And here's how to do it for leather bands, rings, or even your fitness tracker.
Maybe you're the kind of guy who wears a bracelet or a rugged cuff. Maybe it's one of those cords that ties around your wrist and attaches with a fish hook—something made of an absorbent material that is soaking up moisture from every shower and every workout.
Or maybe it's your fitness tracker—a piece of equipment that is literally worn each and every time you sweat.
Maybe you wiped it clean once, after you did that muddy obstacle course. But do you clean it after your weekly runs?
The truth is, when it comes to maintenance, a man's jewelry and accessories are often overlooked.
We hear tales of guys whose leather watch bands developed a "cheesy" smell, or who finally took off their heirloom Rolexes and found black grime between the links.
Chances are, if you take off whatever's on your wrist and run a damp Q-tip around the nooks and crannies, you're not going to like what you find.
So how are you supposed to avoid this? We went to an expert for the easy techniques that will keep your gear on the right side of clean.
You might wash your face before bed. Your watch wishes it could, too. Just think of an average day this summer—your watch band is exposed to sweat, sunscreen and even spilled beer.
"At the end of the day, we recommend taking a couple of minutes to clean your watch before retiring it for the night," says Julie Stewart, supervisor of product repair for Victorinox Swiss Army.
"With a soft, clean cloth, wipe the inside of the band and wipe gently around the case back—this will remove excess moisture and any lotion build-up that occurred during general wear throughout the day."
And even if you aren't engaged in any "dirty" activities, you’re getting gunk on your watch, bracelet, or rings.
That gunk is from sweat, which sloughs off skin particles that collect in the links of a metal watchband, or the weave of a fabric one. Citizen watches even points out that—thanks to the fatty acids in perspiration—sweat can rust a "stainless" band.
That's why you need to do some basic maintenance more regularly than you might think. And the time to do it is before your jewelry looks, feels, or smells like it needs it.
Look up how to clean jewelry and you'll find a confusing brain-dump of information. What works on silver might not work on gold. Let's cut through the clutter.
When it comes to men’s jewelry, you have one go-to cleaner: dish soap. It's made to eat grease. And it's light on alcohol, so it's suitable for synthetic rubbers like fluoroelastomer (also known as the Apple Watch band).
Here's the process in a nutshell:
Set up one bowl of clean warm water, and one bowl of warm soapy water with a small amount of antibacterial soap.
Carefully dip only the bracelet or strap of your watch into the soapy water for 15-20 seconds. “Hold the watch case to protect it from water,” Stewart says. (Washing a ring or bracelet? Simply drop it in.)
Take it out, and gently scrub with a clean, damp toothbrush. Don't forget to get into the crevices.
Dip it into the clean warm water to rinse.
Pat it dry with a soft cloth.
"You can also use a hair dryer on a low or no-heat setting to dry your watch in between the links," says Stewart. "Make sure the band is completely dry before wearing the watch again."
The process above works for just about everything. But leather requires special care. With leather, the process of soaking up moisture and then drying out again is what causes the material to break down and crack.
The key here is to make sure leather stays both clean and conditioned. To that end, there are professional products like Cadillac Select Leather Lotion that are made to clean and protect. Two caveats:
"If you choose to use these types of products, you have to make sure they are allergy tested and that they don't discolor the strap," Stewart says.
In other words, cleaning your watch shouldn't cause a rash on your wrist, or change your brown leather strap to black.
Also, if you wear a watch or bracelet made of unfinished leather, pay extra attention to the directions, because not all products work for unfinished hides.
Especially if your watch needs any other servicing—like an internal tune-up or a scratch repair—you might want to have an expert take a look. You'll find high-tech ultrasonic cleaning at official service centers for Victorinox Swiss Army, Rolex, TAG Heuer, and many other brands.
If you wear a Johnny Depp amount of jewelry, you might invest in an ultrasonic cleaner of your own. If you leave it with a shop, it comes back clean and shiny, and you don’t have to be the one to face the grime on the toothbrush you reserved for jewelry cleaning.
Just have some pity on the guys doing the work. Don’t let it get too filthy before you send it in.