Check what materials your earrings are made of to decide what’s safe to use.
Soak or rub-down the earrings using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
Pay particular attention to any part that passes through your ear.
Use saltwater on fresh piercings.
Earrings are beautiful, but they can cause infections if they’re not kept clean, especially if you’ve recently got your ears pierced. Luckily, there are some simple and easy steps to help keep your piercings clean. Once you’ve got the hang of how to disinfect earrings, it’s easy to build it into your routine.
How to sterilise earrings without damaging them
Earrings can be made from so many different materials and so there’s no one-size-fits-all advice for how to disinfect earrings and keep them clean. 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.
Check for precious stones!
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.
Take extra care with pearls.
Be particularly careful with pearls, which are easily damaged. You can wipe them clean with a mild soap solution, using a soft cloth.
Always sterilise the post.
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.
Don't wash over an open plughole.
A final note on preserving your earrings: don’t try to wash or rinse them over an open plughole – that’s a sure-fire way to lose them.
How to sterilise earrings
There are two main methods to sterilise earrings: 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.
First, wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water before you got to sterilise earrings, or you’ll just end up transferring more bacteria onto them.
How to sterilise earrings (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. Finally, 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 sterilise earrings (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 the 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.
How to disinfect earrings without removing them from your 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. Instead, learn how to sterilise earrings with salty water – it’s a lot kinder on your ears and still helps to get rid of any nasty bacteria and germs that are lurking. Here's how to sterilise earrings with salt:
Wash your hands.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before you start.
Dissolve a ¼ tsp of salt in water.
Dissolve a ¼ of a teaspoon of sea salt in a small amount of warm water (about an eggcup’s worth).
Dip a clean cloth in the solution.
Use the cloth to clean both the earring and the earlobe around the piercing.
How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?
As you can see, knowing how to sterilise earrings is a lot less painful than the infection you may get if you don’t clean them regularly! And it’s not just earrings you need to think about – it’s important to know how to sterilise jewellery to avoid a build-up of potentially harmful bacteria on rings, necklaces, bracelets and more. Not sure where to start? Check out our guide on how to sterilise jewellery and the best way to keep jewellery clean.