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Cleaning scum off diamonds

Does any one have any suggestions or ways they found to clean scum
(/the stuff underneath the diamonds on rings worn by people that
never clean there jewelry/) off diamonds. Sometimes you get a ring
that you just can’t get the scum off and it needs to be retipped.
I’ve struggled with this for 20 years and have not found a satisfying
solution. I have used many different types of ultrasonic cleaning
solutions and nothing has really worked well for this problem.

Also, does anyone have any good homemade cleaning solution recipes
for ultrasonics?

Hi Larvick Designs;

In my old trade shop days, we used to keep a small sauce pan on a
hot pad, just barely simmering. It was filled with water and a couple
tablespoons of “Spic and Span”. In those days, Spic and Span was a
dry, granular powder. Most of us know it now as a liquid. That main
active ingredient was tri-sodium phosphate. You can still find that
compound, but beware, a lot of products use the word trisodium
phosphate but if you read it carefully, it’s designed to “act” like
tri-sodium phosphate and doesn’t actually have any in it. Anyway, I
suppose any high phosphate detergent would work ok. Just hang the
article to be cleaned on a wire from the edge of the pan into the
solution. It’ll do the job pretty quick, in fact, you can see the
gunk foam away. Use common sense. Some jewelry articles shouldn’t go
in that stuff, like pearls, turquoise, emerald, etc.

As for home made ultrasonic solutions, we used to use, again,
trisodium phosphate with a little amonia. Stunk the place up pretty
good. I’ve used liquid Spic and Span, works ok, but not cost
effective. What I use now is a cleaner I get from a wholesale
restaurant supply place called “Magic Clean” which runs around $10 a
gallon. That’s about what ultrasonic cleaner costs, but without the
shipping since it’s in the neighborhood. Use 7-9 ounces to a gallon
of water, costs around $10 a gallon. You may have to experiment with
a few different cleaners. Avoid those with amonia, it’s not great to
breath that stuff. Just look for a good degreaser type general
cleaning concentrate.

David L. Huffman

I don’t know about everyone else, but a good, strong, warm-to-hot
ammonia bath and a toothbrush (or Water Pik) work pretty well for me.

Hi Larvick,

Try boiling out the dirt with caustic soda. Otherwise known as lye.
Hardware stores sell it as Red Devil drain cleaner. Nasty stuff, use
ventalation, don’t get it on your hands or in your eyes, and only add
it to the water cold and then add heat to a low boil.


Gemoro is a GREAT cleaner but I’ve found that you have to change it
out quit frequently. Also My tool supplier, ARMSTRONG TOOL AND
SUPPLY out of Lavonia, Mich. sell another Great ultrasonic cleaner,
BCR. It’s sold usually by the gal. Similar to Oakite but not as

I’ve always used 1 part Mr. Clean to 3 parts Water in the Ultrasonic.
Allow the scummed up diamond to soak a bit in the hot and running
ultrasonic and then scrub the back of the diamond with an old
toothbrush. Never failed, and I’ve seen some nasties!

Try glass bead sandblasting from underneath. A little polishing
iscrrquired, but it sure beats burning the gunk on to the diamonds.

the best thing ive found after many negative experiences is to do the
following after cleaning use paste flux put alot on the area with the
diamonds then melt the flux with the torch DO NOT overheat just melt
the flux let it cool then pickle " the flux is basiclly a dirt magnet
that collects impurites. Some times you need to do it twice twenty
years of every holiday meal and romp in the whatever residue doesnt
come off with out the flux to grab and physically remove the cement
like stuff


Also, does anyone have any good homemade cleaning solution recipes
for ultrasonics?

I use ammonia, ivory liquid and water. Any proportions (although
usually about 2/3 water) seem to work fine.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC


Household lye does get rid of the scum. There are several postings
in the archives about how to use lye (safely) to clean gunky jewelry.

My mentor always used one part sudsy ammonia to one part water for a
cheap, effective 'sonic solution. It IS smelly though.

(I read this tip on Orchid.) Put the object to be cleaned in a
little ziplock bag with the ammonia solution, seal the bag, making
sure there is a little air inside, then float the bag in the 'sonic
liquid. Sure keeps the smell under control and it’s easy to dispose
of the small amount of dirty ammonia. (Dilute the solution further
and use it to fertilize your lawn.)

My 'sonic liquid is tap water with a few drops of detergent -
another tip from the Orchid archives. I keep a small container in the
basket and put the cleaning solution in the container… again, easy
to remove and empty the container when the solution gets dirty.

Judy in Kansas, where it’s a cool, sunny day with gentle breezes.
Makes me ready to garden!

Scum is one thing. Meatloaf is another.

For regular run of the mill scum I like ammoniated ultrasonic
cleaner from L&R. Stinks pretty good so I use a plastic container
with a lid and just keep that in the ultrasonic clean water.
Warning…do not sniff the bottle, it’ll knock you over if you breath

For meatloaf…I have seen this and I have done this but I am NOT
endorsing that anyone lightheartedly try this. Get some hot water,
near boiling if you can. Place your item in it and toss in some lye
and STAND BACK! Really, this is potentially dangerous. If its good
and hot you will get a violent boiling reaction with some splatter.
Do this only in a controlled environment with suitable protective
gear and away from curious eyes. In a few seconds your item will be
squeeky clean, but you need to rinse the heck out of it. When it
doesn’t feel slimy anymore its rinsed enough. You can, if you
prefer, gently simmer a premixed lye solution for a few minutes with
the item in the pot. The reason I don’t like this method is I watched
as someone pulled the most horribly damaged large aqua out of a
boiled dry pan. That the aqua should not have gone in there in the
first place is secondary to the fact that its all too easy to walk
away and forget you have something cooking. I keep the lye bit as a
last resort kind of thing. Lye burns hurt and absolutely you must
take all precautions to keep from getting even a tiny speck in your
eye. Use good judgement in the process and in application to your
piece in question. I’m relaying this only in the context of a
professional dealing with diamonds only. I wonder if that is a strong
enough disclaimer.

Something else you can do is to first pick out the worst of the
clumpy gunk with a poker or somesuch. Its disgusting but try. Then
ultrasonic til it looks sorta clean. To get the last, troublesome
goop out you can force handiflux behind the stone, really pack it in
tight. Some on top too. Gently heat til the flux flows. Then pickle.
The handiflux will (usually, caveat emptor) capture the crud and
greatly reduce the chance of black diamonds.

Its probably a good idea to charge more for extraordinary cleaning

I’m gonna get a bunch of grief from the safety police for saying
this, but I’ve always boiled rings to be tipped in a mixture of lye
and water. Always add the lye to the water never the reverse. It
takes about an hour to get it really clean. I then follow with a
quick trip to the sonic and steamer. I always boil under an exhaust
fan. This is also the only way I know of to remove dirt that has been
burned on to a dirty diamond during soldering.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

I’m almost afraid to admit this, but I soak my white/yellow gold and
diamond wedding ring set in a small plastic capped vial (leftover
from prescription tablets) filled 1/3 full with one of the bathroom
products for removing soap scum from the shower. After a soak of 10
minutes or so, I use a tiny toothbrush from my dentist, the kind for
getting between teeth, to probe under the center diamond and around
the surrounding smaller diamonds.


Does any one have any suggestions or ways they found to clean scum
(/the stuff underneath the diamonds on rings worn by people that
never clean there jewelry/) off diamonds 

I tried a citric acid pickle, and ditched it because it doesn’t
clean jewelry, it just removes flux. Sparex or equivalent (we use
Otto Frei) will strip a diamond real good - just let it soak for an
hour or even overnight. Then ultrasonic, steam, and really filthy
jewelry may need the pickle again. Ultimately it will do the trick,

don't know about everyone else, but a good, strong, warm-to-hot
ammonia bath and a toothbrush (or Water Pik) work pretty well for

Over the years, many of you have stated that you use ammonia for
cleaning. What strength ammonia is needed to be effective? Is the
local grocery store brand ammoniated sudsy cleaner adequate, or do
you purchase concentrated ammonia from a chemical house?


I use grocery store bought pure ammonia. Not a cleaning agent with
ammonia in it.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.

I use cloudy ammonia as found in the laundry aisle in the

If I need to use lye I buy it from the hardware store as
non-aluminitated drain cleaner (some drain cleaners have Al shavings
added to speed the heating of the solution), i.e. aluminium free
drain cleaner (99% NaOH) a one pound tub lasts a LONG time in my
’shop. (I’m still using the first one I bought for the purpose some
years ago, I probably should check the container for damage etc.
after all this time.)

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.

Does any one have any suggestions or ways they found to clean scum
off diamonds? 

Liquid drain cleaner in a little jar with a lid. You can let it sit
or speed it up by holding the jar in an ultrasonic. It will dissolve
anything organic. Works well to remove burnt on dirt too.


Straight ammonia will give you a wake up call; but I’ve found that
household products like ammonia and lemon and an old toothbrush does
it for me.


Hi Jamie,

I just use plain ol’ $1.20 a gallon generic ammonia from the cleaning
aisle in the grocery store. I use it two parts ammonia to one part
water (it probably should be the other way around, but I’m
impatient). If the jewelry can withstand it, the water should be hot
as you can get it. It’s smelly and irritating if you don’t use it in
a well-ventilated area (I use it right under the kitchen window so I
can just crack the window and let the fumes out), but it’s a good,
cheap way to clean non-porous gemstones in jewelry. I use it on
all-metal pieces, too. I suppose if you don’t carefully wash and dry
brass after using it, you might get some oxidation – I’m too
nitpicky to not wash it, though, so don’t know for sure (ammonia can
be used to “fume” a patina onto brass).