It is very common that people use denture cleaners to clean their jewelry. Is it harmless? Many denture cleaners sold in drug stores contain Perborate (Borax) as the active ingredient. Others contain bleach (Hypochlorite), and Persulfate (Sulfur) as active ingredients. Only Prolastic Denture Cleaner uses Buffered Alkali as the active ingredient. Alkali is the active ingredient in many of your household cleaners such as dishwasher liquid, shampoo, bar soap, clothes washing detergent, etc.
Three chemicals stand out: Hypochlorite, Persulfate and Alkali. Borax is not harmful in mild solutions.
Hypochlorite is a bleaching agent. Think of chlorine bleach. Think of chlorine in a swimming pool. Certainly the concentration of this bleach in the cleaner is stronger than chlorine in a swimming pool and possibly as strong as a bleach solution you might use to take stains off a porcelain bowl, for instance. We know that swimming in jewelry is a big NO. Jewelers should know this and too often other folks learn the hard way. Not only does chlorine cause silver to tarnish, it causes the metal in gold jewelry to break down at certain areas. This is especially true for white gold. Since many yellow gold rings have white gold to hold the stones, jewelry is in danger anytime it is around chlorine chemicals.
This is what happens: The chlorine works on the other metals used to make the gold recipe. The metal is weakened and too often this means a prong holding a stone will break off. The stone can be lost.
Persulfate is a chemical used in very, very small quantities by bakers to treat flour for bread. In concentrated form, this chemical is used to “etch" copper! It is strong enough to eat into the copper metal. Copper is a part of most jewelry gold and there is a real possibility of damage to parts of the ring where metal is put together to make the ring. These are solder joints and over time, the chemical may weaken the metal. I am not concerned with this chemical as the one mentioned before, the bleach Hypochlorite.
Alkali is simply a term for many chemicals with the same sort of actions. A good example is lye. Another is oven cleaner. Another is dish detergent. You see, the strength determines the dangerous nature of the chemical. Lye will burn you, oven cleaner will sometime burn and certainly irritate the skin. Dish detergent is not dangerous and does a good job on dishes and on jewelry. An alkali denture cleaner might be ok. Generally alkali does not bother gold and diamonds.
Here is a little tad of advice on jewelry cleaning. First, stay away from denture cleaners. Please! Use a soft toothbrush and dish detergent, followed with a polishing cloth. (The newer cloths are clean to handle and do a wonderful job of bringing out the shine!) Hand cleaning is time consuming, for sure. But, you also get a chance to really look the jewelry over and touch each stone to see if loose. Also, look for worn metal where the stones are mounted.
Nothing containing ammonia or chlorine should be used with silver jewelry. Mild household ammonia is a great jewelry cleaner for gold and diamonds.
Most gemstones are safe with dish detergent or even with ammonia solutions. For the following stones, avoid the ammonia and just use a mild detergent, rinse well and pat dry: Emerald, Pearl, Turquoise, Lapis. (Certainly do NOT use denture cleaner on these stones. )
I would recommend you ask a local jeweler to professionally clean your jewelry.
Victor Epand is the owner of http://www.JewerlyGift.biz , a huge online jewelry superstore featuring the greatest selection of jewelry including personalizable items. Clearance Sale items are here: http://www.jewelrygift.biz/collection/clearance-sales.html