What Hand Sanitizer Does To Your Jewelry
Let me begin by saying that regardless of what soaps and hand sanitizers do to your jewelry you should follow the CDC guidelines and wash your hands OFTEN. Currently, constant hand-washing and sanitizing isn’t just for peace of mind; it’s highly recommended. COVID-19 is a real threat to our health and here is what you need to know to keep your jewelry in good condition – at least the pieces we wear on our fingers.
You may be wondering what you might be doing to your precious jewelry with constant use of chemicals. Are you causing damage?
Even if you take your hand jewelry off to shower, add lotion, or get messy with your cooking because you don’t want to mess up the jewels, you still may not take them off to wash your hands. I don’t, and certainly not to sanitize. I’m relatively certain most wearers are the same.
A metallurgist at Stuller said, “To my knowledge, hand sanitizers are not capable of removing tough, albeit thin, rhodium that’s on a piece of jewelry,” says Aithal. “Hand sanitizers come in two varieties: alcohol-based and non–alcohol-based. The ones with alcohol are benign to jewelry items as alcohol is the main germ-killing ingredient. However, non–alcohol-based ones typically use chlorine-based compounds as germicides. These chlorine compounds could react with water and release free chlorine. Free chlorine radical is very reactive and could cause tarnishing of jewelry, especially if it is made of sterling silver. Also, halogens are known to cause stress corrosion cracking in low karat golds, in particular, nickel white golds.”
The CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content. As long as you’re doing that, your metal will probably stay in great shape.
What do soaps do to my jewelry?
Soaps, according to Aithal, are a different story. “Soaps can contain abrasives, like Lava or that orange goo dispensed near hand-washing stations, that could damage the surface of jewelry and cause rhodium to be worn away.”
What about precious stones like diamonds and sapphires? It won’t damage them, but can leave a filmy residue on the stones over time, dulling the sparkle. But it’s not permanent, and nothing a quick soak in an ultrasonic can’t fix.
“If anything, people should be cleaning their jewelry more,” says Susi Smither, founder of The Rock Hound. “Think of all that horrid buildup of crud under rings and behind the setting of claw-set earrings. Hand sanitizer kills the baddies then evaporates fast—this shouldn’t have any detrimental effects on your gemstones, even materials such as gemstones and pearls. If you’re worried, at the end of the day give them a rinse and dry when you get home.”
Peggy Grosz, senior vice president at Assael, suggests erring more on the side of caution when it comes to pearls. “Sanitized skin should not come into contact with your pearls until completely dry and evaporated—wait about five minutes before putting on your pearls,” says Grosz. “As with perfumes and hairspray, the alcohol in the hand sanitizer can change the surface of the pearl, the two noticeable differences being a loss of luster and a change in color—white pearls, for example, will become yellowed if repeatedly exposed to such chemicals. Pearl rings should be removed when applying hand sanitizer, but because they have a mounting which separates them from direct contact with the chemicals, it is safe to put rings back on after a few minutes.”
Most, if not all, jewelry will be just fine, and of course your health is far more important than any piece of jewelry. If your jewelry becomes dull or tarnished, we welcome you to come back to the store to have them cleaned professionally, regularly.