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An ultrasonic cleaner is a wonderful way to get back your jewelry shining.
It can clean dirt and grime in the narrowest parts of your pieces.
If you use the with the right items the right way, of course.
An ultrasonic cleaning machine is capable of cleaning many things from necklaces to glasses, from rings to key chains.
With a washing machine, you don’t throw every cloth inside at random temperatures.
In same manner, you should not treat your ultrasonic cleaner like a auto-magic machine which knows what to do and how to do it.
There are many items you should avoid cleaning in a ultrasonic cleaner.
The stones that first come to mind are organic stones like amber and pearl.
But the list merely starts there.
The safe items depend on their their composition and your machine.
Always make sure you know what the metals and gems you want to clean.
Not every metal is safe for ultrasonic cleaning.
Not every gemstone is supposed to come out in good shape.
High frequency sound waves, oscillations and pressure may cause significant damage to the point of no return.
There is also another jewelry cleaner type: steam jewelry cleaners, which should not be mistaken for ultrasonic cleaners.
For more information on the inner mechanisms of a ultrasonic cleaner, check our post How does an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner work.
Every jewelry cleaner is not the same.
Ultrasonic waves are sound waves beyond the frequency limits of the human ear.
Their frequency is higher than 20k Hz.
These high frequency sound waves cause vibration and pressure differences which forms cavitation in liquids.
There are also ultrasonic cleaners with heating ability and ultraviolet wave generation.
This means the device is able to heat up the liquid in the container for better jewelry cleaning.
In some jewelry cleaner models, Ultraviolet light emission is present.
These UV lights help kill bacteria for a more hygienic result.
Not all stones and items act well with ultrasonic waves, heat and ultraviolet light.
If you have not decided on your machine, you might want to check our best ultrasonic jewelry cleaner post.
The Cleaning Solution is important
You should also know what you are filling the tank with.
Never fill the stainless steel tank with harsh chemicals as cleaning solution.
These could easily damage your pieces instead of cleaning them.
In many cases, clean tap water would suffice for filling the tank.
You may want to create your own cleaning solution by adding a few drops of soft soap to hot water, but never boiling water.
And of course, if your ultrasonic cleaner has a built-in heater , the temperature is already taken care of.
Some prefer commercial cleaning solutions, just follow the instructions of the manufacturer.
Are you sure that these will play well with your belongings?
If not, take the cautious approach and clean by hand or leave the job to professionals.
Also, never put alcohol, bleach, chlorine, benzene or other solvent/abrasive liquids in the machine’s tank.
These may cause sever harm to your pieces.
Another point deserving attention is related to watches.
Don’t think it is OK to use water resistant watches in ultrasonic cleaners.
Only consider this if it is -still- waterproof.
Otherwise, simply clean your watch by hand.
You may use a clean piece of cloth and a soft toothbrush to get to the difficult areas.
This will be infinite times safer than risking it by immersing in a liquid and sending ultrasonic waves.
Don’t put scratched glasses in ultrasonic cleaners
Ultrasonic cleaner is mainly for lens cleaning when it comes to glasses.
That is sunglasses and normal eye wear.
But these must be scratch-free.
Otherwise, waves and pressure from bubbles may cause damage.
Stones to not put in a ultrasonic jewelry cleaner
- Organic stones and similar materials
- Soft stones
- Treated and synthetic stones
- Stones with significant inclusions
1. Organic stones and similar material
Organic materials should be avoided like including stones and shells.
Organic stones like amber, coral and pearl will get easily damaged by ultrasonic waves.
The same goes for shells and ivory. You should never put these in a ultrasonic cleaner.
2. Soft stones
Ultrasonic cleaners can cause damage soft stones by waves, heat and popping bubbles.
Emerald, tanzanite, lapis lazuli, opal, turquoise, onyx are in this group.
Hard stones with no inclusions can be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner.
3. Treated and synthetic stones
Defected gems which have cracks or fillings are not safe to clean in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.
Many gemstones are heat treated to enhance their color by making it fuller.
Some gems are filled to cover up cracks and feathers.
When bubbles to pop inside these defects, it might increase the cracks.
These types of stones can easily get significant damage and even break up.
This group includes heat treated diamonds too.
Colored diamonds are generally not safe to clean in an ultrasonic cleaning machine.
Avoid putting heat treated and color diamonds in ultrasonic jewelry cleaners.
There are also stones with fracture filling.
The filling material may dissolve during the cleaning process.
4. Stones with significant inclusions
Stones with big inclusions and feathers should never be put in ultrasonic cleaners.
Ultrasonic waves may cause them to crack down.
Metals that you should not put in a ultrasonic jewelry cleaner
Just like gemstones, you should never put a metal object in a ultrasonic cleaner unless you 100% positively sure it is safe and there won’t be any damage.
One metal of this kind is tungsten.
Tungsten should not be put in a ultrasonic cleaning machine.
If you have tungsten wedding rings or other jewelry, clean these with a soft cloth.
Tarnished sterling silver pieces should not be cleaned in ultrasonic cleaners.
Most of the time you will have metal alloys produced from mixing different metals.
You should be sure that there won’t be any undesired result before ever thinking to clean them in a ultrasonic machine.
Before ending, it is probably a good idea to leave cleaning antique and family heritage type jewelry to the professionals.
After all, any damage will be very hard, if not impossible to recover from.
To end with, never put a jewelry, gem or item that you are not 100% sure it will come out undamaged and as desired.
And always, always follow instructions given in the producer’s handbook, it is the best resource for satisfying results.
Only use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner as intended, following the guidelines given in the manual.