How to Clean Your Watches: A Crash Course
Considering you have your watch strapped onto your wrists every single day, collecting sweat and grime in this humidity, you really should think about how to clean your watches, and as often as you can. Sure, you can send them in to get professionally serviced once in a while (the more precious your watch is, the more it should be maintained and checked by the pros), but since watches are accessories you use daily, then it would be best to take even just a few minutes to clean them each time.
Think about it this way: How often do you wash your hands, take a shower, wash your face, brush your teeth, do your laundry? It only follows, then, that you would want to give equal care to a companion that dutifully serves its purpose every day. Take this as your watch’s plea to show it some love in exchange for everything it has done for you.
Once you find out how easy it is, you’re not going to have to think twice; it’ll simply become part of your daily routine. Here are a few ways to keep your watch looking decent for everyday use, until you can take it in for its next serviced deep clean.
Daily: Wipe it Down
This one is pretty straightforward: Every time you get home, take a clean, soft, microfiber cloth—the kind that you use for cleaning smudges off your eyeglasses or that come free with the case when you purchase a pair of shades—and give your watch a quick rubdown before putting it to bed.
Make sure to go over the case, crystal, and bracelet, picking up any moisture and traces of sweat, dirt, or grime that could have accumulated during the day. This ensures that it never gets too dirty in between deeper washings and also keeps it in decent working order. This applies to stainless steel, metal, rubber, and leather.
For stainless steel watches, make sure they are exposed to air even when not in use to avoid rust or corrosion. Saltwater and sweat can lead to rusting, too, so if you’ve worn your watch for a swim or a dive, make sure to give it a quick rinse with fresh water as soon as you get out of the ocean and before putting it away.
Monthly: Soak it In
To clean your watches at home, you can do a DIY deep clean using a handful of materials you have lying around: dishwashing soap, a soft-bristled toothbrush, a soft cloth, Q-tips, warm water. (We told you it was easy!)
Prepare a bowl of warm water with a drop of antibacterial dishwashing liquid mixed in. Dishwashing liquid is best for cutting through grease and grime, so it should do the job. If you have the tools that will allow you to separate the watch case from the bracelet, then you can go ahead and do this so you can completely soak your bracelet in the mixture. Otherwise, dip just the bracelet into the warm, soapy solution, taking care not to get the case soaked by handling it with your fingers.
To get in between the links, take your soft-bristled toothbrush, dip the head into the solution, and then gently scrub the bracelet down to remove any traces of grime that may have collected in those areas. Those toothbrushes that were made for kids tend to have the softest bristles and smaller heads, so you may want to get one for this purpose specifically. Use a light touch as you don’t want to leave any marks or scratches.
For the watch case, take a soft cloth, dampen it slightly with the solution, and then gently rub it down. Make sure the crown is securely screwed in to avoid getting any water into the watch’s delicate mechanisms. The toothbrush can do the trick as well, but wet it only slightly rather than soaking the whole thing. Take note of your watch’s water resistance: If it is resistant up to 30m, a damp cloth should be fine; for anything above that, the toothbrush should be okay. There shouldn’t really be any need to soak the entire case, and it’s better to be on the safe side rather than risk any damage.
If there are any engravings, embellishments, or stones surrounding the case or bezel, use a Q-tip dipped in the soapy solution to clean around these. Try not to be too vigorous so as not to accidentally dislodge anything.
When you’re done, keep another bowl with clean, warm water handy for rinsing. You can dip the whole bracelet in or even just run it under the sink, taking care not to soak the case. Use another cloth dipped in clean, warm water to wipe away any soapy residue from the case. For an extra layer of shine, you can spritz glass cleaner on a soft cloth and give it another rub-down to restore your watch’s gleam.
The same trick should work with watches that have rubber or plastic bracelets, taking care to clean the bracelet and the case separately. For nylon or NATO straps, you can put them in a mesh bag and toss in your laundry. Leather straps should never be soaked, but you may wipe them down with a damp cloth and treat them in between cleanings with leather conditioner, while you’re at it—make sure to do a spot test at a discreet area first to ensure the product won’t discolor or fade the material you’re working with.
Periodically: Take it to the Pros
Of course, there are things a professional service can do that you can’t, so once a year or as often as you see fit, take it to a trusted service center for ultrasonic cleaning, maintenance, or repairs. You don’t want them to think any less of you, though, which is why it’s best to do a little regular clean-up of your own using the tips from this how to clean your watches guide so that you don’t hand them over anything truly shameful or embarrassing.