Arte Es Vida


Heavy Metal — Cleaning Beads and Metal Components With Household Products by arteesvida
December 10, 2006, 4:03 am
Filed under: Beading, Wire Work

Whether you buy antique pieces of jewelry to take apart, you restring broken pieces, or if your bead and metal occasional collects a coat of dust and grime (just like everyone else’s!) then you probably find yourself on the end of cleaning duty on a regular basis! There are professional cleaners on the market…some of which work better than others. But there are also plenty of things you can do at home to keep your treasures clean for much less expense!

Cleaning Silver

Aluminum Foil, Baking Soda, Salt, and Boiling Water: Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a pan, add 2-3 inches of water, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Add silver pieces; boil 2-3 minutes, making sure the water covers the silver pieces. Remove silver, rinse, dry, and buff with a soft cloth. This method cleans the design and crevices of silver pieces.

Toothpaste: To clean off tarnish, coat the silver with toothpaste, then run it under warm water, work it into a foam, and rinse it off. For stubborn stains or intricate grooves, use an old soft-bristled toothbrush or soft rag to work the toothpaste in to the recessed areas

Cleaning Gold

Cold Water and Ammonia: Make a solution out of 50% cold water and 50% household ammonia in a cup. Soak the pieces for 30 minutes. Lift out gently clean with an eyebrow brush or toothbrush. Swish in the solution once more and let the jewelry drain on tissue paper.

Cleaning Copper

Lemon Juice and Salt: This trick is my favorite. I make a paste of lemon juice and salt and use an old paint brush to brush it over the entire surface. Any particularly dirty areas, I soak in a lemon juice and salt solution. Then I buff with a very fine steel wool. Many people also dip half of a lemon in the salt and use the lemon as the buffer, directly on the copper.

Salt and Vinegar: Are a decent alternative to salt and lemon juice (the acidity is what works here). It will take a longer soak and more elbow grease, but it will work.

Ketchup: I have heard tell that Ketchup works well on copper too. Which makes sense since it contains salt and an acid (from the tomatoes and vinegar). My guess is it would work more slowly, like the salt-and-vinegar combo.

Bar Keepers Friend: The household (and bar) cleaner works better on copper than the copper cleaning products. You will have to use a lot of elbow grease and fine steel wool, but this works very well.

Liquid Wax:If you want a high polish on your copper, you can dip a cloth into liquid wax and apply to the piece, after cleaning off all the tarnish and drying it well. When dry, buff lightly to a high gloss.

Lacquer Sealing: You can lacquer seal your copper to prevent further tarnishing to good effect. This is great for jewelry items, but if you are trying to clean something you cook or eat out of (your copper pots), you DON’T want to do this! Copper is also prone to “bronze disease” and could use the extra protection!

Cleaning Bronze

Salt, Vinegar, and Flour: Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1 cup white vinegar. Add enough flour to make a paste. Apply paste to bronze and let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse with clean, warm water, and polish dry.

Liquid Wax:If you want a high polish on your bronze, you can dip a cloth into liquid wax and apply to the piece, after cleaning off all the tarnish and drying it well. When dry, buff lightly to a high gloss.

Bronze Disease: “Bronze disease” is one of the most serious hazards of bronze. This disease, caused when chlorides and oxygen combine in a damp environment (it also attacks brass, pewter, and copper). You can “diagnose” if your metal develops a sudden outbreak of small patches of corrosion that can be distinguished by rough, light green spots. Washing the piece in repeated changes of boiling hot, distilled water can usually stop “bronze disease”. You may have to soak the object for a week or more in distilled water. If this treatment does not work, you may have to have your piece treated by a professional with a strong solution of sodium sesqui-carbonate.

Cleaning Pearls

Preventative Care: Most pearls used today are cultured, and although they have thicker coatings, they are still more fragile than most other gemstones. The best thing you can do is preventative maintenance on them! Don’t put on your pearls until after you have put on your lotions, perfumes, and make-up. After you take them off, briefly wipe them down with a soft lint-free cloth to remove any dirt and body oils they have collected. Check the stringing cord once a year to make sure it is still secure and they don’t need to be restrung. Store them separately from your other jewelry so they don’t get banged up and nicked (I keep mine in a separate felt bag).

Mild Soap and Water: Pearls are best cleaned in a solution of water and a mild soap such as Dreft, Woolite, or Ivory Soap Flakes. Let them air dry before you put them away.

DON’T: Clean your pearls with any harsh detergents, abrasive cleaners, abrasive cloths, or cleaning solutions that contain ammonia. All of these will wear away the coating that makes your pearl a pearl. Don’t put your pearls in an ultrasonic cleaner (You know, the ones you see on late night TV).

Cleaning Beads

Ultrasonic Cleaners or The Dishwasher: Ultrasonic cleaners only work with hard crystalline stones (like amethyst), but for most gemstones it is better to avoid them. Make sure you use a cleaner that uses no ammonia or alcohol, and dry the beads before you put them away. Many people do put beads inside pantyhose and run them through the dishwasher. This isn’t recommended for more fragile beads, and any beads that have a separate core (such as silver lined glass or furnace wound beads), the core could separate from the outer bead.

Mild Soap and Water: Water with a mild soap such as Dreft, Woolite, or Ivory Soap Flakes work as well on beads as they do on pearls. Soak them in a soap and water solution, rinse well with clear water, blot them dry with a lint free cloth and let finish air-drying completely before you put them away. Gemstones and cabochons can be brushed clean with an old soft toothbrush or a mushroom cleaning brush.


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