How to Clean Pearls 101 (Bonus: Professional Cleaning Solutions You Can Buy)
There is nothing more timeless than a pearl necklace; or a pair of pearl stud earrings; a simple bracelet. You get the idea!
Pearls have always had a top-ranking spot when it comes to jewelry; they are simple, elegant, and never go out of style.
They are beautiful and make for a wonderful gift for a birthday, an anniversary present, or even as a graduation present.
Do you have a collection of pearl jewelry? Most likely you do; even if it is just one nice piece. Ensuring that it stays in prime condition should be at the top of your jewelry to-do list.
As with any piece of fine jewelry, taking care of it is essential so that you can continue to wear the jewelry for years to come, and even pass it on to future generations!
Just as there are certain rules to follow when cleaning sterling silver or gold, there are rules when it comes to fine gemstones, including pearls.
If you are not careful, you run the risk of damaging the pearls. Without cleaning them, their appearance will suffer. There are definitely steps you need to follow to care for your pearls!
Are you not sure how to clean your pearls? That is okay, but if so, do keep reading before touching your pearls. You do not want to damage them!
Here is exactly what you need to do, as well as why you need to keep them clean in the first place. While they do not require a lot of maintenance, there are definitely steps you can take to ensure your pearls are always looking their best.
You may have all the cleaning supplies you need at home; however, there are also professional cleaning solutions you can purchase instead. We’re covering absolutely everything you need to know about cleaning pearls- let’s dive in!
What are Pearls?
Before we get into how to clean your pearls, it helps to have some background information on what pearls actually are!
While pearls are considered gemstones, they are not the same as other gemstones like diamonds, rubies, or emeralds.
Those gemstones are minerals that are sourced from the Earth and are cut and polished to produce the shining final products you are used to seeing in jewelry.
Pearls, on the other hand, are produced within certain mollusks and are comprised of nacre, a composite material that is also known as mother of pearl.
All pearls start as something small like a seed, particle, or piece of grit that makes its way inside of a mollusk. The mollusk then secretes the nacre on the particle as a method of self-protection. The layers and layers of nacre are what form the visible part of the pearl!
The more layers of nacre there are, the more durable the pearl itself is. However, no matter what, pearls are delicate and therefore need to be handled and cleaned carefully.
Freshwater, Saltwater, and Cultured Pearls
It is also important to understand the differences between various types of pearls. As the names suggest, freshwater and saltwater pearls are named as such based on where the mollusks that produce the pearls are found; either in freshwater or in saltwater.
Have you ever heard of cultured pearls? You likely have, and in fact, if you own pearls, there is a good chance they are cultured pearls.
While these pearls are still real, they are created by manually inserting a particle into a mollusk so that it creates the pearl. This happens typically on what are called ‘pearl farms’ and will result in harvesting far more pearls than what can be found naturally.
Speaking of natural pearls, it is very hard to find pearls naturally anymore, and in fact, it is a process that is frowned upon because the process involves opening (and killing) numerous mollusks in order to see which have produced a pearl.
Instead, pearl farms allow for more control over the process, with the end result still being a beautiful pearl.
How to Clean Pearls
Now that you understand the delicate nature of your pearls, let’s discuss how to clean pearls.
There are a few simple tips to keep in mind that will both preserve your pearls beauty and prevent you from accidentally damaging them!
✓ Regular Maintenance
The first step to keeping your pearls looking nice and clean is to take care of them after each time that you wear them.
After wearing your pearls, they are sure to have collected some amount of debris from either clothing you wore, your own body oils, or other debris or substances from the air.
Thankfully, all you need to do in this case is to wipe them down with a clean, soft cloth! This will remove any surface debris or oils and keep your pearls looking fabulous.
Be sure it is a soft cloth, as anything rough can cause damage or scratches to the pearls.
✓ Deep Cleaning
From time to time you might want to give your pearls a deeper cleaning than just a quick wipe down with a cloth. You may have spilled something on them that stained them, or they may just have lost a bit of their shine.
Either way, you are able to clean your pearls more thoroughly, but you want to do so carefully so that you do not damage them.
The key here is to use gentle products so as to not destroy the natural shine of the pearl and not to cause any scratches.
You also want to be extra careful if you are dealing with a pearl necklace, as it is typically strung on a thread that you do not want to weaken or get wet.
We recommend using a soft cloth. Make a simple mixture of lukewarm water (don’t make the water too hot!) and a few drops of mild dish soap. Dip the cloth in the water and then gently wipe down the pearls.
To get any remaining soap off, use another part of the cloth that just has water, or get another cloth if needed. Make sure you have removed all of the soap from the pearls so that it doesn’t leave behind a residue.
Once you are done, you will want to make sure that the pearls are completely dry before storing them away. This is especially true with necklaces; like we said you have to be very careful with the strand the pearls are strung on.
Sit them on a dry paper towel and let them air dry. We suggest waiting several hours to ensure they are fully dry. If not, you may weaken the elasticity of the thread.
Once dried, store them away carefully in your jewelry box. That is it!
Some people may choose to take their pearls to their jeweler once a year (or on a semi-regular basis) to get them deep cleaned and to check to make sure the pearls and strand (if on a necklace) are in good condition.
This is optional, but definitely a good thing to do if you want to make sure your pearls stay in excellent condition for years and years.
Bonus: Shop Professional Cleaning Solutions
Are you looking for a great professional cleaning solution that you can use at home? You are in luck! If you do not want to take your pearls to the jeweler, you do have options for cleaning them at home with something other than just dish soap.
Here are some great options you can purchase today and use! Keep in mind when purchasing jewelry cleaner that you always want to be sure that the cleaner works for the specific type of jewelry you have.
Certain stones require certain cleaners; pearls being one of the best examples. If the cleaner you select does not state it can be used on pearls, do not use it on your pearls.
All of these excellent options are safe to use on pearls, so feel free to shop away.
1. Pink Lady Sunshine Premium Jewelry Cleaner Kit
This solution from Sparkle Essentials is a great option that will clean your pearls without damaging them. Their solution is free from ammonia and any other harsh chemicals that would damage your pearls. Instead, it is a gentle solution that will safely restore the shine to your pearls.
Best of all, it also comes with a soft brush that you can use (if you need it) to remove any possible stubborn dirt or debris build up.
If you have something like a set of pearl studs you can submerge them in the solution, but for your pearl strands, be sure to use a soft cloth dipped in the solution and then wipe the pearls clean.
No matter what cleaning product you use, you never want to submerge a pearl strand and get the thread wet.
Best of all, you can use this solution for pretty much any other jewelry you have!
2. Sparkle Bright All-Natural Jewelry Cleaner Solution
If you prefer shopping for products that are all-natural and environmentally friendly, this solution is a perfect option.
This option is perfectly safe, gentle, non-toxic, and it even has a nice fresh scent. This is a great option for keeping your pearls nice and clean, as well as most of your other jewelry.
This solution will work on all gemstones. The only thing it won’t do well is remove tarnish from sterling silver.
However, for your pearls, it is perfect, and you will not have to worry about damaging them when using it!
3. Simple Shine Complete Jewelry Cleaning Kit
This next kit is perfect if you are in search of a complete kit that comes with a cleaning solution, a soft brush, and a cleaning cloth. This kit has it all!
This is another gentle solution that contains no ammonia or harsh chemicals, so it will work with even your most delicate pearls (as well as any other gemstones that need cleaning).
The cleaning cloth is perfect to use either with the solution or on its own when you need to simply wipe down your pearls quickly after wearing them for the day.
If you have just inherited or purchased some pearls and need to find the right cleaning supplies, this is a great starter kit that will get you everything you need.
4. Hagerty 15207 Pearl Clean
This solution is nice because it was formulated specifically for pearls and will help to really bring back their shine and luster.
You can also use this product on other gemstones as well, but it was formulated for pearls, ensuring that the cleaner will be gentle and will not do any damage.
This solution comes with a basket and brush which you can use for stubborn spots that need cleaning. Dip your earrings in the solution, or use a soft cloth with the solution when cleaning your pearl strands.
So there you have it! Regular maintenance for your jewelry does not take a lot of time or effort, and it is well worth it in order to preserve the quality of your pearls.
Be sure to always wipe them down each time you wear them, and only use mild dish soap or a pearl approved professional cleaner when doing a deeper clean on them.
When in doubt, you can always take your pearls to a jeweler for a professional inspection. By following these simple tips, you can be sure your pearls will look stunning for years to come!
What is your favorite way to wear pearls? Do you prefer simple studs, a short choker, a long strand necklace, or something else? Let us know!