White gold is an combination (alloy) of gold and one or more other metals. Usually nickel, manganese or palladium. Most white gold items are plated with rhodium to increase their brilliance and improve their durability. Here’s how to clean it:
First, Identify the Problem
Before you clean your white gold jewelry, you should first identify what the problem is.
If it is general soil, stickiness, or dirt, then continue on to the cleaning section. If the piece is turning yellow, this is a sign that the rhodium plating is wearing off and cleaning will only make it worse. Take it to a few highly-rated local jewelers to get quoted on having it replated, it shouldn’t cost more than $50-$100. Opt for electroplating and not a rhodium dip for a higher-quality, more durable bond.
If the piece is turning black, it has likely been exposed to acid. This can usually be buffed away and is worth having a jeweler perform the work because buffing removes some of the plating and it is very easy to accidentally remove too much – in which case the piece will need replating.
How to Safely Clean White Gold
Warning: Do not expose your white gold jewelry to acids for prolonged periods, this can cause blackening of one of the non-gold metals that may be mixed with your gold. Chlorine creates a weak acid when mixed with water and can be found in the tap water in many places. If you’re not sure about your own tap water, purchase a bottle of distilled water to use for the wash.
- Before washing, inspect the piece well for damage. Look for loose gems, damaged settings, examine clasps, hooks, hinges, etc. Don’t wash it if there is any worry of it coming apart, or losing stones.
- Fill a small bowl with warm distilled water, add a few drops of Mr. Clean multi- purpose cleaner and swish it around to mix it. For heavy soil, the piece may be submerged for 10-15 minutes but this is usually not needed.
- Using a soft toothbrush, dip the brush into the soapy water, and gently scrub the piece you wish to clean. Be careful around stone settings in rings and earring, if a bristle gets stuck between a stone and the jewelry you could inadvertently yank it out. Just be mindful and you will be fine.
- To rinse, swish it around in clean, distilled water and then buff dry with a soft, clean microfiber cloth.
Cleaning White Gold with Baking Soda
- In a small bowl, mix enough distilled water with pure baking soda to create a paste.
- Scoop some of the paste onto a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the white gold part of the jewelry. Beware not to scrub other metals or stones as some are soft and can be easily scratched. Be gentile and only scrub enough to remove the soil to keep your rhodium plating intact.
- Rinse the piece off by swishing in a bowl of warm, distilled water.
How to Disinfect White Gold
If you have a white gold piece, a ring for example, that has no stones or other alloys in it, it can be safely boiled by placing it into a soft bag, or placing a rag at the bottom of the boiling pot (to avoid scratches from occurring by contact with the pot) and boiling it for a few minutes. Alternatively, for pieces with stones or other delicate features, Isopropyl alcohol can be applied/gently rubbed on with a q-tip to the white-gold parts.
What Not To Use
Many sites on the net advise using windex to clean your white gold, and while it seems to work for some people, others have reported damage as a result so we advise against it. Windex comes in several formulations it’s hard to know what exactly you are applying to your precious metals. Some formulations contain ammonia, which can be used to clean white gold, but should not be left on the metal for long as it can damage the plating.
Vinegar is very acidic and will eventually damage your precious jewelry. Avoid acidic cleaners for this same reason.
Don’t boil your jewelry if it contains other metals or stones. The heat expansion rate of different materials could cause things to warp or come loose.
Avoid using toothpaste as well as some varieties contain chemicals that can damage or erode the rhodium plating.
Have a Jeweler Clean your White Gold
Many jewelers will clean your stuff for free because it gets you in the store, and most use nice ultrasonic machines that will be more effective at getting stuff out of nooks and crannies.
How to Fix Discolored or Scratched White Gold
As stated in the beginning of the article, if your piece has blackened, bring it to a jeweler to have it buffed. Buffing rhodium plating is a delicate process and it is easy to remove too much material so leave this to a pro.
The same applies for scratches, buffing/polishing can remove most scratches but it can damage your item if done incorrectly
How to Care for White Gold Jewelry
- Store your white gold separately (it shouldn’t be touching anything else) from other metals to avoid discoloration.
- Keep it away from acids and chlorine. Don’t wear it into a pool, or while showering/doing dishes (if your tap water contains chlorine). Take it off before doing housework or cleaning anything.
- Even with perfect care, the rhodium plating will eventually wear away due to the friction of handling and wearing it. Avoid fidgeting with it and when it does begin to yellow, take it in to a jeweler to get it electroplated. This is usually less than $100.