Frequent hand sanitizer use can dull or damage certain gems and metals. Follow these tips to maintain your ring's shine while still disinfecting your hands properly.

By Better Homes & Gardens
Updated July 07, 2020
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Hand sanitizer is a must-have to keep your hands clean on the go, and many of us now use it multiple times a day. While it's no surprise that constant sanitizing can be hard on your hands, your skin isn't the only thing that could get damaged. Frequent hand sanitizer use can also harm your rings, dulling the sparkle of gems and metals or even loosening your ring's setting over time.

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The biggest culprit is alcohol, which is the main ingredient recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an effective sanitizer. Because alcohol is corrosive, it can slowly erode metal finishes on rings, explains Lorraine Brantner, gemologist and sales manager for jewelry retailer James Allen. "Excessive exposure to the alcohol in hand sanitizer can cause the finish on white gold to wear faster and can also cause other metals to lose their luster," she says.

The level of damage potentially caused by hand sanitizer depends on your ring's type of metal. "The biggest concern is if your ring is made of white gold," Brantner says. This metal is typically plated with rhodium (a shiny white metal similar to platinum), which can develop a slightly yellow color when exposed to alcohol over time. As the finish erodes, the prongs that keep the stones in place might also loosen and need to be repaired by a jeweler.

Other metals, such as platinum, yellow gold, or rose gold, are less vulnerable to damage than white gold, but applying hand sanitizer to any plated metal ring might require more frequent trips to the jeweler to get it refinished. "If the gold plating on your jewelry normally fades in six months, repeated use of the sanitizers will shorten that lifespan to two to three months," explains Gina Nam, founder of jewelry brand AMYO.

As for the jewels themselves, soft or porous stones, including pearl, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and opal, are more vulnerable to damage and should not be exposed to any chemicals including hand sanitizer. Diamonds, on the other hand, are probably safe from any permanent damage, Brantner says. For any type of stone, however, slathering on sanitizer can leave a filmy residue on the ring's surface that dulls its sparkle.

To restore your jewelry's shine, Brantner recommends taking your ring to the jeweler where you purchased it for professional cleaning, a service that's usually free. Otherwise, you can soak the ring in a solution of warm water and dish soap for a few minutes before gently scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse away the suds, then dry the ring with a soft, lint-free cloth; avoid using paper towels, which can scratch the ring's surface.

Good hand hygiene is especially important these days, so don't let the fear of harming your favorite jewelry deter you from using hand sanitizer altogether. "At the end of the day, your engagement ring is precious, but your health is more important," Brantner says. She recommends you remove your ring before applying sanitizer and let your hands dry completely before you put it back on. And don't forget to give your rings routine cleaning to keep them clean and sparkling.

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