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Cleaning jeweler's hands

Was: Tricks of the trade

Hi Linda.

how can I get my fingers cuticles, and fingernails really clean? 

May not be perfect but sure are good: the scrubbers crocheted from
nylon netting (“hints from Heloise”) are abrasive without scratching.
Just add a squirt of Dawn dishwashing liquid and have at it.

Pam Chott

To make cleaning your hands, fingernails and cuticles easier, rub
Noxema on and them before polishing. Make sure that it’s rubbed in
well, particularly under your fingernails and into your cuticles.
Washing up will be much easier and more effective.

Ray Grossman

Hi Linda;

There’s stuff in the archives about this, but I use a product called
"Liquid Glove" I get from Stuller or Rio or somewhere. It’s really a
cream that you rub into you hands. It keeps the dirt from
penetrating and makes it easy to rinse it off with water.

David L. Huffman

Fast orange is used by mechanics to get grease off their hands. It is
a soap, pumice, and has a skin conditioner. I use it for getting
polishing compound off my hands, and to get Almeg lapidary cutting
oil off my hands.

Richard Hart

So, in order to rejoin polite society, say for lunch, how can I get
my fingers cuticles, and fingernails really clean? 

Other might say this is a no no, but in such circumstances, when
I’ve got my ultrasonic tank up and running anyway, to remove the
polish residue off my jewellery - I give my fingers a quick dip in
the warm, soapy, ammoniated water, and gently rub with a very soft
baby toothbrush - then immediately wash my hands in in sink with
ordinary soap and water to thoroughly get rid of the ammonia. It’s
the ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) that I’ve found is the only way to
get rid of the polish residue effectively. But don’t forget that
being strongly alkaline, it is corrosive and so do NOT use it
straight out of the bottle under any circumstances. However, it is
vastly diluted in the ultrasonic tank, but still a corrosive chemical
so you don’t want to hang around in there for long. I have quite
sensitive skin but the dilution of the ammonia and the brevity of the
dip means that I’ve not had a problem with any skin reaction issues.

Also, I have a container of water with white vinegar mixed with it
(mildly acidic), so if my fingers accidentally come into contact
with the ultrasonic liquid (ammoniated) while taking jewellery in and
out of it, I dip into the mild acid to neutralise any effects of the
ammonia. This can be done just after cleaning your fingers in the
tank too, just before a thorough wash with soap and water in the

Disclaimer: do NOT use ammonium hydroxide (household ammonia)
straight out of the bottle - it MUST be VERY dilute. Use to clean
fingers at your own risk.


to clean your hands up (and pieces) after polishing, warm water, a
splosh of ammonia and a teeny dash of washing up liquid and a nail
brush or old tooth brush. Works wonders.

Fire stain fury - add a bit of brasso to your polish (it dissolves
the polish and lubricates the mop) - strips off the fire stain in no


I have the same problem but now I wear leather gloves purchased in
the gardening section (about $5). These fit snugly and also protect
your hands from hot metal due to friction on the wheel.


Rio sells a product (still, I hope) called Polishing Compound
Remover. It’s for the jewelry, not your hands. Does a great job of
removing polishing compound from the metal. Awesome stuff.

Otherwise, try products like Gojo.

You could also try using a product like Gloves in a Bottle (a
barrier cream). Other companies make barrier creams for mechanics to
use to keep the grease off. Should work for polish too.

And, use fingertip gloves while polishing, that keeps off some of
the worst of it.



I hesitate to mention this method to clean the crud from your hands,
except that it works. When we talk about trying to get our nails to
look decent for an evening on the town, this solution always causes
the men to respond “Oh! That’s a terrible idea!” and the women all
vow to try it. After conventionally cleaning your hands, dip your
finger tips into a slightly diluted solution of bleach and water.
Scrub with a nail brush as needed. Thoroughly rinse with clear water.
Of course, it would be a good idea to read the warning on the bleach
bottle before attempting to follow this tip.


My trick is vaseline. I get the large jars at the dollar store, scoop
my hands into it, and push it under my nails and all over my palms.
After lathering with it for a few mins, it grips to all of the dirt.
Then I use a pair of tweezers and run one of the ends under my nails
and it comes out sparkling clean. Follow with regular soap and



This is good for gardening and it might help. Dig your fingernails
over a bar of soap before you begin to polish. I’ve found that oily
stuff (goop, cold cream, etc.) is great for removing grime and much
kinder to your hands.

Jo T

Hello Linda,

One thing that makes fingernail clean up easier is to literally
scratch your nails on a soft bar of soap, like Ivory. The soap is
caught under the nail to exclude the compound, and after all the
polishing is done, washes out easily. I also do this before serious

Judy in Kansas

“Simple Green” sold at your local grocery store will clean the
compounds off of your fingers. Works well in your tumbler and
ultrasonic as well.

I love GoJo, and failing that dish-soap. But the trick to get either
of them to work really well is apply the soap BEFORE the water, I
know you have to break a life time of habit of wetting before
lathering, but go straight for the GoJo or dishsoap apply to hands
and attack with a nail brush, only when all the dirt seems to be
moving around freely start the rinse cycle. I like the surgical nylon
brushes the Lee Valley sells myself.

Norah Kerr

Linda- try the waterless hand cleaner that mechanics use-- you can
buy this goop (several brands available) at a car parts store. A
dollop on the palm, rub hands til it liquifies, paper towel off the
excess, voila, soft clean hands. You may have to brush under the
nails, but if you can get some of the stuff under the nail, it will
dissolve the guck.


Burt’s Bee’s hand salve is the best for dry and chapped hands. I
learned that from a fellow jeweler at the Bench Jewelers Conference.
Best, bar none. I’ve tried them all.

I am so loving this exchange of golden nuggets of knowledge.

My local foundry has dispensers that have a kind of pasty soap mixed
with a gritty abrasive. I asked what it was and they told me it was
granulated sugar! Cheap and safe.

It was very effective and most nutritious!

regards Tim Blades.

Burt’s Bee’s hand salve is the best for dry and chapped hands.

Another great product for dry, chapped hands is Neutrogena.
Apparently Norwegian fishermen use it. I worked for a wholesale
florist whilst at university and my hands/fingers would split for
fun - very painful indeed. Flowers sound such a lovely, delicate
thing to work with but flowers, together with the thorns they
sometimes have, hard stems and the cold room where they’re kept wreak
havoc on hands and Neutrogena was the thing that healed and nourished
them quickly.



I have the same problem but now I wear leather gloves purchased in
the gardening section (about $5). These fit snugly and also
protect your hands from hot metal due to friction on the wheel. 

For heaven’s sake please do not wear gloves while polishing! Losing a
finger is simply not worth the discomfort of the heat and mess. If
gloves were the answer, this topic would not even be discussed.

Jon Michael Fuja

The best method is two weeks vacation.