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How to clean earrings – and how to sterilise them

Your earrings may be beautiful, but they’re not worth an infection. Learn how to sterilise earrings to make your ears shine for the right reason.

Updated

how to clean earrings: Jewellery box of earrings

Key steps 

1.    Check what materials your earrings are made of to decide what’s safe to use.

2.    Soak or rub down the earrings using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. 

3.    Pay particular attention to any part that passes through your ear.

4.    Use salt water on fresh piercings.

Earrings are beautiful, but they can cause infections if they’re not kept clean, especially if your ears haven’t been pierced for long. That’s why we’ve put together a helpful guide on how to sterilise earrings at home!

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of sterilising your earrings at least once a week. They may not look dirty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause problems as they may be harbouring bacteria. Once you’ve got the hang of how to disinfect earrings, it’s easy to build it into your routine.

How to clean earrings without damage: take the materials into account

As they can be made from so many different materials, there’s no one-size-fits-all advice for how to clean earrings. Many types of earrings can safely be wiped down with soapy water (just use a little washing-up liquid), but it’s always worth checking specific cleaning advice for whatever material your earring is made of. Our articles on how to clean gold or how to clean silver might be helpful here.

If there are any precious stones in your earrings, you’ll want to check beforehand that your chosen cleaning method won’t do the stones any harm. If you have diamond earrings, for example, take a look at our advice on how to clean diamonds.

Be particularly careful with pearls, which are easily damaged. You can wipe them clean with a mild soap solution, using a soft cloth.

If your earrings are particularly difficult to clean, you can take them to a jeweller’s to be cleaned professionally when they get dirty. You’ll still want to sterilise the parts that actually go through your ears on a regular basis, though.

A final note on preserving your earrings: don’t try to wash or rinse them over an open plughole. That way lies only regret and lost earrings.

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How to sterilise earrings

How do you sterilise earrings, then? There are two main methods: the quick one, which you can use if you’re short on time or there are delicate parts of your earrings you want to leave untouched, and the thorough one, which you can use if you haven’t cleaned your earrings properly in a while or you’ve just fallen face-first into mud.

Again, make sure you’re familiar with the materials your earrings are made of before you try to clean or sterilise them. Pearls can be damaged by rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or very hot water, so, if you’re sterilising pearl earrings, just rub down the backs without touching the pearls themselves.

Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water before sterilising earrings, or you’ll just end up transferring more bacteria onto them.

  • The thorough method: Put some rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in the bottom of a glass. Submerge the earrings and leave them for ten minutes. Wipe them down with a cotton pad or microfibre cloth, then rinse. Alternatively, if your earrings can handle heat but might be damaged by rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, you can boil up some water, pour it into a heat-resistant container and soak the earrings in the hot water for twenty minutes instead.
  • The quick method: Put some rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on a clean cotton pad or a microfibre cloth. Wipe the earring down thoroughly, paying particular attention to the back or hook: any part that actually goes through your ear. Rinse carefully and let the earrings dry on a cloth (just make sure they’re clearly visible and out of reach if you’ve got little hands or paws around).

How to disinfect earrings without removing them from the ear

If you’ve just had your ears pierced, you’ll need to leave your earrings in until the piercing has healed, which means you’ll need to know how to clean earring backs while leaving them in place. Using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on a fresh piercing might mean it takes longer to heal, so here’s how to clean earrings with salt water while they’re still in your ears:

  1. Again, wash your hands thoroughly before you start. 
  2. Dissolve a quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt in a small amount of warm water; about an eggcup’s worth. 
  3. Dip a clean cloth in the solution, then use it to clean both the earring and the earlobe around the piercing.

Knowing how to disinfect earrings both quickly and more thoroughly can be incredibly handy when you're off to an event and want to wear a pair you haven't worn in ages, for which you'll need the quick version. If you're having a day of self care, go for the thorough one.

Originally published