How to Clean and Care for Pearls – A Practical Guide

Pearls are a gorgeous addition to any jewelry collection and a versatile fashion item. But they are also very fragile and can be easily damaged, causing them to lose their luster, color, and durability over time.

However, with reasonable care and knowledge, you can keep your pearls lasting through the ages.  Here’s what you need to know about cleaning and taking care of pearls.

Cleaning Your Pearls at Home

pearl earrings to be cleaned

Cleaning your pearls at home is very easily done, but it can be time-consuming. Here’s what you need to get the job done:

  • Use room temperature water to clean your pearls, because water that is too hot or cold could cause potential damage to the surface of the pearls. Fill a bowl with water, then pour in some mild detergent like this one to create a sudsy solution.
  • Dip a soft cloth in the soapy water and then gently wipe each pearl with it to clean off any grime. You can also choose to dip the pearls in the solution, and then use the damp cloth to clean each pearl.
  • It is very important that you don’t soak the pearls in the solution for any length of time! Soaking can damage the nacre as well as the string of the strand. Also, use a very soft cloth and mild detergent as you don’t want to risk abrading the nacre.
  • Once the pearls are clean, give it a quick rinse under clean running water, or use another soft cloth soaked in clean water to wipe off the soap.
  • Place the pearls on a clean dry cloth and allow them to dry thoroughly for several hours. It’s best to lay them flat, as hanging them could place too much weight on the string and cause it to stretch or break.
  • After wearing your pearls, always wipe them with a soft lint-free cloth to clean any dirt and prevent build-up.

What to Avoid When Cleaning Pearls

ultrasonic cleaner with jewelry
Avoid ultrasonic cleaners for pearls. See this here.

Because pearls are so delicate, ensure that you avoid the following things to prolong your pearls life and luster:

1. Ultrasonic Cleaners

Ultrasonic cleaners are great at quickly and effectively cleaning jewelry, but under no circumstances should they be used with pearls. They can damage the outer layer of the pearl and cause the pearl to fracture.

2. Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals include makeup, hairspray, perfume, chlorine, bleach, ammonia and other household detergents. When dressing up, always put your pearls on last after the cosmetics and styling agents have been applied. This keeps your pearls free from contact with these chemicals. If this does happen, make sure to wipe the pearls and remove any residue of the pollutants.

If you are looking for a professional pearl cleaner, choose something that is mild and labelled specifically for use on pearls, such as this pearl cleaner which seems to be quite good.

3. Submerging

Don’t allow your pearls to be submerged in water. Always take off any pearl jewelry when swimming or engaging in water-related activities, including when doing the washing up.

4. Rough Exposure

Because pearls can easily break or scratch, it’s best to take pearl jewelry off when engaging in vigorous activity. This includes outdoor activities such as gardening or sports.

Storing Your Pearls

pink jewelry box with jewelry
Jewelry box for pearl storage. See this here.

It’s important to store your pearls in the proper way to avoid damage to the composition of the stone. Storing the pearls carelessly can result in the pearls becoming yellow, dull and brittle.

Avoid storing pearls in sealed plastic bags or airtight spaces such as a safe deposit box. These cut off the circulation of air and moisture, creating a dry environment. As the pearl dries out, it becomes increasingly brittle and loses its color. Like skin, pearls too need moisture to glow and look healthy.

Instead, try storing the pearls in a non-abrasive fabric pouch such as a chamois, or fabric lined jewelry box, away from sources of heat. Placing a couple of wet cotton balls or a damp cloth along with your pearls will also help to keep them hydrated.

Before you store the pearls away, make sure that they have been cleaned of any dirt, such as body oils and chemicals, by wiping them quickly with a clean soft cloth.

Also, because pearls are very soft it is important to store them separately. If you store pearls with other jewelry, these items can easily scratch the pearl and damage them.

One last thing. Remember to always store your pearls flat without leaving them hanging on a hook or a jewelry rack. This will prevent damage to the string and keep it from stretching.

Restringing Your Pearls

Over time, the pearl string wears out and is prone to breakage. This is why it’s important to have your pearls checked by a jeweler annually to ensure that its durability is still intact. Pearl necklaces and bracelets should be restrung every two or three years to prevent them the strand from breaking.

One of the best things about pearls is that to keep them looking lustrous and fresh, you simply have to wear them regularly.

Wrapping Up

Pearls offer a timeless classic look, and are perfect for any occasion. By following the above steps, you can have your pearls looking lustrous and gorgeous for a long time. If you’re looking for the best places to purchase pearls online, check out our articles for best pearl retailers in the US.

Looking to add pearls to your jewelry collection? Check out Amazon’s impressive range of pearl jewelry.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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