How To Clean a Gold Chain: Cleaning Options That Work Every Time

gold accessories laying flat on a marble table

Gold chains are versatile jewelry pieces that accent any outfit and work for any occasion. The natural shine draws people to gold jewelry, but over time, the luster fades and dulls due to residue from lotions, perfumes, and body oils. 

The key to preserving your jewelry’s appearance is routine cleaning, but it’s pivotal to choose a method that is both effective and harmless. You don’t want to cause irreparable damage to your statement piece while you’re trying to revitalize its shine.

How To Clean a Gold Chain

top view of the hands of a woman cleaning a gold chain using a micro bristle toothbrushYou have several choices for cleaning your gold chains. Always dry your jewelry before you store it, as remaining moisture can damage your jewelry. 

Option 1: Ammonia Solution

You can clean your gold with a mixture of one part ammonia and six parts lukewarm water. Pour it into a ceramic or glass bowl. Wear gloves while cleaning with ammonia. 

  • Soak your jewelry in the mixture for 10 minutes. 
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean your jewelry after soaking. 
  • Soak it for 10 minutes after cleaning it. 
  • Polish it with a lint-free cloth.
  • Rinse it with cold water.
  • Let it dry before wearing it again. 

Don’t use too much ammonia, as a small amount does enough. Do not mix ammonia with bleach. If your piece is 18-karat gold, it shouldn’t react with other substances. However, if it is made of 25% alloy, it may react, so exercise caution.

Pros: Easily accessible, inexpensive

Cons: Ammonia may cause skin and eye irritation, potentially hazardous

Option 2: Baking Soda & Dish Soap

The baking soda and dish soap mixture is a gentle method for cleaning gold jewelry. You can use it on jewelry with pearls and other gemstones as well. This method involves mixing a cup of clean water, a teaspoon of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dish soap - like Dawn. 

  • Soak your jewelry in the mixture for 30 minutes. 
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean the jewelry. 
  • Rinse your jewelry with warm water. 
  • Dry them with a lint-free cloth, and let them air dry for 30 minutes. 

Pros: No harmful ingredients, safe for gold and gemstones 

Cons: Baking soda may scratch your jewelry if not fully dissolved (it is technically a form of salt)

Option 3: Boiling in Water

an electric kettle with boiling water

This method requires very little for a successful polish. 

  • Boil water. 
  • Put your jewelry in a Pyrex or heat-resistant bowl. 
  • Separate your jewelry in the bowl. 
  • Pour the boiling water over your jewelry. 
  • After the water cools, gently scrub the pieces with a soft-bristle brush. 
  • Let it dry before storing it. 

Of course, be careful not to spill boiling water on yourself or anyone around you.

Pros: Effective for gold and “hard” gemstones, such as diamond

Cons: Certain gemstones may loosen or react poorly to sudden heat

Option 4: Beer

Cleaning gold jewelry with beer is simple. Pour some beer on a soft cloth, then use the cloth to clean your jewelry. If you need to rinse the beer off, use cold water. Let your jewelry dry before you store it. 

Pros: Simple at-home method

Cons: Colored ale may cause staining, may react to lower karat gold

Option 5: Professional Cleaning Solution

Jewelers sell professional cleaning solutions for various metals and stones. Follow the instructions for the cleaning method your jeweler recommends. After you’ve cleaned your jewelry, rinse it with cool water. Then, dry it before you store it. 

Professional cleaning solutions have chemical mixtures in them. Store the jewelry cleaner in places where children and pets cannot access it. 

Pros: Jeweler approved and tested

Cons: Chemical solutions may not be great for people with sensitivities, costs more

Option 6: Rubbing Alcohol

a bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol

This method is easier than the boiling water and beer methods. Use 91% isopropyl alcohol on plain gold jewelry, but avoid using it on diamond necklaces or other gemstone jewelry.

  • Pour rubbing alcohol into a small container. 
  • Put your jewelry in the container. 
  • Remove it, then wear your jewelry.

Pros: Dries clear and does not need to be rinsed

Cons: Not effective for gold with gemstones, may harm gem treatments

Option 7: Soap and Water

You can clean your jewelry with a mixture of dish soap and water. Use a small amount of gentle soap, like Dawn, and mix it with warm water in a shallow dish. 

  • Soak your jewelry for 15 minutes. 
  • Use a soft brush to remove dirt from the links. 
  • Rinse it with cold water. 
  • Dry each piece. 

Avoid using soaps with abrasive ingredients. If you are unsure about the ingredients in your dish soap, do not use it. 

Pros: Simple and cost-effective

Cons: Soaps may contain rough ingredients that can leave scratches

Option 8: Toothpaste

Do not clean your gold jewelry with toothpaste! The abrasive ingredients will scratch your jewelry. On Moh’s hardness scale, it is harder than most gemstones, as well as gold. 

Option 9: Ultrasonic Cleaner

Ultrasonic bath for cleansing objects and jewelry

Ultrasonic cleaners work well on gold. They use positive and negative pressure to make tiny bubbles that remove debris from your jewelry. 

You can fill your cleaner with water, or you can use a store-bought solution from your jeweler. Put the jewelry in your ultrasonic cleaner and follow the instructions for your specific machine. 

Do not put any porous stones or metals in the cleaner. 

Pros: Ultrasonic cleaners get hard-to-reach places and produce a deeper clean

Cons: Gold-plated jewelry or jewelry that is not high karat may become damaged 

Ways To Avoid or Manage Cleaning Complications

It’s always wise to take a few precautions before cleaning your jewelry. 

  • Repair your jewelry before you clean it. 
  • If you use a cleaning solution, test it on a small area first. 
  • Cover your sink drain so you don’t lose pieces. 
  • Be careful with cleaning gold jewelry with gemstones.

If you have any questions about specific gold jewelry, talk to your jeweler. 

Keeping Your Gold Chain's Good Looks

a woman wearing different styles and length of gold chin necklace

Unfortunately, household methods don’t replicate the work that professional jewelers can do. If you find that your jewelry is still dull, bring it to your favorite jeweler. They clean jewelry all day, so they know how to do it effectively. Most jewelers will clean your jewelry for free. 

Gold-plated chains need special care, as the gold-plating can wear down. If you have gold-plated chains, they might need to be replated. Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners and jewelry cleaning cloths. The bubbles in ultrasonic cleaners break down gold plating, and cleaning cloths have a texture that can scratch it. 

Storing your gold chains can also help your jewelry last longer. You should store your gold chains in fabric-lined boxes or velvet pouches. Keep your gold jewelry away from other metals, especially hard ones like platinum, as the hard metals can scratch the gold. 

You can also protect your gold chains by threading them through plastic straws. This type of storage prevents tangling and damage from scratching. 

Before you store any jewelry, be sure every piece is dry. Moisture can tarnish gold chains. Depending on the karats of your gold chains, moisture can also add a patina that dulls the shine.