When you have a piece of jewelry that you love and cherish, you want to do anything in your power to keep it as fresh and new as when you first got it. However, life happens, and sometimes you might not be able to protect your pieces as much as you’d want.
When the elements start to take their toll on your favorite pieces, it can be frustrating and embarrassing to want to wear them out and about. But you can usually buff them or polish them with ease. With that said, rust is a completely different story when it comes to ruining your pieces.
What Causes Rust?
Unlike some other signs of tarnish on your pieces, rust is not caused by dirt and grime. Instead, rust is caused by a chemical reaction in which the metals in your jewelry react to water and oxygen. This is called oxidation.
Essentially, iron and oxygen have opposite charges that gravitate toward one another. This causes the ions in each element to lose electrons, resulting in a flaky, brown coating on the outside of metals that takes the form of rust.
Temperature fluctuations and other chemicals can speed up these reactions, which is why you’re likely to see a lot of rusty bikes or gardening tools in comparison to jewelry. With that said, if you get your jewelry wet and don’t properly clean them, you can expect to see some rust at some point soon.
The good news is that this is a chemical reaction that can be reversed, so let’s look at some ways that you’ll be able to clean your rusted jewelry without much effort.
How To Clean Rusted Jewelry
There are a few different ways you can clean rusty jewelry to remove the brown, flaky coating. Note that most of these methods are really only safe for cleaning pieces that are made of metal.
If your piece has diamond or gemstone charms attached, be sure to remove them before you choose any of these methods. Some pieces will need to be cleaned professionally, especially stones and very delicate materials.
1. White Vinegar
Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that can be used on pretty much anything you own. And since it is only mildly acidic, this is a great option to clean your jewelry because it won’t hurt your necklace while it removes your rust.
To start, pour some vinegar into a shallow dish. Then, submerge your piece into the vinegar completely, making sure that all parts of the piece are underneath the liquid. You’ll then need to let the jewelry sit for about eight hours, as it will take time to loosen the rust that’s attached to the piece. Let it sit in an area out of direct sunlight to avoid the vinegar becoming heated.
After that period, you’ll get a soft-bristled toothbrush and very gently scrub the rust off of the metal’s surface. If you’re not able to get all of it on the first go, submerge it back into the vinegar for another one to two hours to get the remaining tarnish.
Once the rust is fully removed, rinse the piece in cool water, and then be sure to dry thoroughly. This step is essential, as leaving leftover liquid on the piece will cause rust to return. Use a microfiber cloth that won’t scratch your jewelry.
2. Dish Soap
Dish soap is another handy cleaning solution for your jewelry because it is a mild cleaning agent, though it is extremely effective. Dish soap has the added benefit of being able to work on tarnish. Use a mild dish soap that is gentle enough to clean without causing damage.
To start, mix just two drops of mild dish soap with one cup of warm water. Rub the necklace in the soapy solution with your fingers to rub away any rust or tarnish. Your fingers are more gentle than a cloth or a sponge, so this is a safe method for delicate pieces.
After the rush has been removed, rinse your necklace under warm water to get leftover rust off of the surface. From there, pat your necklace dry with a clean cloth to prevent rust from coming back again.
This is the quickest method because it only takes a few minutes. However, you have the risk of scratching your piece during the process. If you have the time, try soaking your piece in vinegar as a safer alternative.
3. Salt and Baking Soda
This method uses a bit of chemistry and science to remove rust without harming the metal on the jewelry. And while it’s a bit more involved than the other two methods, it might be the safest option.
First, line a small bowl with aluminum foil with the reflective side facing up. Next, mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one tablespoon of warm water. You want to make sure the water is warm but not boiling hot before pouring the solution into the bowl.
Submerge the rusted piece into the water and make sure it touches the foil. The foil creates an electrolyte reaction that removes the tarnish without harming the necklace. Additionally, the baking soda is mildly corrosive, allowing you to remove rust with ease.
You can leave the necklace for anywhere from about three to five minutes, depending on how rusty it is. Once the rust is removed, take it out of the solution and rinse it in cold water. Pat it dry with a cloth or lay it out to air dry for about an hour.
Preventing Rusty Jewelry
One of the best ways to clean rust off of your pieces is to just prevent it from happening in the first place. And the easiest way to do this is to keep your pieces dry.
Since rust is caused by water having a reaction with the metal in your jewelry, you want to try to keep it away from H2O as much as you can. This means removing your favorite pieces before going swimming, going outside in the rain, or excessive sweating during a workout.
Another way you can prevent rust and tarnish is by using a spray-on coating for your pieces that help to create a hydrophobic barrier to make water slip and slide away if it ever touches the surface. This is a great option, especially for pieces that are made of stainless steel or other rust-prone metals.
Rusted jewelry can be avoided by just keeping your pieces as dry as possible, but especially for chains and intricate links, it can be hard to avoid moisture in some of those nooks and crannies. When rust starts to take its toll, there are some ways you can fix it.
Mainly, soaking in vinegar or scrubbing with a mild dish soap are some of the best options. But you can also use baking soda and salt to create a chemical reaction that works to remove rust and restore your piece back to celebrity status.