An expert guide on how to properly clean your earrings

Crafted on a small scale using myriad precious materials; earrings can be extremely fiddly to clean. They are also unique in their positioning – they’re the pieces of jewelery that sit closest to the face and hair, meaning they are often in the line of fire where make-up, perfume and hairsprays are concerned. Your first step to keep them clean? Aim for prevention rather than cure.

Here, piercing and fine jewelery experts give their advice on how to take care of your earring collection, so that it sparkles forever.

Put your earrings on last

“Try not to spray hair products and make-up directly onto jewelery as they will make the pieces look dirty and not sparkle, and it also means more cleaning,” explains Maria Tash, founder of her eponymous global piercing and jewelery brand. It’s the safest to put your earrings on after cosmetics or hold a tissue over them as you spray – not only will your jewelery be better protected, but your piercings will thank you, too. “Make-up often contains little granules that can get into a piercing and cause irritation,” says Clem Kirchmeir, senior piercer at Fat Fuga Collective. “Avoid applying make-up close to the ear – if you use a bronzer, go very gently near a new piercing and leave a few millimeters’ gap.”

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Edward Berthelot – Getty Images

Different gemstones need specialist care

When you clean your earrings, remember that different gemstones and metals require different treatments. “Diamonds are very oleophilic which means they attract grease and oily substances,” explains Vanessa Chilton, co-founder of Robinson Pelham, a South Kensington-based brand loved by the Princess of Wales. While greasy fingerprints aren’t ideal, they are easily tackled on diamonds and gold. “A thorough clean requires an extra soft toothbrush and mild soap to wash away any skin residue first, then a rinse with water, and then finally a dip or a gentle rub with 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol to cut through any residual oil,” suggests Tash. For sapphires and rubies, an alcohol pad rubbed over the top of the stones will serve as a quick shine technique, but with any valuable vintage pieces or porous gems Tash advises a consult with an expert jeweler.

chiara ferragni

Jeremy Moeller – Getty Images

Go easy with steam and ultrasonic cleaners

If your earrings need a deeper clean, there are options, but tread carefully. “If you have an ultrasonic cleaner this is a good way to gently shift dirt using ultrasonic waves,” says Chiltern, “but be careful – gemstones like opals, moonstones, turquoise, emeralds and pearls should not be put into an ultrasonic machine.” The same goes for steam cleaning. “It is possible to steam clean certain earrings, but not those with pearls, emeralds, or any jewelery made with a foil behind the stone – I would only clean them using room temperature water and very mild soap, and then a soft towel to dry them,” concurs Tash. It’s also wise to consider any particularly delicate settings. “Avoid using an ultrasonic cleaner on pavé set pieces as the stones can come loose, says Sophie Howard, founder of My Pariah, whose earring designs feature a rich array of unusual semi-precious stones. “Make sure you also clean each part separately, by removing each pendant from the earring if possible.”

Choose protective storage

Take a moment to assess your jewelery storage to avoid earrings becoming grimy in the first place. “It’s a no-no to take your earrings off and store them in a dirty area,” says Kirchmeir. “Keep them somewhere like you would your toothbrush, away from bacteria. Jewelery boxes were invented for a reason.”

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