Study shows just how much dirt is on our jewellery, so here’s how to clean it properly

A new study has proven just how much dirt, grime and bacteria is living on our most frequently worn jewellery – proving that mastering the art of how to clean jewellery is very worthwhile.

jewellery box
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It turns out that rings, watches and earrings are the worst for harbouring nasties – a study by Est 1987 found that 23,000 growths of bacteria can grow on your jewellery in just one week of wear, including the organisms that cause MRSA, diphtheria, food poisoning and even thrush.

ring on woman's hand
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It’s unsurprising that rings are one of the biggest offenders, considering how much our hands come into contact with the world around us. After just one week of wear, five bacteria species were found on the ring that was tested, including Staphylococcus (cause of MRSA), Corynebacterium (cause of diphtheria) and Micrococcus (cause of pneumonia, meningitis and other infections). A total of 504 bacterial colonies were found, plus one fungus colony and one black mould colony.

watch on woman's wrist
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When researchers tested the watch, they found four types of bacteria on it, with a whopping 20,000 bacterial colonies (including Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Micrococcus) and traces of fungus.

woman putting in earrings
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Earrings are just as bad, with 485 bacterial colonies found after a week of wear. As well as Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Micrococcus, the earrings also showed traces of the Bacillus species, which can cause food poisoning if ingested, which could easily happen if you touch your earrings and then eat food without washing your hands.

It’s worth noting that most of these bacteria are unlikely to cause you harm. However, if left for a long period of time, the skin barrier is broken, you are immunocompromised or on a course of antibiotics, then they can pose a threat.

How to clean jewellery

If all this has got you looking at your jewellery box with unease, there are easy, simple ways of cleaning jewellery.

Est1897 recommends soaking jewellery in a solution of warm water and washing up liquid (a few drops will do) for 30 minutes. Then use a toothbrush to gently scrub around the jewellery, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, before rinsing with clean water.

To polish, use a (lint-free) dry soft cloth. Finally, steam the jewellery by using tweezers to hold it (at a safe distance) over a boiling kettle. You can wear an oven glove for extra safety!

The jewellery company also has some great tips on keeping your jewellery sparkling clean between deep cleans. These include:

  • Removing rings when washing hands, applying beauty products and when using cleaning products in the house.
  • Removing all jewellery when swimming – chlorine and salt water can cause damage.
  • Buff pearls with a soft cloth after each wear to remove body oils and perfume – this prevents pearls from losing their shine and yellowing.
  • Regularly wearing your silver jewellery – it becomes shinier the more it’s worn, so don’t let it just sit in a box (and make sure to store it in an anti-tarnish bag).