Artwork above by Sara Shakeel
Is all this Hand Washing & Hand Sanitizer during Coronavirus Bad for my Rings?
By now we all know that frequent hand washing is imperative in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. (My personal favorite method is to sing the chorus to Dolly Parton's "Jolene", which is a much more fun way to pass 20 seconds than "Happy Birthday".) The health of our neighbors, our families, and our nation is more important than anything, so keep up the washing like our lives depend on it. But you may have been wondering, "Is all this hand washing and hand sanitizer good for my rings?"
Ahh, I'm so glad you asked. Although isopropyl alcohol (the main ingredient in hand sanitizer) and mild oil-free soaps won't technically harm your rings, I still strongly
recommend removing your rings when washing
or sanitizing your hands. This advice actually applies to hand washing and
sanitizing under normal circumstances too -- not just right now amidst the extremely frequent washing
and sanitizing during this crisis. (Learn more about normal care guidelines
for your rings here.) I recommend removing your rings for a few reasons:
Harmful Ingredients Could Be Lurking
Although isopropyl alcohol and mild oil-free dish soap won't harm most stones or metals, there could be all sorts of other ingredients in soaps and sanitizers that could. I can't even begin to know what other ingredients (whose names I often can't even pronounce) might do to your ring. There are certainly chemicals and ingredients out there that aren't safe and could eat away at metals and/or the solder joints in a ring, and some might be hiding in the hand products you use.
Buildup Looks Yucky
Another reason is that soaps and sanitizers create buildup on your ring and stone. Not only will it make your ring look just plain gross very quickly, but the more buildup that accumulates, the harder it can be to remove from the ring and stone. This is especially true of moissanite, which can get a film over its surface over time if not cared for properly. (The film is removable and not permanent, but constantly adding to that buildup will make it trickier to remove.)
Stone Settings Get Crammed with Junk
In addition to buildup simply looking unsightly, it's also not good to have buildup accumulate around stone settings. Buildup crams in and around all crevices of stone settings, and can actually temporarily hold stones in place that otherwise might be loose and in need of repair. This is especially a concern if you have any rings with smaller pavé or accent diamonds. For example: a client shipped her ring back recently that had been quite abused, and likely never cleaned professionally (in an ultrasonic at a jeweler). There was so much buildup in and around her stone settings, that all stones appeared to be tight. But after it sat in my ultrasonic cleaner for a bit, 7 diamonds had fallen out of the ring! It was actually just buildup in and around the stone settings that was keeping the stones temporarily in place. Preventing buildup helps you have a clearer picture of your stone settings' true current condition.
Bacterial Infection (For Real!)
When skin isn't fully dry before putting a ring on, you can trap moisture under the ring. Guess what loves to hang out in moist, dark, tight spaces? Mmmm, bacteria. I can't tell you how many clients over the years have contacted me insisting they must be allergic to the metal in their ring. Occasionally, yes, someone might have a true metal allergy. But way more often, it's simply a bacterial infection. They're washing their hands and either not removing their ring at all, or they're putting the ring back on before their skin is fully dry. The resulting skin rash/reaction is quite common, and often mistaken for an allergy.
Give Your Rings Some R&R
With all the hand washing and sanitizing going on during this current crisis, my advice would honestly be to just keep your rings in a safe place, and not wear them right now. That way you won't have to worry about constantly removing them, or risk misplacing them in a forgotten pocket or random sink countertop. I know this is just one more un-fun thing to add to our list of daily constraints right now. The most important thing is that we're all taking the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our communities safe. And just like we all need a little at-home chill time right now, our rings could use it too.
My personal favorite way to spend 20 seconds of handwashing is to sing the chorus to Dolly Parton's "Jolene" — much more fun than Happy Birthday.