The Jewelry Box Blog

Useful Tips for How to Clean a Watch

Picture of a hand cleaning a watch and two watches in the background

Whether you wear a watch for that “put-together” look or for its digital apps, one thing that is often overlooked is cleaning your watch and watch band. While you might think that it never needs any cleaning, that is not the truth at all. In fact, one study suggests that up to 95% of watch-wearers can be harboring some unfriendly bacteria underneath their watch bands every day! Without daily cleaning, watchbands can become bacterial harbors on your wrist and a health hazard for you and others. Of course, some materials are worse than others in harboring bacteria, including rubber and plastic bands. But watch bands also accumulate sweat, dirt and skin oils, too. No matter what type of material your watch band is made of, there’s always an incentive to clean the watch face and the band to keep your prized possession in tick-tock shape for a long time.


Things to Consider Before Cleaning your Watch

Before you clean your watch, there are a few important things to consider. What's the material? Does it have precious metal or stones on it? These things factor into whether or not you should clean it yourself or take it to a professional. 

Different materials require different cleaning approaches. Leather requires a damp cloth and specific conditioner, while metal can handle soapy water. Nylon or canvas straps can be gently hand-washed, while rubber and silicone can be wiped with a damp cloth or soapy water or even some vinegar.

Consider getting your watch professionally cleaned. Watchmakers and jewelers have the expertise and tools to safely clean your watch without damaging it.

If you want to take your watch to a professional for cleaning, there are some resources for estimating the cost for this service. Check out your manufacturer’s customer service section of their website first. Alternatively, you can also find some online watch forums to ask others what they’ve paid, and then place a call to your local jewelers to compare pricing. Remember that your watch brand and its complexity will be a big factor in the price to clean it. Complicated watches with a luxury brand label will always cost more to clean than a simpler, less complicated watch.


How to Clean a Watch

The best way to clean your watch depends on its specific materials and other factors. In general, you will only need a soft, microfiber cloth and dry brush (this can be a toothbrush) to clean the watch case. Then follow these easy steps to clean your watch:

  • Turn off the watch: If it's digital, to avoid accidentally pressing buttons.
  • Wipe down the case and glass top: Use gentle circular motions with the microfiber cloth.
  • Brush tight spaces with a soft brush: Since you can’t reach these with a microfiber cloth, you may need to brush around the edges and the crown
  • Clean the band: Refer to the specific material cleaning instructions below for metal, leather, nylon, etc.

To avoid damaging your watch, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:

  • DON’T use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners.
  • DON’T open the crown or pushers underwater.
  • DO dry the watch completely before storing it.


How to Clean your Watch Band

Now that you’ve cleaned your watch, it’s time to work on cleaning the watch band itself. While generally this is a lot easier since there are fewer working mechanisms to worry about, the material that your band is made of dictates how complicated the cleaning process will be.

In general, here are the first steps required to clean your watch band:

  • Always remove the band from the watch if possible. This makes cleaning easier and avoids getting the watch case wet.
  • Use a soft microfiber cloth and warm water. This is a gentle option for most materials. Don't use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the band.
  • Dry the band completely before reattaching it to the watch. Moisture can lead to corrosion or mildew.

Different materials require different approaches to keep them clean and looking their best.

  • Metal: You can use the soapy water method for metal bracelets. Let your metal watch band soak for 15 minutes before ringing and drying. Use a soft toothbrush to clean away dirt from tight spaces.
  • Leather: Avoid soaking this one in water. Use a damp microfiber cloth and dip into the soapy solution, but squeeze away excess water before wiping down your band. Be sure to use a leather conditioner afterward as it keeps the leather in good shape and will extend the life of your watch band. Wipe off any excess conditioner. A little goes a long way!
  • Nylon or canvas: Hand wash with mild soap (either dishwashing soap or laundry detergent) and water, rinse with clean water and lay flat to air dry.
  • Rubber or silicone: Wipe with a damp cloth or use the soapy water method. You can definitely leave these soak in a sudsy bath for up to 15 minutes if they’re really full of sweat, dirt or grime. Then rinse with clean water and let air dry.

Remember, it's always best to consult a professional watchmaker for cleaning. They have the expertise and tools to safely clean your watch without damaging it.


How Often Should I Clean My Watch?

The frequency of cleaning your watch and band depends on several factors, including how often you wear it, your activity level and what material your watch band is made from. Obviously the more active you are, the more you should clean your watch so you don’t have a breeding ground for bacteria underneath it.

Here are some general guidelines for when to give your watch a bath:

  • Daily wear: Use a microfiber cloth daily and do a deeper clean with mild soap and water at least once a week.
  • Occasional wear: Clean every few weeks or when it looks visibly dirty.
  • Heavy activity: Clean after each activity with soap and water, especially if exposed to sweat or dust. For people who wear their watches to the gym every day or are involved in construction-type work, this should be on your daily to-do list.

Be sure to thoroughly dry your watch after cleaning to avoid water damage and store your watch in a cool, dry place when not in use. Always avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the materials. And don’t forget to check the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific watch model, as they may have specific cleaning instructions or warnings.

By following these tips, you can ensure your watch and band stay clean, hygienic, and looking their best for years to come.  Be sure to insure your watch by obtaining personal jewelry insurance through Jewelers Mutual. We provide all types of jewelry insurance, protecting your watch from loss, theft, damage and disappearance! Check your rate today.



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Jewelers Mutual was founded in 1913 by a group of Wisconsin jewelers to meet their unique insurance needs. Later, consumers began putting their trust in Jewelers Mutual to protect their jewelry and the special memories each piece holds. Today, Jewelers Mutual continues to support and move the industry forward by listening to jewelers and consumers and offering products and services to meet their evolving needs. Beyond insurance, Jewelers Mutual’s powerful suite of innovative solutions and digital technology offerings help jewelers strengthen and grow their businesses, mitigate risk, and bring them closer to their customers. The Group insurers’ strong financial position is reflected in their 37 consecutive “A+ Superior” ratings from AM Best Company, as of November 2023. Policyholders of the Group insurers are members of Jewelers Mutual Holding Company. Jewelers Mutual is headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, with other Group offices in Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit