Coronavirus: the new rules for wearing (and cleaning) your watches and jewellery

Remember to clean your rings, watches and other wearables

Coronavirus: The new rules for wearing (and cleaning) your watches and jewellery
(Image credit: T3)

As the new coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, we’re rightly reminded to wash our hands more than ever.

This, as we are sure you already know by now, means at least 20 seconds of thorough cleaning with soap and warm water, plus regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser whenever you’re away from running water. And remember to make sure the sanitiser is at least 70% alcohol.

But there’s more to it than clean hands. Because the new coronavirus COVID-19 has been found to survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, it is vitally important that you remove your watch, fitness tracker and jewellery, and clean them too.

It is also key to remove them before washing your hands, as bacteria can survive in the nooks and crevices of whatever you’re wearing, and under the strap of your watch.

Once removed, you can go about washing your watch and jewellery separately, using soap and warm water (assuming your watch is suitably water-resistant). If you are concerned about damaging your watch with water, then clean it carefully and thoroughly with a surface wipe or similar, or consider not wearing it for the time being.

On hand washing, while wearing a wedding ring, Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at Nottingham University, told The Sun: “Thorough hand washing or liberal and correct application of sanitiser gels would always be advisable and that certainly means ensuring that hidden nooks and crannies are cleaned, especially under rings on fingers and the like.”

But if you have an engagement ring, or any other ring with diamonds, you should be wary of using too much hand sanitiser. Jewellery retailer James Allen told that “excessive exposure to hand sanitizers and cleaning agents can make finish on white gold wear a little bit faster, but it won’t cause immediate danger.”

That said, contact with stronger cleaning products like chlorine and bleach “can break down the brilliance of metals and gems over time,” potentially removing the shine from your watch and jewellery. Additionally, experts warn that extensive use of hand sanitiser can loosen the prongs that hold diamonds in place.

The best practice is to remove your rings, watch and other hand jewellery, then wash them with soap and warm water, and let them dry. Now wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, dry them with a clean towel, and put your ring, watch and other jewellery back on.

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Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.