Whenever you purchase new jewelry, the first thing you should do is clean it. Your best bet is to use antibacterial soap and warm water to thoroughly clean your jewelry. You might also gently scrub your body jewelry with a soft-bristled Nylon brush to clean out any crevices in it thoroughly.
Alternatively, you can boil your jewelry to sterilize it as long as there are NO electronic components, acrylic or jewels in it. For example, a vibrating barbell that requires a battery to operate should not be boiled under any circumstances! You can safely boil body jewelry that's made entirely of stainless steel, but the safest and easiest way to clean your jewelry is with antibacterial soap and warm water.
If you have a small ultrasonic cleaner, like the one shown to the left, you have an even more convenient tool for cleaning body jewelry at home. Simply place your body jewelry in the ultrasonic cleaner's tank, fill it with water to the required level, close the lid, plug it in, turn it on, and the ultrasonic vibrations will shake any residue clinging to your jewelry away.
Ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency sound waves to agitate jewelry within an aqueous solution (e.g. cleaner or water), acting like gentle brushes on anything in their path and lifting dirt, debris, bacteria, oil, and other contaminants from jewelry. They're particularly effective for cleaning debris from little crevices in body jewelry. A small, soft-bristled brush (e.g. toothbrush) and warm, soapy water can be equally effective, though.
For enhanced cleaning, you might consider adding an ultrasonic cleaner detergent like Alconox or Tergazyme to your ultrasonic cleaner's tank when cleaning all-metal body jewelry. If you're looking for a heavy duty ultrasonic cleaner to use in your shop for jewelry and tools, you may prefer one of our Genesis Ultrasonic Cleaners.
Things to Avoid When Cleaning Jewelry
Do NOT use alcohol or any chemicals (other than ultrasonic cleaner detergent on all-metal jewelry) to clean or sterilize your jewelry or components; these things can cause discoloration or other adverse reactions to the material being cleaned. For example, if you tried to clean acrylic balls with rubbing alcohol, the balls would split in two or deform before your eyes. (Be aware that even alcohol-based mouthwashes can damage some types of oral jewelry, too! It's better to rinse your mouth with a saline oral rinse than to risk damaging your oral body jewelry with alcohol-based mouthwash.)
Cleaning Oral Jewelry
Oral jewelry can often build up plaque over time, particularly in any crevices (e.g. where the balls screw on, around an inset gem, etc.). Sometimes body jewelry will be discolored or affected in other ways, too, just as your teeth can be from drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, using mouthwash, and so on. To clean such residue from your oral piercing jewelry, soak your jewelry in warm, soapy water (using antibacterial soap), and then rinse it. If any plaque remains, use a soft-bristled brush (a toothbrush works great) to gently scrub the jewelry with more soapy water. If it still doesn't come clean, you can try boiling it for 5 minutes or so, as long as there are no electronic components, acrylic or gems in the jewelry. If neither soaking, gently scrubbing nor boiling your jewelry gets it clean, it may be time to replace the ends, if not the entire piece of body jewelry.
Cleaning Silver Jewelry
We carry some sterling silver body jewelry as well as pieces that include sterling silver parts. For instance, some of our belly rings have surgical steel barbells with sterling silver charms attached. Both our steel and silver body jewelry components can be safely cleaned with warm water, antibacterial soap, and a soft-bristled brush as needed. If you want to use a silver cleaner on a piece of jewelry that's only partly silver, remove that part and clean it separately. To be safe, you may consider using a silver polishing cloth to brighten your jewelry after washing it with soapy water instead of using silver cleaner on it.
Gold jewelry can also be cleaned effectively with an ultrasonic cleaner and/or warm water, antibacterial soap and a soft-bristled brush when needed. As long as your jewelry is made of pure gold and isn't just gold tone or gold with an artificial inset gem, you should be able to safely use a gold cleaner, if desired. We recommend the warm, soapy water approach for all jewelry, though.
Cleaning Jewelry Parts
Most body jewelry is designed to allow the removal of components--for example, barbells typically have 3 parts to them: 2 balls/ends and a shaft that can be unscrewed from each other. That makes it easy to take the jewelry apart and clean it thoroughly, or to replace a piece of a set when you can't get it clean. (Visit our Body Jewelry Parts section to look for replacement pieces.)
Re-inserting Jewelry After Cleaning It
After cleaning and re-inserting your jewelry, be sure to check it regularly to make sure that all components are securely tightened in place and unlikely to fall off. This is particularly important with oral jewelry, as you wouldn't want to accidentally ingest any of the components.
When re-inserting any threaded body jewelry--regardless of whether the parts are made of metal, Lucite, acrylic, PTFE, or any other material--do not over-tighten it. You'll risk stripping the threads and ruining the jewelry. To protect yourself, you should discontinue wearing jewelry that's become loose or stripped and won't fasten securely.
If you do accidentally strip a piece of jewelry and are looking for a replacement, visit our Body Jewelry section. Visit our Piercing Aftercare 101 page if you're looking for advice on how to care for a new piercing rather than jewelry.