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How to Clean a Watch by Extropian

How to Clean a Watch by Extropian

Have you noticed that your favorite watch isn’t looking quite as fresh and sparkling as it once did? That can mean only one thing - it’s time to give it a good clean! 

It’s kinda amazing how much dirt and grime can build up on a watch over time, just from everyday use. Dust, sweat, hair, and flakes of dead skin (yuck!) can all accumulate on your watch. And not only can this start to look pretty gross after a while, but it can also cause significant damage. Ingrained dirt can wear down the links and block the crown and dial, seawater can damage the gaskets and sealants that keep your watch waterproof, and ingrained sand can play havoc with the motion of a bezel

But the good news is that most watches are surprisingly easy to clean, and you can do it at home with just a few pieces of basic equipment!

Rose Et Blanc Réseaux Sociaux Stratégie Présentation (5)

How to clean a watch: the basics

OK, let’s start with the basics. If you want to do a good job, and we’re sure you do, there are a few things you need to consider before you even begin. Firstly, you need to think about the age of the watch, its degree of water resistance, and what it’s made of, as these factors will all determine how you clean it. Older watches can be delicate things - they may have reduced water resistance if they haven’t been recently serviced - so it’s best to treat them with a bit of extra respect. The watch seals on older watches may also have dried out and need replacing. And if the watch is made of precious metals then you need to be extra careful! More on that later.

Secondly, make sure all screws and crowns are tightened so no water can get in.

And finally, it’s a good idea to prepare a clean, well-protected surface (such as a layered towel) in case you drop the watch while cleaning it. We’re not suggesting you’re clumsy but your watch is going to be a little slippery when it’s wet! 

Gather the right tools

The next step is to make sure you have the right tools to do the job properly. Luckily, this is pretty simple. All you’ll need are:

  • A small bowl of warm water mixed with mild soap (but only if you’re sure the watch is water-resistant!).
  • A clean soft-bristled brush. You can find watch-specific brushes, but a soft toothbrush is OK too. However, if your watch is made of precious metals (such as gold) it’s best to avoid a brush unless it's extra soft.
  • A clean microfiber cloth.
  • Toothpicks (these are optional, but can be useful).
  • Anti-bacterial sanitary wipes.

And finally, always avoid using a hard brush or any kind of abrasive cleaning materials, even if your watch case is made of stainless steel. Seriously, you’ll regret it if you do!  

Clean or wipe the watch

Now to begin. Dip the brush in the soapy water and gently brush the watch case to clean it. Or, if it’s not water-resistant or made of easily scratched materials, simply wipe it thoroughly with an anti-bacterial wipe. You can use isopropyl alcohol for this as well, but in moderation as it can damage the gaskets and seals over time.

Remove any ingrained dirt

The next step is to remove as much of that pesky ingrained dirt and grime as possible. If your watch is water-resistant, you can rinse most of it away by quickly immersing it in non-soapy water. And if it's water resistant to over 100m you can even run it under a faucet to be extra sure.

However, if it has little or no water resistance, you might have to get a bit more hands-on. Trim the tip off a toothpick, wrap the blunted end in an anti-bacterial wipe, and use this to carefully dislodge any residual dirt and grime, then use a dry brush to gently wipe it away. Again, be especially careful with this stage if your watch is made of softer metals that are prone to scratching. You don’t want to damage it when it’s starting to look so good!

Go over it with a microfiber cloth

Lastly, use the clean, dry microfiber cloth to finish off, being sure to remove any excess moisture. Be as thorough as possible at this stage – you can even wrap the cloth around your finger and use the tip of your nail to get into all those awkward hard-to-dry crevices (like the edge of the bezel, caseback seam, etc.). 

Cleaning a bronze watch

Bronze watches require a bit of special attention as the process of cleaning them is kind of unique. Bronze develops a patina over time when exposed to air and moisture, giving it a darker color and often a greenish coating. There are those who love the added character this can give a watch, but we know it’s not everyone’s choice. Luckily if you want to remove it and have the watch looking like new again it’s actually pretty easy!

First, make a paste from 2-3 dessert spoons of baking powder and some lemon juice. Then apply the paste to the discolored areas of the watch using your fingers or a toothbrush. Make sure you get it into all those hard-to-reach crevices! Leave it for about 30 minutes before rinsing with warm water (if it's waterproof!) and polishing dry with a microfiber cloth.

How to clean a watch strap or bracelet

Now, we don’t want to complicate matters too much, but it’s also a good idea to remove the bracelet or strap whenever you’re giving your watch a thorough clean. This is especially true if the strap is made of leather, which is easily damaged by water. If it has a metal or rubber strap you can clean it along with the watch, but you can do a much better job if you take that little bit of time to remove it!

Rose Et Blanc Réseaux Sociaux Stratégie Présentation (2)

Cleaning metal bracelets

This is pretty much the same process as cleaning the case. Soak the bracelet in warm soapy water, then go over it with the brush and toothpicks (if necessary). It’s a good idea to remove the spring bars and be extra thorough cleaning the endlinks and clasp, as this is where a lot of all that yucky stuff tends to accumulate. Then simply rinse, and dry with a microfiber cloth. Again, for precious metals like gold or platinum, stick to an extra soft brush or just anti-bacterial wipes followed by a microfiber cloth.

Cleaning leather straps

As already mentioned, leather isn’t water resistant, so it’s never a great idea to immerse it in warm soapy water! So if your watch strap is made of leather, gently wipe it clean with a very slightly damp cloth. Or, if it’s made of extra-sensitive leathers (like ostrich) just use a dry microfiber cloth. You can also use a colorless leather spray or lotion, but be sure to avoid alcohol, wet cloths, and soap. And don’t rub too hard!

Cleaning other types of watch band

Of course, not all watch bands are made of leather or metal. And fortunately, other materials are often a lot easier to keep clean! Silicone and rubber straps, for example, can be cleaned very easily and quickly with a soft cloth and warm water mixed with soap or vinegar. Nylon and canvas straps can be cleaned with lukewarm soapy water and that trusty toothbrush, followed by a good rinse. Or, if you’re feeling lazy you can even run them through a washing machine!  But make sure to use a low temperature and a gentle cycle. And whatever you do, don’t tumble dry them!

Additional tips

Well, that’s just about it. Pretty simple, huh? But there are a couple of basic steps you can take to avoid having to clean your watch too often. Firstly, try to give it a quick wipe every night before you turn in to stop additional grime accumulating too quickly. Make it a kind of bed-time ritual! And secondly, take your watch off whenever you wash your hands. This prevents soap and water building up underneath the watch, which can cause more dirt to build up over time.


And that really is it! All you need to know about cleaning a watch. How often you do this depends on how frequently you wear a particular watch. If you wear it every day, you’ll probably want to clean it about once a month to keep it in tip top condition. But, hey, it’s a relatively small effort with a big reward, as you can keep your watch looking like new for years to come!

Rose Et Blanc Réseaux Sociaux Stratégie Présentation

What to keep in mind:

  • Dirt and grime not only looks horrible it can also damage your watch!
  • Always consider the age, water resistance and material of your watch before you start to clean it.
  • Make sure you have the right tools to hand - a clean soft-bristled brush (however, if your watch is made of precious metals (such as gold) it’s best to avoid a brush unless it's extra soft), a clean microfiber cloth, toothpicks and anti-bacterial sanitary wipes.
  • To clean your watch first wash it, or wipe it if it’s not water resistant or made of precious metals, then remove any ingrained dirt before wiping it over with a microfiber cloth.
  • Metal bracelets can be soaked in water, but leather straps should only be wiped with a slightly damp cloth. Other strap materials (nylon/ rubber) can be simply wiped clean. Nylon and canvas can be washed - even in a washing machine. But don’t tumble dry!
  • It’s a good idea to wipe your watch every night in between cleans. And remove it every time you wash your hands to avoid soap and water building up under the watch and collecting more grime.

Created the 2023-01-05

Modified the 2023-12-05

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