How Do I Clean My Watch?

Tyler L. from Malaysia asks:

As a young (but very enthusiastic) watch lover, I have only 2 watches in my collections. I'm always wondering what's the best way to clean and maintain a watch for long period of time. The smudges and oily marks can be annoying as I don't know whether I should clean them with soap & water or not (worrying the highly polished case may lose shine). Fellow professional collector, please enlighten me about watch care procedure. Thanks!

First of all, when it comes to cleaning the inside of a watch (the movement), you should always take it to a watch maker. For the outside, it isn't very complicated. Some people like to carry around a microfiber cloth to clean off smudges. Anything that is good for eye glasses should work perfectly to clean oil and debris off your watch.

If your watch is seriously dirty, then cleaning it with water and liquid hand soap isn't a problem (assuming it is water resistant to 50 meters or more), liquid soap is better than a bar of soap as any foam and excess soap gets rinsed away. You can gently remove loose debris with a soft toothbrush, make sure it is a soft bristle brush so you don't scratch the watch. Try to gently submerge the watch into water versus having the faucet water splash on it. That will prevent water from entering worn seals that may have gaskets that have weakened over time. Though, newer dive watches can take a lot of splashing for sure. If you clean the leather strap make sure it fully dries off the wrist before you wear it again otherwise your body heat can make it start to rot!

Some people also like using those ultrasonic jewelry cleaners that use vibrations under water to loosen dirt, but this is only recommended for bracelets once you have removed them from the watch head. You don't need any fancy chemicals for these machines, just make sure the water is very hot and you have penty of washing-up liquid to break down any grease. Be aware that oils in the skin soften the edges of any scratches on the glass and these may be more noticable and look sharper after you clean your watch. In fact, unscrupulous second hand watch sellers used to rub some grease from the sides of their noses over the glass before handing the watch to a client to hide the worst scratches in exactly this way!!!

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  • cmmatt

    Ultrasonic cleaner works good (you can get one for like $25) but take the band off the watch first and only submerge the band in it. It’s amazing to throw a dirty watch band in the ultrasonic and watch the dirt “explode” off of it. Don’t put the case in there, at least anecdotal evidence from around the web suggests it’s not great for the movement.
    You can also get some cape cod cloths which work nice for cleaning the case, but you’ll need to wipe the case down afterwards because of the residue.

    • karsonb

      Yeah, ultrasonic cleaners are the way to go.
      Some cleaners had a spot that you can lay the watch on to in order to prevent it from being submerged and taking too much of a “beating” in the cleaner. If it’s a quartz movement in the watch, it shouldn’t be a problem (as i have done this to dozens of watches where i work), mechanical/automatic I’d be a little more careful.

  • csong36

    I cleaned my husband’s Rolex Submariner in my ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.  Did I just damage the movement in his watch?

  • Lesthepom

    I use an ultrasonic for the bracelets but don’t take them of the watch and just use a soft toothbrush for the case don’t know about putting the whole watch in there may be Arial could test it with may be a Seiko 5 good watch but cheep I clean my wife’s jewelry in the sonic it shakes out all the loose stones just have to empty the sonic carefully and take the stones to the jeweler it sounds bad but its better than them coming out and disappearing out side some were

  • MarkOs

    I have an ultrasonic bath at work but last time I used it to clean a watch for my wife the watch stopped. I took it to a local jeweler who said the watch had become magnetized . He “demagnetized the watch and it has worked fine since.
    Could this be because the bath it commercial grade (dental office) or should I place the watch in a non-metallic cup? Or is this just because it is a quartz Tag?

  • CharlesFord

    I use an old tooth brush and some non-abrasive tooth paste gel. Brush the watch like you would your teeth for a minute or so, rinse it off (all my watches are at least 5bar) dry it with a towel, and it looks as good as if  a jeweler cleaned it.

  • DG Cayse

    csong36 Would that be “ex-husband” now?

    (just kidding of course)

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  • PeterMavy

    Job security: – Job in this sector also provides job security. The candidate can easily do his work without any tension of loosing job. As there is no job security and increase in pay scale in private companies create a fear in employees they are safe for doing job or not. The Employees of private job didn’t know when they will get afire from the company that is why the government job is going high and everyone is trying to get job in government sector.

  • Mom Of Chac

    These are good tips. Cleaning a watch can be tricky especially
    if moisture creeps in. If you’re stuck for help, check out I have used them many times. Very helpful!

  • Great tips! I would definitely recommend carrying around a microfiber cloth for smudges and gentle cleaning, but to really get it to shine you should take it to get professionally polished. Check out We can help you keep your watch in top condition.

  • Aam

    You just ruined your marriage.