How to clean a necklace chain

Your necklaces won’t look their best if the chain is dull or tarnished. Learn how to clean a chain.

Updated

Clean gold necklace chain draped over a book

Key steps

If you’re wondering how to clean a necklace chain and you don’t have specialised polish to hand:

  1. Remove pendants first: these techniques are for cleaning metal, not stones.
  2. Both gold and silver chains can be washed in soapy water.
  3. Gold chains can be boiled.
  4. Tarnish on silver can be transferred to aluminium foil using boiling water and baking soda.

On the whole, necklace chains spend their time sitting either on your skin or in a dusty jewellery box, which means they can gather up a lot of grime over time. To keep them fresh and gleaming, show them some love with an occasional cleaning session. Not sure how to clean a necklace chain? It’s not as fiddly as you might think.

If you’re looking for how to clean a chain that’s clogged with dust or grime, you might need to use a soft brush to dislodge the dirt first – always working lightly and carefully, especially with delicate chains. You don’t need to buy anything special: old toothbrushes, with their soft bristles, can be repurposed as jewellery-cleaning brushes.

How to clean a necklace chain: some warnings before you start

Some of these techniques involve very hot water, so be careful not to burn yourself.

Remember, a cleaning method that’s safe for a gold chain won’t necessarily be safe for a pearl pendant hanging from it, for example. If there’s a pendant on your necklace, remove it before you start cleaning. If there are any stones on the chain that can’t be removed, look up whether your chosen cleaning method will be safe for those specific stones. Also remember that some cleaning techniques, such as boiling, may damage any glue that’s being used to hold stones in place.

Whatever your cleaning method, test it beforehand on one of the links at the back of the necklace to make sure it won’t discolour your chain.

How to clean gold chains at home

Gold is a soft metal, and easily scratched, so it’s best to handle it carefully.

In most cases, the best way to clean gold chains is with regular soapy water. Mix warm water in a bowl with a few drops of washing-up liquid, leave the chain in the bowl for a few minutes, then gently massage the gold clean with your fingers. Rinse the chain in clean water and lay it out on a clean tea towel to dry.

If you want to know how to clean a gold chain that’s more heavily soiled, you can actually put solid gold in boiling water without harming it. Boil up a little water, submerge the chain in it, leave it until the water is cool enough for handling, then clean the chain gently with your fingers or a soft brush. Again, leave it to dry on a tea towel when you’ve finished. This method should be avoided if your chain has any stones that can’t be removed.

For more advice on cleaning gold jewellery, check out our article on how to clean gold.

How to clean a sterling silver chain

If your silver chain only needs a light clean, the above soapy water technique for gold can also be used with silver. This can also be used as a preparation for heavier cleaning.

Want to know how to clean a chain that’s a little more tarnished? Once you’ve washed the chain in soapy water to get rid of surface dirt, you can use specialised silver polish to remove the tarnish. Just put the polish on a soft cloth, rub the chain clean, buff it with another cloth, rinse it and let it dry on a tea towel.

Alternatively, try out our technique that uses things you might have around your house already:

How to clean a silver chain that turned black

Remember, this method is only suitable for cleaning silver: don’t attempt it if your chain has non-removable stones. You should also avoid this method if your silver chain has areas of black or darker silver in the design; these are probably created through deliberate tarnishing, and this method will remove them.

  1. Line a small heat-resistant bowl with aluminium foil, shiny side up.
  2. Put your tarnished silver chain into the bowl, so it sits on the foil.
  3. Boil some water and pour it into the bowl.
  4. Drop in a tablespoon of baking soda and watch it foam up.
  5. Stir the water to make sure the baking soda dissolves.
  6. Fish out the chain (with a fork: the water’s still hot!) after a minute or two. You should notice a difference; the tarnish should have transferred to the aluminium foil.
  7. Rinse the chain in warm water (don’t go straight from boiling to cold) and gently dry it with a soft cloth.

If you have other silver jewellery in need of a clean, take a look at our article on how to clean silver rings.

Originally published