How does one clean pearls?

Old joke:

Dowager: “I clean my diamonds in vinegar, and my emeralds in champagne.”
Beatrice Lillie: “Clean them? When mine gets dirty, I just throws them out!”

I am a pearl girl, and I have a nice little collection of necklaces, earrings, brooches (some crappy, some good old family pieces). After a few months, they tend to get a dull buildup from hairspray, sunscreen, pollution. But even jewelry stores are at a loss when I ask for pearl cleaner: “Umm, I don’t think they make that.” Pearls are porous, so you can’t use harsh gem cleaner on them; and the necklace strings tend to dissolve from too much contact with water.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to clean pearls without damaging them?

I’m in the habit of wiping my pearl earrings off before putting them away every time I wear them, but of course that won’t help you clean yours…

This page says to use plain old soap and water to clean pearls, but I can’t say I’ve ever tried it. Heloise seems to agree, though.

Vigorous clutching.

Failing that, the pearl-wearers I know use water with maybe a very mild soap.

According to the old TV ad campaign, after you’d finished boiling your pearls in tea or barbecue sauce, or baking them in a blueberry pie, or lending them to the veterinary proctologist at the Bronx zoo, or whatever, Efferdent was just what you needed to get them clean. I have no idea whether it’s safe or effective, and it would involve immersing the string, but the pearls in the commercials sure came out clean.

Actually, were I you, I might ask the local pawn shops – they might be more experienced at cleaning jewelry even than jewelers.

The “pearls” in that ad campaign were made out of denture material.

I remember when I was a kid my mother used to clean her jewellery (including her pearls) in a container of dissolved Lux flakes. She would put a piece or two in a piece of old stocking, tie up the little parcel and gently shake it for a few moments in a tupperware container, Afterwards she dried them with a cloth. The Lux flakes are just pure soap for clothes washing.

My mother would take cheesecloth, or something similar (a soft cloth) and get it to a “dry froth” and gently clean the pearls with it. She rinse the cloth & wipe the soap residue off with the same cloth. You don’t want to get the actual string soaking wet; it can stretch and then ruin the drape of the pearls and become more prone to breakage.

I find this method works on faux pearls as well. It also helps to put pearls on after all of your makeup/hairspray/perfume has been put in place.

Pearls are my favorite “gem”.


Well, soap and water it is then, thanks, all!

I love pearls, they go with everything from an evening gown to a T-shirt. Problem is, have a pair of good pearl stud earrings I rarely remove, so hairspray does get on them. And I reapply spray-on sunscreen several times a day, so the necklaces get spritzed, as well . . . And there is the New York air.

After you clean them, a trick my mom used to keep them clean and shiny was to simply rub them on your nose. Facial oil seemed to help them.

I also use a version of this trick for my pocket knives. I rub the sides of my nose with my fingers, then rub the blade on my pocket knives - no rust ensues.


Didn’t ‘Tarn-X’ used to brag it cleaned pearls?

Plain soap and water is good. If the knotted threads between the pearls of a necklace won’t get clean, you can just have them restrung; it’s not terribly expensive.

I was going to suggest we page **Eve **to the thread for an answer. :smack:

But my grandmother and mother always used a few drops of Ivory in warm water, as well, so I guess I’ll just turn this into a “me too” post.

Nothing to see here, move along please!

But always make sure they’re knotted between each pearl! Which costs more, of course, but is non-negotiable.

Safe Ways to Clean Pearl Jewelry
The pearls most of us wear today are cultured pearls, their existence initiated by humans who insert a bead or other object into an oyster or clam. The clam coats the foreigner with nacre, the patina that gives pearls their unique appearance.
The depth of the nacre coating depends on the type of creature involved, the water it lives in, and how long the intruder is left in place before it is removed. As nacre thickness increases, so does the quality and durability of the pearl.

Caring for Your Pearls

Even cultured pearls with thicker coatings are more fragile than most other gemstones, so you must handle them carefully to keep them in the best condition.
Your pearls will stay cleaner if you put them on after you’ve applied your makeup and perfume.

Be sure to take off your pearl rings before you apply hand and body creams.
Wipe your pearls with a soft, lint-free cloth as soon as you take them off.

The cloth can be dampened with water or it can be dry. If damp, allow the pearls to air dry before putting them away.

Dirty pearls can be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution (try Ivory flakes).

Never clean your pearls with solutions that contain ammonia or harsh detergents.

Don’t put pearl jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Don’t use abrasive cleaners or rub pearls with abrasive cloth. Both can wear away the nacre coating, leaving you with a plain looking bead.

Storing Pearls
Don’t store your pearls with other jewelry, because they can be scratched easily when metal or gemstones rub against them. Find a special slot in your jewelry box for the pearls, or keep them in a soft bag made from chamois or another non-abrasive material.

Your fine pearl necklaces should be restrung periodically so that you’re sure the silk or nylon cord holding them is in good shape.

Why would this be a problem?

You dip them in BBQ sauce and then soak them in Efferdent. :smiley:

If the pearls are cultured, the depth of the pearl coating might be shallow. If there are tiny cracks in the surface, the pearl coating may flake off.