As a precious metal, gold is not one to easily tarnish. It can happen, though. How? The rate at which gold tarnishes depends on the number of karats, its age, and how it’s stored. Under normal conditions, it doesn’t oxidize as other precious metals do, such as nickel, brass, and copper. Instead, it’s a soft metal that is most receptive to dents. So how do you keep its value intact? By keeping it safe and keeping it clean.
Be mindful of how you clean your gold. It makes sense that cleaning off dirt and grime would make, for example, a coin more valuable; however, it’s the exact opposite. When cleaning gold, there is a risk of damaging it, therefore reducing its value.
What Causes Gold To Tarnish?
Do you know if you have pure gold? Do you keep your gold in an airtight container? Is it mixed with other precious metals, such as silver? Your gold can be susceptible to discoloration or corrosion, subject to how you answer these questions.
How do you know if your gold is pure gold? Pure gold is otherwise known as 24K gold. It does not react with oxygen, but gold alloys contain elements that do. The higher the karat, the more soft and pure the gold is. The lower the karat, the stronger and more prone to corrosion it is.
If you begin to notice discoloration, usually a darker color, on your gold, it means it is tarnishing. There are solutions for you to clean your gold, restoring its natural beauty and shine.
Four Ways To Safely Clean Gold
You can clean gold in the comfort of your own home. Here’s how to do it safely and efficiently.
Preparations Before Cleaning
You need to prepare a few items before cleaning your gold. Gather the following to prepare for a successful cleaning:
- A bowl or container large enough to hold the gold item
- A bowl of warm water
- Cleaning agents safe to use on gold, such as soap, ammonia, or baking soda
- A soft cloth or a brass brush
- A clean towel
Wash your hands before you begin and dry them completely. If you decide not to, you risk transferring dangerous substances to the gold that can cause it to tarnish or decay over time.
Think about what can cause damage to your gold. For example, never use abrasives. Abrasives quickly damage the surface with scrapes and scratches. Use softer bristles. What is the water quality in your home? If you reside in an area with hard water, make a trip to the grocery store and pick up distilled water instead. Hard water contains a high level of minerals that can leave spots on your gold.
Method 1: Dish Soap
Dish soap has many uses, from cleaning greasy stains to trapping fruit flies. It can even clean gold! Using dish soap is one of the gentlest ways to clean gold. What type of dish soap should you use? Great question! There isn’t a specific brand per se, but Dawn dish soap is a favorite go-to.
To clean with dish soap:
First, get a bowl and add a cup or two of warm tap water or distilled water.
Next, add a few drops of dish soap to the water. Mix the soap and water.
Now, add the gold to the soap and water mixture. Let it soak in the solution for approximately 5-15 minutes. What does this do? By absorbing the gold, any dirt or debris will soften for easy removal.
Time to scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Remove the gold from the solution to do so. Be gentle; you don’t want to scratch the gold’s surface.
When you’re ready, rinse the soap off with warm running water. Use your fingers to rub the surface of the gold, removing all soap. If any residue resides on the surface, it leaves a grimy look.
Dry off the gold with a soft cloth. Be very thorough. You don’t want to see water stains on your finished product.
- Finally, let the gold air dry before placing it in storage or wearing it.
Method 2: Baking Soda
Baking soda is a natural, environmentally friendly substance you can use to clean gold. However, baking soda isn’t recommended if your gold is inset with gemstones. If the baking soda does not fully dissolve, it is mildly abrasive, risking damaging the gemstones.
Here’s how to clean gold with baking soda, step by step:
Measure up to two cups of hot water. Place the water to the side.
- Take a baking dish and cover it with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
Lay your gold item(s) onto the baking dish, on top of the aluminum foil.
Evenly coat the item(s) in baking soda.
Take the hot water, and pour it into the baking dish. Make sure the baking soda submerges into the water.
Allow it to soak for a minimum of five minutes, but no more than ten minutes. No stirring is required.
After the allotted time, remove the gold and rinse it under cold water for 45 seconds.
Take a soft cloth to dry the gold and remove remnants of the baking soda.
- Allow the gold to air dry for five to ten minutes before returning it to storage or wearing it.
As a secondary option, use vinegar with the first rinse off instead of water.
Method 3: Ammonia
Ammonia is a colorless liquid composed of hydrogen and nitrogen. It serves as the third option to use to clean dirt and grime off of gold. Be careful when handling ammonia, though. It can irritate your skin upon contact. It also gives off a strong odor. Work in a well-ventilated room if possible, or wear a mask to prevent the inhalation of the fumes.
Cleaning with ammonia also involves the use of dish soap. Here are the steps to follow:
Begin with a cup of warm water and pour it into a bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of mild dish soap to the water and stir.
- Add half a teaspoon of ammonia to the soap and water solution, then stir.
- Place the gold into the soap, water, and ammonia solution for up to 10 seconds.
Using gloves or plastic tongs, remove the gold and get ready to scrub using a soft-bristled brush.
When ready, rinse the gold under cold water. You’ll want to wash the gold once more with soap and water to ensure all ammonia is removed.
- After the second wash, dry the gold with a soft towel, then air dry for another 10 minutes before wearing it or storing it.
Method 4: Find a Jeweler to Clean Your Gold
If all else fails and you are not comfortable cleaning the gold yourself or you’d prefer a professional to perform the work, search for a credible jeweler that can clean the gold for you. In addition to cleaning gold or jewelry for you, they can check to ensure any gemstones attached or metals incorporated aren’t damaged.
Dos and Don'ts of Gold Handling: Preventative Measures
Preventative measures are important to protect your gold from tarnish or corrosion. Pure gold requires special treatment. Ideally, keep away from handling gold unless you have to. This keeps it well-preserved and at a lesser risk of taking damage. Other preventative measures you can take include proper storage and using protective sprays.
Consider the dos and don’ts below if you need to handle your gold, especially gold coins or gold bars:
Wash your hands before handling coins. Washing takes away dirt, residue, or damaging oils. Hand sanitizer is safe to use.
Prepare the area. Use a clean towel, a cloth, or any soft surface to protect your coin if it drops.
Hold the coin or bar by the edges, not the face. This reduces the amount of contact and leaves the design or face in pristine condition.
- Wear a mask to protect your mouth from projected saliva on the coins. Saliva is nearly impossible to remove from a coin, leaving spots on them.
Don’t wear plastic or latex gloves. These contain powders and lubricants which damage the gold. Cotton gloves are okay.
Don’t use metal tweezers or tools unless you want to scratch the coins. Remember, gold is a soft metal and is prone to scuffs and scratches.
- Don’t breathe onto the coins. Excess moisture leaves behind spotting that is difficult to remove.
The Bottom Line
Preventative care is key. Store your gold in airtight containers if you do not have plans to use it or wear it. If discoloration occurs, don’t worry. There are safe options available to you to restore it. Remember to use the right tools when cleaning to avoid scratching your gold. It is a precious metal, after all.
Are you interested in investing in gold but can’t afford the upfront cost? You have better (and chapter!) options with Acre Gold.