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A Simple Guide on How to Clean Watches Properly

watch cleaning

Watches aren’t immune to dirt. Over time, dirt and dust accumulate on their faces and around the bands that securely hold them to your wrist. In addition, oil from your skin, sweat, and moisturizer can leave a thin film of residue. While it’s natural to want to give watches a quick wipe down after wearing, doing so isn’t enough. You need to go deeper and get into the nooks and crannies that aren’t exposed. Only then will your watch stay clean.

Why Clean Your Watches?

You may think that watches are small and unimportant in the grander scheme of things. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Watches are not just accessories but important pieces of machinery that require regular upkeep to function properly. They come into contact with your skin regularly, making it important to keep them clean. Over time, oil from your skin will mix with dust and moisture in the air, creating a sticky film that will build up inside your watch, causing it to malfunction or stop working completely.

When to Clean Your Watch?

Every watch owner knows that a huge part of wearing a watch is admiring its sleek, flawless aesthetic. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to give your watch a good scrub down at least once a week. Some choose to clean it after every wear like their watch-owning parents taught them. Whatever your preference, the important thing is to avoid cleaning them too often. To avoid wearing down the protective coating on your watch face and band, only give it a deep clean once a month. Whatever your preference, so long as you’re not overdoing it, your watch should remain in good condition.

What Kit Do You Need to Clean Your Watch?

As with many things, it’s best to buy the right tools or equipment before you start. That ensures that you won’t destroy your watch while cleaning it and ruin whatever baguette you paid for. Here are some accessories that will get your watch looking like new again:

Cleaning Fluids

It would be best if you ALWAYS used a special watch cleaning fluid to clean your watches. Using any other substance will cause damage and wear down the protective coating on your watch. If you can’t find a cleaning solution, mix equal parts of distilled water and white vinegar.

Watch Cleaning Cloth

Using your shirt or a microfiber cloth to wipe away any dirt and grease will not only leave lint all over but can scratch the glass on your watch. Instead, use a special watch cleaning cloth that is made from ultra-fine fibers that won’t leave behind any dirt or scratches. Microfiber cloths are the best choice, but you can use your shirt if it’s made from natural fibers.

Small Toothbrush or Watch Brush

To clean around the tiny crevices on your watch, you’ll need something small enough to fit in those tight spaces. A toothbrush does this job perfectly. You can also use a fine-tip paintbrush, but make sure to use a new one if the bristles are synthetic. Natural-hair bristled brushes may be effective but can leave behind fibers and dust.

Soap or Detergent

Soap or detergent can be used to remove stubborn dirt, but it’s best to use them sparingly. If you use too much, they can wear down the protective coating on your watch and make it look dull. Your safest bet is to use a tiny drop of soap or dishwashing liquid mixed with water before adding the vinegar or water solution.

Tools for Cleaning the Places That You Can’t Reach with Your Hands

Once you’ve gathered everything else, here are some small tools that can help you get into those hard-to-reach places.


A good pair of tweezers can help you get into those tiny nooks and crannies that are impossible to reach with your hands. It’s best to use a non-metallic pair of tweezers as they won’t conduct electricity, which may result in a small electric shock.

Pin Needles Similar to tweezers

Pin needles are thin steel rods with pointed ends that you can use to remove dust from the inside of your watch. Use a non-metallic pin needle as it won’t conduct electricity and create a shock when in contact with the battery.

A Magnifying glass

A good magnifying glass can help you see all the dirt that you’ve missed and also get a good look at the inner workings of your watch. The one I use has a large handle, so it’s easy to hold in one hand while cleaning with the other.

Getting Started: How to Properly Clean Your Watch

1. Remove the Strap or Band of Your Watch

If your watch comes with a strap, remove it using a watch strap remover tool or tweezers before beginning the cleaning process. If you’re dealing with a metal strap, it’s best to use a pair of leather gloves to protect your fingers. The same advice goes for leather bands or any other material that could get damaged if you slip with the tweezers and accidentally cut into them.

2. Wipe it down

Use a soft piece of cloth to wipe away any dirt or dust that may have gathered on your watch. Don’t use a paper towel because they can scratch the glass and leave behind a layer of lint that will just get dirty again soon after cleaning it away. A chamois or microfiber piece of clothing is recommended. That’s because it’s soft and quite effective at removing grime from the surface of your watch.

3. Mix Vinegar or Water with Soap

If you don’t have any special watch cleaning fluid, mix a drop of soap or dishwashing liquid with warm water. The amount of soap you’ll need depends on the size of your watch, so add a drop at a time until you have enough. You don’t want to use an excessive amount of it because it can wear down your watch’s protective coating. Once you have a drop or two, mix in a few tablespoons of warm - not hot - water and stir to create a soapy solution. If you don’t have any soap, use plain water instead.

4. Dip the Toothbrush or Watch Brush in the Soapy Solution

Dip the brush in the soapy solution and make sure it’s completely wet but not dripping. Then squeeze out any excess water to prevent it from diluting your cleaning solution. If you don’t have a special watch brush like I do, you can also use an old toothbrush.

5. Clean the Dial and Hands of Your Watch

Use the brush to gently clean all around the watch dial, including on top and underneath it. The more you can get into those spaces, the easier it will be to remove dirt that may have gotten stuck in them while your watch was being used or stored.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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