In light of recent events, hand sanitizer has likely had a large impact on your life. With the global outbreak of COVID-19, people around the world are increasing their use of hand sanitizer and soap to minimize the spread of the virus. Of course, your safety is a top priority during this difficult time. Yet as you disinfect and wash your hands religiously, how is your jewelry holding up? Is hand sanitizer bad for your jewelry? If so, what can you do right now to practice good hygiene and stay safe, without damaging your jewelry?
It might come as a shock that one of the most scarce items right now (aside from TP, of course), might actually be causing harm. Keep reading as we break down exactly what you need to know about hand sanitizer and jewelry.
Hand sanitizer is a cleaning agent and disinfectant that falls into two categories:
Each variation has a combination of active ingredients like antiseptics and disinfectants.
The primary goal of hand sanitizer is to kill bacteria and prevent the growth of microorganisms that cause disease or sickness.
By applying hand sanitizer, you effectively sterilize any germs, bacteria or toxic microorganisms that can get you sick. Sanitization and hygiene are vital right now, but how can you stay clean without damaging your jewelry?
Most hand sanitizers contain 60-95% alcohol. While alcohol effectively limits the growth of harmful bacteria, it also has a negative impact on the quality of your jewelry. As we constantly reach for the sanitizer and wash our hands, our jewelry takes a beating. You may notice the following reaction to your rings, bracelets and hand jewelry items:
Lack of metal shine
Dulled ring and gemstone luster
Loosened engagement ring prongs
Buildup between gemstones and metalwork
Don’t let these factors discourage you. Your health hinges on good hygiene. The CDC recommendation is to use alcohol-based sanitizers that contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. Conversely, alcohol-free hand sanitizers contain harsh chlorine chemicals that can tarnish jewelry. Which leads to an important question:
Washing your hands with your engagement ring on isn’t a new practice. The recent Coronavirus outbreak has led to an increase in exposure to cleaning agents and hand sanitizers. If you’re applying sanitizer to your hands frequently throughout the day, your engagement ring will likely lose its shine and ultimately, endure irreversible damage.
That doesn’t mean you should skip out on sanitization. Instead, remove your ring when you apply hand sanitizer.
Let your hands and fingers completely dry out, and then you can return your ring to its happy place on your finger.
Taking this step can significantly save your engagement ring from longterm damage.
But what about other metals? Is hand sanitizer only dangerous to your engagement ring? What about metals with rhodium plating? Let’s look at some of the most popular jewelry metals and their relationship with hand sanitizer.
Many people wear yellow gold engagement rings and bands, so are they safe from the chemicals in hand sanitizer? Yellow gold comes in a variety of purity levels: 12k, 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k gold. The lower the karatage, the less gold and higher quantities of metal alloys. For the most part, hand sanitizer and yellow gold aren’t a bad combo. This is primarily because yellow gold doesn’t have a film or layer that can tarnish or wear down.
However, as with all harsh chemicals and jewelry metals: the more you apply, the less shine your jewelry will have. To err on the side of caution, it’s a good idea to remove your ring when applying hand sanitizer and washing your hands.
White gold is yellow gold plated in rhodium, which adds a protective layer to the gold while enshrining it in a brilliant, white glow. It’s normal for rhodium-plated jewelry to require replating over time as daily wear and tear tarnish the coating. Unfortunately, hand sanitizers containing halogens can crack or tarnish the plating.
Soap works in the same way, as it contains harsh abrasives that can damage the surface plating. Rather than needing replating from natural wear and tear, you may notice the plating wearing off much sooner from the jewelry’s interaction with sanitizers and soaps.
With sterling silver, you have to be especially cautious of alcohol-free hand sanitizers. Instead of alcohol as a primary agent, these sanitizers contain chlorine-based chemicals and compounds. While they still kill germs and bacteria, they contain harsh compounds that tarnish sterling silver.
When you apply an alcohol-free hand sanitizer, chlorine compounds release free radicals that cause a chemical reaction. Ultimately, these compounds can damage the quality of your sterling silver jewelry.
The most important thing right now is to practice good hygiene. Yes, your jewelry is precious and valuable, but your health and life are worth far more.
The good news is that you don’t have to completely skip hand sanitizer to save your jewelry. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to practice good cleaning and maintenance to preserve your jewelry. Here’s what you can do:
Remove your jewelry when you apply hand sanitizer or wash your hands. Wait for your hands and fingers to completely dry before putting your jewelry back on.
Choose a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol instead of a higher concentration.
Soak your engagement ring, wedding bands, and hand or finger jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner a few times a week. Or, soak these items in a bowl of warm water and fragrance-free soap or dishwashing soap.
Consider removing your jewelry until the Coronavirus outbreak is officially over. Bacteria can hide and grow in your jewelry items. If you’re not going to clean your jewelry every day right now, better to store them safely until the virus passes.
In these uncertain times, it’s important to take control of what you can control. In the case of your jewelry, you can stay proactive with your sanitizer, remove jewelry to minimize exposure to toxins, and give your jewelry a healthy bath daily. When in doubt — remove your jewelry, because it’s not worth risking the growth of bacteria to showcase your bling. Safety first!
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