How to Clean a Wrist Watch

A man's wrist with a wristwatch.

Many people think that wearing a wrist watch is old fashioned, especially these days when everyone has a cell phone. As for me, I never wore one because I could never find one that I liked. That was, until I got older. It was then that I realized I had just been looking in the wrong place. For pretty much everything. I had a friend who worked at a jewelry shop, and it was at this jewelry shop that I saw the first watch I had ever coveted. It was expensive, even with the Friends & Family Discount. But, you see, I have expensive taste, but it’s not like it was a Rolex or anything. Regardless, I caught a lot of grief from my parents.

When I got the wrist watch sized and fitted, my friend the jeweler told me to clean it with the cloth and just the cloth. And if it ever needed a deeper cleaning to just bring it in to be cleaned, on the house. I was also told I get free battery replacement for the rest of my life. So I owned this expensive accessory, and I was really nervous about breaking it. Even though the dial is made of sapphire crystal, which is supposed to be the strongest of all crystals, I accidentally scratched a bit of the metal on the dial. I was disappointed, but at least I could stop stressing about it.

Steps to Clean a Wrist Watch

  1. silver wristwatchLook over your wrist watch. It takes specialized tools and skills to disassemble a watch, so that deep of a cleaning is out of the question. If your watch is new, it may still be covered under warranty. If it is old, it may also be valuable. There is some light cleaning that you can and should perform. But as far as deep cleaning goes, take it into a jeweler. Very often jewelers will provide these services at no charge, especially if you purchased the wristwatch from them.
  2. polishing cloth next to watchThe primary cleaning tool you will need is a jeweler’s polishing cloth. This cloth generally comes with the watch when you buy it. If you don’t have one or didn’t get one, go to your local jeweler and ask for one. As I said before, many jewelers will clean your watch for you. But even if you take your watch in to be cleaned, you should still polish it with the cloth on a regular basis, like once a week or even every time you wear it.
  3. wiping down watch bandFirst, clean the wrist watch band. This is likely to be the dirtiest part of your watch. The reason for this is because the way the linkage is assembled, it leaves a lot of nooks and crannies for dead skin and dirt to get stuck in. But if you bend and manipulate the links, you will notice that you can get at these hard-to-reach spots without taking anything apart. In the photo you can see how they fold back on each other, exposing their previously hidden ends.
  4. Watching down dialNext, clean the wrist watch dial. The dial is the easiest part of the watch to clean. Just wipe your cloth over the whole thing until it is nice and shiny. If you are having trouble cleaning between the dial and band, use the tip of one of the cloth corners to clean it. Or put the cloth over the tip of a dull pencil and use the cloth-laden pencil tip to clean the nook. Many people say that a soft-bristled brush and warm soapy water will work, too. Do this as long as your watch is waterproof. But if you don’t need to get your watch wet and soapy, don’t.
  5. ultrasonic jewelry cleanerOne thing professionals use is an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. This is something that has become available to the general public recently. They cost anywhere from $40 to $200 depending on which brand and quality you purchase. I kind of doubt that they are as effective as the industrial ultrasonic cleaners that jewelers use to clean watches. Plus, it’s what jewelers do, and I believe in letting people do what they do, at least when it comes to my expensive accessories. If you want to get an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and try it out for yourself, go for it. But you should know that some jewelry should not be ultrasonically cleaned, like pearls, opal, emeralds, and around 20 other things.

Tips for Cleaning Your Wristwatch

  • The band is the cheapest part of your watch. If it’s gold, it may not be that cheap but it is certainly cheaper than the dial. Anyway, you can always just replace the band if it gets too messed-up or dirty.
  • The crystal on this watch is made from sapphire, which they tell me is the hardest substance to have your watch made out of. So look for that when you go shopping for watches.
  • As I have previously stated twice, jewelers will very often clean your jewelery for free. So, if you don’t feel comfortable cleaning it or you are just too lazy to do it, bring it in and have it cleaned.
  • If you decide to use soapy water to clean your wristwatch, make sure that your watch is waterproof.
  • Store your watch in something soft like a velvet-lined box or in a cloth bag. I store my watch wrapped up inside of the cleaning cloth.
  • If your wristwatch is made from plastic, use a soft brush and soapy water to clean it, as long as it’s waterproof.

Watch Cleaning Products

ultrasonic cleanerAn ultrasonic cleaner uses vibrating little bubble things to gyrate loose the dirt and stuff on your watches and jewelry. Be aware that there are some gems that should not be put into a ultrasonic cleaner. Ask for a complete list from the maker of your ultrasonic cleaner. You can find these for a reasonable price from Amazon, like this one from Magnasonic.

Jeweler's Polishing ClothA jeweler’s polishing cloth is just a simple cloth that doesn’t lose lint when you use it. The more you use it, the darker it will get. Don’t worry about cleaning it. This is part of how it works. It’s a lint-free cloth but not necessarily a microfiber one.

Jeweler in a shopRoutine maintenance is as good as any cleaning product. Take your watch into a jeweler every six months. They will look it over and make sure nothing is coming loose. Also, clean your watch with the cloth every so often to keep the filth from building up.