If, like the rest of the planet, you've been compulsively washing your hands like Lady Macbeth, you've probably at one point or another stopped to question just how efficient all of this hand washing is when you're wearing an engagement ring. Can you safely clean and wear your engagement ring during coronavirus? The conundrum snapped into focus for me upon seeing pictures of Kate Middleton working from home, wearing only her gold wedding band in lieu of her usual 12 carat sapphire ring. Working on the (realistic) assumption that the royals are provided with reliable health intel, I started questioning whether any of us should be wearing our rings, and how clean the nooks and crannies of prongs and pavé could really be getting during the requisite 20-second scrub.
Luckily, "there isn't enough data to support the average person being concerned about wearing their engagement ring," says Dr. Sara Hogan, a dermatologist and health sciences clinical instructor at UCLA. "People should continue to perform hand hygiene throughout the day to minimize transmission of the novel coronavirus. They can consider removing their rings when performing hand hygiene, and cleaning their rings more frequently."
If we have to make sure our palm creases are sufficiently attended to, chances are that an antique stone setting needs a little extra attention as well. And yes, one could just remove the ring for the foreseeable future, but in such trying times, it's nice to keep jewelry, specifically meaningful jewelry, front and center. Dr. Hogan suggest taking rings off and rinsing separately in soap and water. "Rings with pave diamonds have many more crevices for bacteria to hide and may be more difficult to wash," adds Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a New York-based dermatologist. "The same is true for antique or textured rings." Zeichner suggests that if you're concerned, you could consider switching to a solid band for the time being, just as a precaution.
When considering the best way to clean and care for your jewelry, the first thing to consider is construction. Is it solid gold, or plated? Does it consist of diamonds, other stones, or a combination? These components require different treatments. "Alcohol found in hand sanitizers is safe for solid gold, but less so for plated jewelry and rings with stones made from opal, pearl, tourmaline, emeralds and tourmaline," explains jewelry designer Lizzie Mandler, who instead suggests rinsing your ring with mild soap and water.
In fact, according to Dr. Hogan, you should not use sanitizer on rings at all as simple soap and water is actually a more effective choice. "Hand washing is more effective than hand sanitizer in removing microbes, and likely getting into the nooks of a vintage or textured ring," she explains. "Rubbing hands together creates friction for removing debris, soap emulsifies dirt, chemicals and microbes and running water removes the debris."
If you want to give your ring a deeper for good measure, LA-based jewelry designer, Adina Reyter says, "soak your ring in a bowl with dishwashing soap and water for about 20 minutes. When you take it out, use a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the ring," explains Reyter. Mandler recommends using an ultrasonic cleaner (available on Amazon) once every week or two, though she says to avoid any delicate designs if you're going to do this.
The general takeaway from all of this is that yes, your ring can harbor bacteria, but as long as you are washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, it shouldn't be of any great concern. You will, however, want to prioritize deep cleaning it on a more regular basis, either by soaking it in a soapy solution and scrubbing with a small brush, or using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, so as to maintain its luster.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.