Rubbing alcohol is used to kill bacteria and remove dirt from many different things, including jewelry. Before you use alcohol to clean your favorite gold and diamond necklace or your body jewelry, you need to know which materials will be damaged by it and the correct ways to clean them effectively.
Precious metals–all genuine golds and silvers–will not be damaged by cleaning them with alcohol. The higher the karat of the gold, the softer it is, but it still won’t be ruined by the alcohol itself. Platinum, silver and silver-plated jewelry is also safe to clean with alcohol, as are the most stable metals such as titanium, tungsten and stainless steel.
Materials Alcohol Will Damage
Plastics and jewelry made from acrylic, like some types of body jewelry, should not be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. The materials will become discolored or will develop tiny cracks or holes from the alcohol which will become breeding grounds for bacteria and infection.
Precious stones such as diamond and rubies can be cleaned effectively and safely with rubbing alcohol the same way that precious metals can be cleaned. These stones are “precious” because they are harder and more stable than semi-precious stones. Most semi-precious stones, such as amethyst and topaz, can be cleaned with alcohol as well without being ruined. However, pearls and opals are naturally coated with an organic material that gives them their shine, and this coating can be eaten away by cleaning them with alcohol. You should only clean pearls and opals with a mild soap and water mixture.
How to Clean With Alcohol
Choose 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol to clean your alcohol-safe jewelry. Place the jewelry in a clean, non-porous bowl and pour in the alcohol until the jewelry is completely submerged. Let the jewelry sit in the alcohol overnight and use the tip of a cotton swab or a soft cloth to try to rub away some of the grime. If the grime is still hard to remove, let it soak longer and try again. Do not scrub the grime with a brush if you are trying to clean metal or silver, as these two metals are soft and will scratch easily. For hard metals (like stainless steel and tungsten) and gemstones with crevices and engravings, scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. Wipe the jewelry with a lint-free cloth to lightly polish it after cleaning.
References and ResourcesHouse Cleaning Central: Tips For Cleaning Gold And Silver Jewelry
Osiris Body: Body Jewelry Information
Del Haven of Wilmington: Precious Metals