Every jewelry making material requires different care to keep them looking lovely. When you set out to clean your beads and supplies, be sure to test your method on a small sample before cleaning an entire piece of finished jewelry or an entire strand of beads. Also, when cleaning finished jewelry be aware of all the used materials, as different materials can have widely different care instructions.
Wood, Bone, and Horn:
These beads and pendants can be cleaned with a soft, dry polishing cloth. Do not use moisture as these materials are porous in nature and can be easily damaged with too much moisture. Furniture polishes and waxes may be used, but be sure to test first on a small area as they can discolor the beads.
Pearls are exceptionally soft and can be easily scratched and nicked. Store pearls separately from other beads and findings in a soft pouch. Do not use any abrasive materials, such as a toothbrush, to clean pearls as it can damage them. Pearls can be regularly cleaned with a soft, slightly damp cloth. For a more thorough cleaning, use a mild detergent or a jewelry cleaner that has been marked safe for pearls. Gently rub the pearls and wipe away the detergent with another damp cloth that has no soap. Dry with a soft cloth. Do not immerse in water while cleaning.
Cording and leather strips need to be conditioned regularly to prevent them from cracking and becoming brittle. Shoe polish, cream, or wax can be used for this. Use a soft cloth to apply the polish. Be sure to remove any beads or findings that are present on the leather before cleaning.
Do not expose gemstones to salt water, chlorine, or detergents as these can erode the finish and polish of gemstone beads. Wipe beads clean with a soft, damp cloth to enhance the luster. For a more thorough cleaning, use a damp cloth with a little bit of mild dish soap. For beads that are exceptionally dirty, soak them in warm water in a small bowl with a small amount of gentle dish soap. You may scrub them with a very soft toothbrush. Dry with a soft cloth.
Glass beads can dull over time. They can be cleaned in groups with a household glass cleaner or rubbing alcohol and a soft, absorbent cloth. Spray the beads sparingly a few at a time, and wipe the cleaner away with the cloth. Rub the cloth over the beads until they are clean and shiny. Glass beads can also be cleaned with a soft cloth that has been dipped in mild dishwashing detergent, rinsed off with a second cloth that is damp with clean water, and dried with a soft cloth.
Store silver beads in an airtight container, like a ziplock bag, and away from anything acidic or sulfuric. Rubber, paper, or cardboard, for example, will tarnish silver and turn it black. Silver is also very soft and can be easily scratched. Clean it with a soft cloth, specialized sterling silver cleaning cloths are available, or use a 100% cotton cloth. For beads that have tarnished, silver dips will remove the blackening but can damage beads so they tarnish faster in the future.
To remove tarnish without silver cleaner, line a heat proof glass bowl with aluminum foil. Place your beads or finished jewelry in the bowl. Add a heaping teaspoon of baking soda and then pour in boiling water. Stir with a plastic or wooden spoon, stirring slowly and allowing the silver to touch the aluminum foil as much as possible. Leave it for a few minutes, remove carefully and rinse well. Dry with a soft cloth. After this, store your silver in an airtight container to prevent further tarnishing.
Any silver bead that has been intentionally oxidized for an antique look requires special care. A chemical tarnish remover can clean of the intentional oxidization. To clean antiqued beads use a polishing cloth with a mild jewelry cleaner paste that can be rinsed off with water.
Copper, Brass, and Bronze:
If the beads have an intentional patina or are antiqued, do not use household cleaners on these beads or findings. Simply wipe dirt off with a dry cloth and a soft brush. Polish with a wax and allow to dry.
To remove a patina or tarnish, soak your beads or findings in warm water with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of salt. Rinse with clear water and dry with a soft cloth.
Gold is one of the softest metals, and should be stored away from other beads and jewelry to prevent scratching. Store in a soft fabric box or pouch for the best results. Gold can be cleaned with special gold-cleaning jewelry cleaner for tough dirt. For simple cleanings, use a soft polishing cloth and gently rub gold beads and findings to restore luster and shine.