How to clean and sterilise earrings at home

How to clean and sterilise earrings at home

It’s the end of the day and you want to chill out, not disinfect the gunk and wipe the crust from the back of your earrings, and your ears. All you want to do is take them out and leave them until tomorrow. Let’s face it – sterilising earrings isn’t high on the agenda, as you’re still going to wear them, clean or not, anyway. But knowing how to clean earrings the right way is important, both in terms of getting rid of bacteria, and also for keeping them in sparkling condition. So, here’s how to clean earrings at home.

Why cleaning earrings is important

Let’s get really real for a minute: cleaning and sterilising earrings is crucial. Remember when you first got your ears pierced? As well as the excitement (and pain!), you probably received information about cleaning your newly pierced ears, and the importance of keeping the skin around the holes clean to stop infection. And whilst the chances of infection from earrings to a long-term pierced ear are fairly low, it’s not impossible.

Earrings, particularly the parts that go through the ear and the clasps at the back, need to be cleaned to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, the potential risks caused by an accumulation of old skin cells and oils, grime, and bacteria. As for the front of your earrings, if you don’t keep them clean, they’ll lose their sparkle fairly quickly.

How to clean earrings: the front

You can use rubbing alcohol to bring back the sparkle, but often all that the fronts of your earrings will need is some warm water and washing-up liquid. This method can work well on metal, ceramic or plastic earrings, and is great if you want to keep alcohol away from delicate inserts or stones. Here’s what to do:

  • Squeeze a few drops of washing-up liquid into some warm water. Avoid using really hot water, as this runs the risk of tarnishing your jewellery.
  • Mix well and immerse your earrings to soak. Think of it as a bubble bath treat for your jewellery.
  • That might be all they need, but you can give them a gentle scrub with a corner of dampened Plenty kitchen paper if there’s any tough dirt on them.
  • Rinse under cool water and then dry with a clean sheet of kitchen paper.


Use a sheet or two of Plenty kitchen paper to wipe down and dry off your earrings. They’ll absorb any left-over moisture whilst still being gentle on delicate surfaces.

How to sterilise earring backs

Cleaning earrings to maintain their lustre is one thing, but what about making sure that they’re free of dead skin and grime? You’ll need something to kill off potential bacteria on the earring posts and the back, as these are the parts that come into contact directly with your piercing. We’ve already identified why this is so important, so here’s how to sterilise earring backs:

  • Wash your hands so that you don’t transfer any bacteria from them. 
  • Pop on a pair of gloves and test the solution on an inconspicuous part of your earrings to check for any adverse reaction.
  • Dip a cotton bud or cotton pad into a little rubbing alcohol and gently wipe the backs of your earrings (and any other part that comes into direct contact with your ear).
  • If you prefer, you can submerge them in freshly boiled hot water instead to sterilise them. Take care to remove them carefully with a spoon and let them cool before touching them to avoid scalding.
  • Finish off by rinsing thoroughly and drying.

Now that you know how to clean earrings at home, you can wear any pair when the time comes, comforted knowing your ears are safe to see another day without the risk of a gunky infection.

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