How to Clean Gold-Plated Jewelry at Home

Leigha is a writer and artist living in Toronto, Ontario. She loves to mix and match…

We all know that feeling when we realize our favorite piece of jewelry is becoming worn or tarnished. This can be especially common with gold-plated jewelry. 

Although gold-plated jewelry gives wearers the satisfaction of their desired look while staying relatively affordable, it can be more easily tarnished than solid or gold-filled alternatives due to its chemical fusion with other base metals. 

Over time, base metals will begin to shift into the surrounding layer of gold, causing it to dissolve and become worn – but fear not! There are ways to delay this process and protect your gold-plated jewelry while keeping it pristine and sparkling.

How to Clean Gold-Plated Jewelry

There are a few different ways to keep your gold-plated jewelry looking its best. Here, we will outline some examples of proper cleaning methods and when to use them. 

Use a Microfiber or Lint-free Cloth

Use this method at the end of each day or wear to maintain the shine of your gold-plated jewelry:

  1. First, make sure your hands are clean and free of lotion or other cosmetic products.
  2. Gently wipe down the jewelry to remove any dirt and oils accumulated during the day. 

Soak in Soap and Water

If your gold-plating has become stained or muddy, a cup of water and a few drops of soap should do the trick. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Using just a few drops of mild, liquid dish soap and warm water, mix the solution in a bowl or small container and let your jewelry soak for a few minutes. 
  2. You can leave the jewelry to soak or gently rub over the stained areas with a microfiber cloth. 

Rinse your jewelry with clean water after soaking it and pat it dry with a clean microfiber cloth or lint-free material. 

Use a Cotton Swab for Smaller Jewelry

For those pesky pieces with tiny or hard-to-reach elements, using a cotton swab can help to remove dirt and grime. 

Simply swipe over the offending article with a dry swab – or if you’d like, dampen it with water – and clean out the crevices to add more shine to your piece. 

Deep-clean With Baking Soda and Salt

Got a heavily tarnished gold-plated piece of jewelry? We recommend deep cleaning using some common household items. 

Materials Needed 

  • A bowl 
  • Some aluminum foil 
  • A tablespoon of salt 
  • A tablespoon of baking soda
  • A cup of warm water 

💡 Keep in mind that salt is optional for this method, so if you don’t have salt available, or would rather not use it, this technique will still work.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Place the aluminum foil over the bowl so that it lines the inside. 
  2. Slowly add the cup of water into a mixture of the baking soda and salt. Stir until both the baking soda and salt are completely dissolved. 
  3. Once the contents have dissolved within the solution, place your tarnished jewelry in the bowl to soak.
  4. Let the jewelry sit for about 5-10 minutes, occasionally moving it around in the solution. 
  5. When it has finished soaking, you can remove your de-tarnished gold, and rinse it with clean water.
  6. Carefully pat it dry with a microfiber or lint-free cloth.

For Jewelry with Embellishments

Gold-plated jewelry that holds gemstones or other precious rocks needs to be cleaned with more care due to its delicate nature. Some jewelry, such as earrings, might use glue adhesives to apply gemstones and by soaking or submerging this jewelry into water, you risk loosening the glue – no one wants mismatched earrings! 

how to clean gold-plated jewelry with embellishments or stones

Here’s one way to clean your gold-plated jewelry without soaking the embellishments (and risking a fashion disaster):

  1. Wet a microfiber cloth with water and a small amount of soap.
  2. Use the cloth to wipe down your jewelry gently, making sure to reach all areas of the jewelry. 
  3. Clean off any residual soap solution with a separate damp cloth and pat dry. 

If they’re starting to look a little grimy, you can also consider cleaning gemstones with soap and water, too.

Apply Boiling Water

As mentioned in the previous method, jewelry with embellishments should not be submerged in water – especially boiling. That being said, boiling water is completely safe to use on gold-plated jewelry, despite how it may sound. Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Place your jewelry at the bottom of a heat-resistant bowl or container. 
  2. Using a pot or kettle, boil enough water to cover your jewelry completely, and then carefully submerge the jewelry, letting it steep until the water has cooled to room temperature. 
  3. Once you can remove the jewelry safely, scrub down the gold-plating with a soft-bristled toothbrush or microfiber cloth, rinse, and place it down to dry.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s a lot of information on what to do when cleaning gold-plated jewelry. Here, we will answer some of the most common questions.

Will vinegar hurt gold-plated jewelry?

While vinegar doesn’t affect solid gold, and is actually a wonderful cleaning solution, gold-plating, or plated jewelry of any kind, should not be cleaned with vinegar alone. Vinegar is an abrasive substance that can corrode gold-plated surfaces. 

If you do decide to use vinegar as an alternative cleaning method, we recommend diluting it with water beforehand and only soaking the jewelry for a few minutes at a time, rinsing it with clean water, and patting it dry with a microfiber cloth when finished.

Can you clean gold-plated jewelry with toothpaste?

Similar to vinegar, toothpaste is an abrasive substance. While we advise you not to use toothpaste on your gold-plated jewelry directly, mixing it with water creates a lighter paste that, when used with a soft-bristled toothbrush, can help to loosen up dirt and grime that has gradually built up on the surface.

Is baking soda good for cleaning gold jewelry?

Baking soda is a fantastic product to use for cleaning gold and gold-plated jewelry! We should note that baking soda should not be used often as a cleaning method. But for the occasional deep-clean, baking soda can be mixed with warm water in a bowl lined with aluminum foil and soaked in the solution for 5-10 minutes.

What happens if you boil gold-plated jewelry?

Boiling gold-plated jewelry is completely safe and highly recommended as a cleaning method. However, if your jewelry is embellished with gems or other precious stones, then boiling water has the potential to melt any glue attaching them together. Avoid submerging embellished jewelry in hot or boiling water and use some of the other methods listed, instead.

Does clear nail polish protect gold-plated jewelry?

The good news is that clear nail polish does have the potential to protect your gold-plated jewelry from tarnishing. The bad news, however, is that the solution is a temporary one. 

Nail polish, even when dried, is quite soft; so, while it may keep your jewelry shining and prevent it from staining your skin, eventually the layer of nail polish will break down. This leaves gold-plating exposed and results in an uneven finish. 

So, using this method could leave your jewelry in a worse state than it would have been otherwise. 

Also, the only way to remove the polish is to use nail polish remover or by continuing to add coats to the jewelry. Nail polish remover could significantly damage the plating and more polish layers will become too thick, eventually causing it to deteriorate.

💡 We advise against using clear nail polish in favor of less-harmful alternative methods like those we’ve shared. 

How long does gold-plated jewelry last?

Gold-plated jewelry will generally last 2-3 years before wearing down, but this all depends on how often the jewelry is used, the quality of the gold-plating, and proper care. Cleaning your jewelry regularly will prolong its lifespan. 

Tips for Maintaining Gold-Plated Jewelry

Now that we’ve gone over how to clean your gold-plated jewelry and the proper materials to use, we’ll discuss the next steps to maintain that beautiful new glow. 

Apply Perfume Before Wearing Jewelry

Perfumes and colognes can pollute and oxidize the metals of your gold-plated jewelry, making it look dull and discolored, especially if exposed regularly. If you frequently use sprays in your day-to-day routine, be sure to do so before putting on jewelry to avoid exposure to harsh chemicals. 

Avoid Prolonged Exposure to Water

It’s easy to forget when we’re wearing jewelry, so it’s common that we find ourselves with a necklace or pair of earrings still attached when we’re swimming or exercising. Unfortunately, similar to perfume, things like sweat, chlorine, saltwater, and even freshwater can cause gold-plated jewelry to tarnish. 

Remember to remove all gold-plated jewelry before coming into contact with water, but if you do forget, be sure to take them off as soon as possible and store them in a safe place to clean later.

Wait to Put on Jewelry When Using Cosmetics

Cosmetics and skin-care products also pose a threat to your gold-plated jewels. When possible, wait a minute or two after applying cosmetics before putting on jewelry. These products contain chemicals that could cause gold-plating to stain or tarnish when wet.

Avoid Contact with Hard Surfaces

Avoid wearing your gold-plated jewelry if they’ll frequently be bumping against tough or solid surfaces. For example, don’t wear gold-plated rings while weight-lifting or washing the dishes. Doing so subjects the jewelry to scratching and denting. 

Use Safe Storage Options

Using proper storage for your jewelry can help in extending its life span. This is especially true for gold-plated jewelry. A jewelry box or holding case is perfect for storage, and most jewelry lovers will have something like this already. 

Another method you can try is placing individual pieces of your jewelry into small plastic bags. This prevents scratching your gold-plated jewelry if it ever comes into contact with other pieces of jewelry in storage.

Let Your Gold-Plated Jewelry Shine!

Now that you’ve read this guide, if you find that your gold-plated jewelry has become a little dull, remember that not all is lost! These are just a few easy ways to keep your favorite accessories gleaming right from the comfort of your home.

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