From a Rolex jubilee bracelet to a Cartier alligator strap to an exotic leather, here’s how to safely clean your watch bracelet or strap at home.
How to Clean a Metal Watch Bracelet with Soap and Water
Most watch bracelets can be quickly cleaned with a polishing cloth. Work a polishing cloth in between the alternating links by bending the bracelet and rubbing the cloth against the grooves. This should easily loosen and wipe away any surface dirt.
If gunk and grime is really caked in between the chain links, you’ll need to remove the bracelet for a deeper clean.
In a small bowl, dilute a few drops of mild dish soap in warm water. Submerge your metal bracelet into the water. Use a clean soft bristle toothbrush to gently brush away stubborn dirt. If your bracelet is made of gold, we recommend skipping the toothbrush, which will scratch the soft metal. Instead, use your fingertips to loosen dirt trapped in between the links. Pat the bracelet dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
How to Clean a Watch Bracelet with an Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner
For heavy-duty cleaning, bring it to a jeweler for a quick dip in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. These devices use inaudible high-frequency sound waves to agitate the cleaning liquid and essentially shakes any hard-to-reach dirt loose.
For a thorough cleaning inside and out, we recommend bringing it to the manufacturer or a professional jeweler or watchmaker. They can safely lubricate the movement and refinish the case and metal band to restore the watch’s original luster and shine.
How to Clean a Leather Watch Strap
After you have removed the leather strap from the watch, gently rub a leather cleaner—a little bit goes a long way—into the leather strap with a clean, lint-free cloth. Always do a patch test in a discreet area of the watch strap before using it all over.
To preserve the integrity of your leather watch strap, limit the number of times you clean it with a leather cleaner. Heavy duty leather cleaners like saddle soap can soften (and eventually weaken) the leather so do not use it more than twice a year. Instead, get in the habit of regularly wiping it down with a soft, lint-free cloth and swiping a damp cloth over it when you need a deeper clean.
How to Clean an Exotic Leather Watch Strap
Although saddle soap is a reliable cleaning agent for smooth calfskin leather, skip it if you have an exotic leather watch strap. Saddle soap can get trapped in the thin grooves of a textured alligator, crocodile or lizard leather strap, leaving behind a white crust. Instead, use a cleaning product specifically made for exotic leather.
Beeswax is an alternative gentle cleaner. Simply rub the beeswax onto the watch strap with a soft, lint-free cloth. Let the strap dry away from direct sunlight. Once dry, buff it with a soft cloth. But, before you coat your alligator watch strap in beeswax, do a patch test in a discreet area of the watch strap to ensure it does not discolor the leather.
If you’re nervous about cleaning the exotic leather, safe yourself the stress and bring it to a professional watchmaker for a safe cleaning.
How to Clean a NATO Watch Strap
A fabric NATO strap is the easiest watch strap to clean—lucky you. Simply use a little mild dish soap and warm water and gently scrub the strap. Rinse it thoroughly and set it on a flat surface, away from direct sunlight, to air dry.
Do not use any kind of heater or hair dryer to try and expedite the drying process. You run a serious risk of melting or burning the strap. Be patient and let it just air dry.