We are asked often just what is in our jewelry cleaners. While our formulas are trade-secret, we’re going to offer some insight into one ingredient in our most popular formula, our Fine Jewelry Cleaner: aqueous ammonia.
What is aqueous ammonia?
How does it differ from “regular” ammonia?
Is it safe for all kinds of jewelry?
Aqueous ammonia is a solution of ammonia in water, and is also known as ammonia water, ammonium hydroxide and ammonia liquor. Ammonia itself is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen and is a colorless gas with a distinctive smell. So, when you clean with “ammonia,” you are really using an ammonia solution.
Aqueous ammonia solutions are common in a number of household cleaning products because it is effective at breaking down grime and stains from animal fats and vegetable oils. Cleaning products that use aqueous ammonia include glass and window cleaners, oven cleaners, tile and wood floor cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and all-purpose cleaners. It can also be used to clean stains from clothing, carpets and even white shoes. Ammonia is a particularly effective cleaner for glass and mirrors, because it evaporates quickly and therefore does not leave streaks.
Aqueous ammonia is also effective for cleaning some jewelry, including metals like platinum, gold and silver, as well as very hard gemstones such as diamonds and sapphires. But it is very important to note that aqueous ammonia is not safe for all jewelry.
Because aqueous ammonia is a weak base and therefore caustic, meaning it can damage softer gemstones like pearls, opals and emeralds, as well as treated gemstones. For these stones, a gentle jewelry cleaning formulation, which does not contain aqueous ammonia, should be used.
Because the concentration of ammonia used for jewelry cleaning is vital, you should avoid using DIY, at-home ammonia cleaning methods that can cause damage to treasured jewelry. Too much ammonia can be caustic, and mixing your own ammonia solution poses its own risks. Exposure to concentrated ammonia irritates eyes, skin and the respiratory tract. While, mixing ammonia with bleach results in a chemical reaction that generates a toxic gas. Your best bet is using an ammoniated jewelry cleaner specially formulated for jewelry care.