How Does an Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Work?

Eugene P.

An ultrasonic jewelry cleaner operates by creating high-frequency waves in a liquid. The jewelry to be cleaned is placed in this liquid, where the rapid motion of the water creates very small bubbles that hit the surface to be cleaned and knock any dirt to the bottom of the liquid's container. Some ultrasonic jewelry cleaners require a type of special cleaning fluid to help remove dirt more effectively, while others require only water. Many types of jewelry made from hard metals can be cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, but some delicate designs and gemstones could be broken if run through such a machine.

Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners use high-frequency waves in liquid to clean pieces of jewelry.
Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners use high-frequency waves in liquid to clean pieces of jewelry.

The basic mechanism used in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner is a device that creates a high-frequency sound called a transducer. This signal enters the liquid, which needs to be viscous enough for the waves to move through it quickly, and begins to generate very small bubbles. The higher the frequency of the sound, the smaller the bubbles will be. These bubbles move through the liquid and hit the surface of the jewelry to be cleaned, causing the dirt to fall away.

Jewelry made from hard metals may be cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.
Jewelry made from hard metals may be cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.

For certain types of stains and dirt on jewelry it might be necessary to use a liquid cleaner in the water. This can prevent having to run a piece of jewelry through an ultrasonic cleaner repeatedly until the stains are slowly removed. A lower-powered ultrasonic jewelry cleaner might require a cleaning liquid to work properly. These can be simple ammonia solutions or more complex solvents.

The ultrasonic waves that are emitted into the water only contact the jewelry for a few minutes at a time, depending on the design of the machine. Very powerful ultrasonic jewelry cleaners can actually cause damage to fragile jewelry or gemstones. Specifically, stones such as pearls can be damaged by an ultrasonic cleaner. Similarly, jewelry that is very fragile or very delicate in construction could be harmed. Leaving jewelry in the cleaner for longer than the recommended cycle time also can cause damage.

Some ultrasonic jewelry cleaners have very simple designs, consisting only of a transducer, a timer and a bin to hold the water; this is where the jewelry is placed for cleaning. Other designs are more complex, providing trays that allow jewelry to be secured in place before being lowered. Some designs even come with a mechanism that slowly spins inside the liquid, so pieces such as bracelets can be attached and then rotated as they are cleaned.

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Discussion Comments


how much is a good jewelry cleaner?


I clean my platinum watches with one and it works like a charm! I use the liquid that the manufacturers sell with the cleaner. I've also used oxidized water and water and ammonia in it before which worked but the manufacturer's liquid seems to work a little better.

With my watches, I keep them inside the cleaner between 5-10 minutes. The most I've kept one in there is 15 minutes but that's usually not necessary unless you're trying to get a huge amount of dirt out.

I think for the first couple of times, it's best to use for short period of time, maybe 5-7 minutes to see how it works. Because there are different types of cleaners out there, mine is pretty gentle. Some others are not, like the article said and it also works differently for different metals.

I have a friend who tried to clean his coin collection with an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and a couple of coins got scratched. That's why if I'm going to try and clean a metal I've never cleaned before, I don't keep it in the ultrasonic cleaner for long so that I can check how it's doing. You don't want to end up damaging your precious items.


@burcidi-- Yes, I've cleaned my diamond engagement ring and wedding band with an ultrasonic cleaner and it worked really well. It looks much whiter and shinier now. I use the solution that came with it.

I haven't tried any other metal with it, but if you're rings are gold like mine, I'm sure it will work really well. I think it's a good investment.


I have also heard that ultrasonic jewelry cleaners can be a bit rough on gems. I want to get one to clean our wedding rings though. Every couple of years, I spend a fortune to get them cleaned. It's amazing how much dirt can accumulate on them. But I guess it's normal since we never take them off. I think we would be much better off investing in a cleaner, especially since we don't plan on renewing our rings any time soon.

I'm still not sure what kind of ultrasonic cleaner I should get. Has anyone had any experience with using an ultrasonic cleaner on wedding rings? What would you recommend?

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