How to Clean a Watch


Watches are often used daily and quickly lose their shine to dirt and oils from skin, lotions, and other products. Their bands or bracelets are made of a variety of materials, and when removed, are easy to clean. A regular cleaning will keep the dirt to a minimum and prevent any unwanted odors.

Watch Cleaning

Even if your watch is water resistant, you will want to remove the band to ensure no damage is done to the watch itself. This cleaning method is safe for most types of watchbands. If your band is made of a special material or is in need of a deeper cleaning, you may want to check out the other articles on our site pertaining to that specific material for further cleaning options.

You Will Need:

  • Mild dish detergent
  • Small bowl
  • Jewelry brush or baby toothbrush (make sure it has soft bristles)
  • Soft lint-free cloths
  • White vinegar (for leather watches)
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional, do not use on gold watch bands)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by removing the band/bracelet from the watch. If you are unable to remove it, be very careful not to get the watch wet as it can damage it permanently.
  2. Fill the small bowl about half full with water and add a small amount of mild dish detergent. If your bands are leather, instead of dish detergent, add a small amount of white vinegar to the water.
  3. Place the watchbands in the solution and allow it to soak. For light build-up a few minutes should be sufficient. For heavier build-up you may want to leave it soak for a few hours.
  4. Use the soft cloth or soft brush to gently wash away dirt. Be careful not to scratch the surface when you are removing the dirt.
  5. Rinse by running under clean water or wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
  6. Dry thoroughly with a lint-free cloth and let air-dry if necessary. You do not want any moisture to remain in the bands or mildew could develop leaving you with a new problem.
  7. Reattach the watch component and gently wipe off the front and back of the watch with a slightly damp cloth.
  8. Dry with a soft cloth and it’s ready for use.

Removing Scratches From a Watch Face

Minor scratches are common, especially on watches that get daily use. The safest way to remove scratches is always to have a professional jeweler do it, but if you want to remove it yourself, there are ways. If your watch is metal, especially stainless steel, there are products that can be used to remove or lessen the look of scratches. In many cases they can be removed with a few simple steps.

You Will Need:

  • Double sided jeweler’s cloth such as Pioneer or Shino Polishing Cloth
  • Jewelers polishing cloth (great for gold)
  • “Never Dull” Cleaner (available at most drugstores or hardware stores)
  • Plain white toothpaste
  • Soft cloths
  • Fiber glass brush
  • Fingernail polishing block (a styrofoam block available almost everywhere nail polish is sold)
  • Latex gloves

Removing Scratches:

  1. Polished stainless steel with fine scratches – Rub with double sided jeweler’s cloth. First use the inner side to remove the scratch and the outer side to polish. This requires a little time and elbow grease, but fine scratches can be removed.
  2. Polished stainless steel with deep scratches – Use the soft cloth to rub the scratches with Never Dull, this will remove most of the scratches. Finish by removing the fine scratches left behind following the steps above.
  3. Brushed stainless steel with fine scratches – Rub gently with a jeweler’s cloth, be careful not to rubs so much that it puts a shine on it.
  4. Brushed stainless steel with deep scratches – To remove these scratches, you will need to get a fiber glass brush. Protect your hand with latex gloves and carefully brush away the scratch. Only use this on small areas as it will be difficult to keep uniform strokes. If you have scratches over a large area, use the nail polish block and rub it with the grain. This is very effective in removing scratches and even dents with time and persistence.
  5. Sand blasted stainless steel – Do not attempt to repair these scratches as it is nearly impossible to do so without damaging the look of the piece. Instead, have a professional repair it for you.
  6. Gold with fine scratches – Use the jeweler’s polishing cloth to carefully rub away minor scratches.
  7. Scratches on the face of the watch – These are best removed by having a professional buff it. Some say that rubbing plain toothpaste on the scratch with a soft cloth helps to remove the scratch.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you don’t have a jewelry brush, an eyebrow brush will work as long as the bristles are soft. Using any brush with stiff bristles can scratch the surface.
  • Cleaning the bands of your watch each night after taking it off will lessen the frequency of deep cleanings.
  • Avoid using any abrasive cleaners on your watch as they cause scratches.
  • A Cape Cod polishing cloth can also be used to remove minor scratches.
  • If your piece is a family heirloom or a valuable, delicate piece, you may want to have a professional jeweler clean it.


  1. Burger says:

    If you could wrap this article on cleaning watches in a video, that be really really helpful!

  2. D Sampson says:

    Got the scratches right out of the glass on my watch, which isn’t glass but actually some kind of a hard plastic. It worked though, so thanks!

  3. Charbelle says:

    D Sampson… What procedure did you use? I have a hard plastic cover too… Did you use any liquid solution??

  4. Janice says:

    Could you please tell me how to clean a white watch band? I’m not sure what it is made of. It’s not leather.

  5. George says:

    What is the best material to use to clean a white plastic strap? Being a limited watch which is a good make, I can’t get a replacement strap.

  6. Dennis says:

    How do you clean the watch, not the band? I heard there is a household chemical that you put in a cup and position the watch over it overnight and the watch will be clean inside; is this true?

  7. Peter says:

    I have a stainless steel watch that is black, and over the years it has picked up quite a few scratches. Is there anything I can do to remove the rest of the black paint and just leave it silver?

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