or nail brush to gently scrub the earring posts, such as beads or gemstones.   

Disinfecting jewelry with vinegar 

Vinegar is a versatile product, often used in zero waste cleaning, that you can use to clean a wide range of items, including jewelry. To clean your jewelry using vinegar, add around two tablespoons of baking soda and one and a half cups of vinegar.

Next, soak your earrings or jewelry for up to three hours. Remove, rinse, and then wipe with a dry cloth or let your earrings sit and air dry. This gives them a deep clean, removing dirt, oils, and germs. Note you're best to avoid paper towels that can leave a residue.

Are earrings turning green? Here’s how to clean them 

After multiple uses, you may notice that your earrings and other jewelry may be turning green. This happens because most jewelry comes with additional metals like zinc and copper. When these metals mix with sweat and natural oils, they corrode and give off a green color.

To get clean earrings free of corrosion, soak the earrings in about a quarter of vinegar for a few minutes. You can use a soft toothbrush to clean your earrings and wash away particles of dirt. Lastly, rinse off and pat dry. 

Cleaning earrings and jewelry at a jewelry store 

For your really dirty earrings and jewelry, you can take them to a jewelry store near you to have them thoroughly cleaned. Jewelry stores typically have professional cleaning equipment to clean earrings and other jewelry pieces. A professional jewelry cleaner typically uses a jewelry cleaner machine using steam or ultrasonic cleaners. 

Simple jewelry care tips for an ever-sparkly bling 

Now that we’ve looked at cleaning methods for your thrifted earrings and jewelry, here are a few other care tips to keep your bling ever-sparkly and long-lasting. 

  • While dressing up, apply your lotion, sprays, and cosmetics before putting on jewelry. 
  • Use a clean cloth or alcohol wipes to wipe each piece of jewelry after each use. 
  • Avoid wearing jewelry while performing any physical activity. This includes sporting activities, house chores, or gardening. 
  • Take your jewelry off before heading to bed.
  • Avoid exposing your jewelry to a harmful cleaning solution like saltwater, chlorine bleach, and so on. Also, avoid using abrasive cleaners and detergents or spraying hair products near the areas where you wear your earrings.
  • To reduce tarnish, especially on your silver, wrap your jewelry with tissue paper and store it in a ziplock bag. 
  • If your jewelry has gemstones, do not immerse them in water, which could loosen the glue. Also, avoid using abrasive cleaners on your gems. 
  • Store your jewelry in a separate compartment to prevent them from tangling. This is mainly for neckpieces and pearls. 
  • If you've recently had your ears pierced, be sure to disinfect secondhand jewelry before using it. And following the instructions from the ear piercing studio, most importantly, leaving in the starter earrings for the required time to prevent your piercing from closing up.

Maintaining your jewelry’s sparkle and value 

After you go thrifting and come back with some great finds, cleaning your thrifted earrings and jewelry is a key part of maintaining their value and sparkle.

By following some of the cleaning tips listed above, you can keep your earrings clean and jewelry looking as good as new. 

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