How to Clean Your Watch at Home: Expert Tips

Regular maintenance is crucial for keeping your watches looking their best, but cleaning them improperly can lead to damage. 

Avoid using harsh chemicals, submerging non-water-resistant watches, and using abrasive materials that can scratch the surface. 

Understanding these do’s and don’ts can help you avoid damaging your timepieces.

Cleaning a watch like a pro ensures its longevity, functionality, and aesthetic appeal. By following a meticulous cleaning regimen, you can keep your timepieces in pristine condition.

But First, Understand the Type of Your Watch

Different watches—whether mechanical, quartz, or digital—has its own specific cleaning requirements. This will help you avoid damaging your watch and ensure that it stays in good condition for years to come. 

Mechanical Watches

Mechanical Watches

Mechanical watches are marvels of precision engineering, requiring special care to ensure their longevity and accuracy. Even a tiny speck of dust can disrupt the smooth functioning of your watch, causing potential damage to its movement. As The Watch Care Co. highlights, without the proper tools and knowledge, it’s easy to inadvertently cause more harm than good.

Their Specific Cleaning Needs

  • Avoid Magnets: Keep your mechanical watch away from magnets, as they can interfere with its movement and accuracy.
  • Understanding Your Watch’s Water Resistance: Mechanical watches are generally not as water-resistant as their quartz counterparts. Avoid exposing them to water, and if they do get wet, ensure they are dried thoroughly.
  • Protect Your Watch Crystal: The crystal of a mechanical watch is often made of glass or synthetic sapphire, both of which can scratch easily. Avoid rough surfaces and impacts that could damage the crystal.
  • Use A Watch Box for Safekeeping: When not wearing your mechanical watch, store it in a watch box to protect it from dust, moisture, and other environmental factors.
  • Limit Extended Sunlight Exposure: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the oils in your watch to degrade, affecting its accuracy. Store your watch in a cool, dark place when not in use.
  • Avoid Chemical Contact: Chemicals such as perfumes, lotions, and cleaning products can damage the finish of your watch. Avoid contact with these substances to keep your watch looking its best.
  • Resist the Urge to Open Your Watch: Mechanical watches are delicate instruments that require specialized tools and expertise to repair. Attempting to open your watch yourself can lead to irreversible damage.

Quartz Watches

Quartz Watches

Quartz watches are known for their reliability, accuracy, and affordability. However, to ensure they continue to function properly and look their best, it’s important to understand their specific cleaning needs.

Their Specific Cleaning Needs

  • Remove or Replace Old Batteries: The battery in a quartz watch should be replaced regularly to prevent leakage, which can damage the internal components. If you notice your watch losing time or stopping unexpectedly, it may be time to replace the battery.
  • Be Aware of Watch Magnetism: Quartz watches can become magnetized, which can affect their accuracy. Avoid placing your watch near magnetic objects, such as speakers or magnetic closures on bags, and consider demagnetizing it if you suspect it has become magnetized.
  • Avoid Sudden Temperature Changes: Extreme temperature changes can cause condensation to form inside your watch, potentially damaging the movement. Avoid exposing your watch to sudden temperature changes, such as going from a hot sauna to a cold water plunge pool.
  • Have Your Watch Pressure Tested: Roldorf & Co. emphasizes the importance of pressure testing for water-resistant quartz watches. This process, similar to finding a puncture in a bicycle tire, helps ensure the watch’s water resistance remains intact and prevents potential water damage. However, it’s worth noting that this is not a final test, as the movement is removed during the wet testing process.
  • Gentle Cleaning: To clean your quartz watch, use a soft, dry cloth to gently rub or wipe the case and bracelet. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as these can damage the finish of your watch.
  • Have Your Quartz Watch Serviced Every 2-3 Years: While quartz watches are low maintenance, they still benefit from regular servicing. A watchmaker can clean and lubricate the movement, replace worn parts, and ensure your watch is functioning properly.

Digital Watches

Digital Watches

Cleaning your smartwatch is essential for ensuring its longevity and optimal performance. Jill Duffy suggests cleaning your smartwatch screen daily, wiping down the band a few times a week, and doing a deep clean a few times during the life of the device. Additionally, the longer you wait between cleanings, the more difficult the job will likely be. 

Their Specific Cleaning Needs

  • Screen: The screen of your digital watch is prone to collecting dirt, oils, and smudges from daily use. To clean the screen, use a soft, lint-free cloth slightly dampened with water or a gentle screen cleaning solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can scratch or damage the screen.
  • The Band: The band of your digital watch can accumulate sweat, oils, and debris over time. To clean the band, use a damp cloth or mild soap and water to gently wipe away dirt and grime. For a deeper clean, you can remove the band from the watch and soak it in warm, soapy water before rinsing and air-drying thoroughly.
  • The Nooks and Crannies: Pay attention to the nooks and crannies of your digital watch, such as the buttons and crevices where the band attaches. Use a soft brush, like a toothbrush, to gently scrub these areas and remove any buildup of dirt or debris. Be careful not to use too much force, as this can damage the delicate components of your watch.

Importance of Knowing Watch’s Water Resistance & Condition

Water resistance is often indicated by the watch’s specifications and determines how much exposure to water the watch can withstand. Cleaning a watch with low water resistance as if it were highly water-resistant can lead to water damage and costly repairs.

For example, let’s consider the Rolex Submariner, a luxury dive watch known for its exceptional water resistance. Before cleaning a Rolex Submariner, it’s important to know its water resistance rating of 300 meters (1,000 feet) for newer models. This high level of water resistance allows the watch to be cleaned more thoroughly, including submerging it in water.

However, if you were to clean a lower water resistant watch, such as a dress watch like the Rolex Datejust with 100 meters (330 feet) of water resistance, submerging it in water could lead to moisture entering the case and damaging the movement.

Before cleaning, check your watch for damage, loose parts, or signs of wear. Cleaning a damaged watch can worsen the issue and may need professional repairs. 

How to Clean Your Watch at Home: Step-by-Ste

Before starting the cleaning process, gather the necessary tools and materials to ensure effective results. 

Gather Tools and Materials

  • Soft-bristled toothbrush or a watch-specific brush.
  • Toothpicks for small crevices.
  • Clean microfiber cloths for wiping.
  • Anti-bacterial and eco-friendly sanitary wipes.
  • Professional-grade tools for deeper cleaning, as recommended by experts.

Set Up a Safe and Clean Workspace

  • Choose a clean, well-lit area.
  • Lay down a protective soft cloth or towel.
  • Arrange tools and materials within reach.
  • Maintain a clutter-free workspace.
  • Ensure proper ventilation.
  • Use comfortable seating for good posture.

Here’s how to clean your watch professionally and maintain its best appearance:

Step 1: Inspect the Watch for Damage

  • Examine the watch for visible damage using a magnifying glass.
  • Pay attention to the crown, moving parts, and crystal edges.
  • Seek professional service for any damage allowing moisture entry.

Step 2: Remove the Bracelet or Strap

  • Use a spring bar tool to detach the bracelet or strap.
  • Clean leather straps with a damp cloth or sanitary wipe, avoiding water immersion.

Step 3: Wipe and Dry Your Watch

  • Use sanitary wipes to clean the case and crystal, dislodging dirt.
  • Employ toothpicks wrapped in a wipe for hard-to-access areas.
  • If necessary, use a soft-bristled toothbrush for embedded dirt, being cautious with precious metal cases.
  • Thoroughly clean every facet, nook, and engraving with sanitary wipes.
  • Dry the watch using a clean microfiber cloth, patting gently to remove any remaining dirt or moisture.

Deep Cleaning Your Watch Bracelet or Strap

Metal Bracelets

1. Initial Wipe Down: Use a soft cloth, like a microfibre cloth or chamois, to remove dirt and grime from the watch’s surface.

2. Warm Soapy Water Soak: Ensure your watch is water-resistant and fill a sink or bowl with lukewarm water. Soak the watch to loosen grime, then gently brush or wipe it with a cloth. Avoid hot water, as it can damage the watch’s water resistance.

3. Soft Toothbrush Scrub: Use a soft, damp toothbrush to clean the joins and crevices of the bracelet. Be gentle to avoid scratches.

4. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the watch under warm water to remove soap residue. Pat dry with a clean cloth to prevent water spots.

5. Extra Shine: Use glass cleaner or specialized jewelry wipes to give your watch a shiny finish.

Leather Straps

1. Remove the Strap: Safely remove the strap from the watch case to protect it during cleaning.

2. Dry Cloth Wipe Down: Wipe the strap with a dry cloth to remove surface dirt and debris.

3. Mild Soap Cleaning: Dampen a microfiber cloth with gentle soap and rub the leather in small circular motions. Avoid soaking the strap.

4. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the cloth until all hand soap is removed, then gently polish the strap until dry. Avoid direct sunlight or heat, as it can cause cracking.

5. Leather Treatment: Apply a leather conditioner to preserve suppleness and slow down aging of your watch straps.

Fabric Straps

1. Soak in Warm Soapy Water: Remove the strap and soak it in warm, soapy water to remove sweat and bacteria.

2. Scrub with a Toothbrush: Use a toothbrush to scrub away dirt from the weave of the strap.

3. Repeat and Rinse: Repeat 1-2 times soaking and scrubbing until the strap is clean, then rinse thoroughly.

4. Air Dry: Squeeze out excess water and allow the watch band to air dry completely.

Tips on Drying and Reattaching the Bracelet or Strap

  • Once cleaned, ensure the bracelet or strap is completely dry before reattaching it to the watch case.
  • Avoid using excessive heat or direct sunlight to dry leather straps, as this can cause damage.
  • Take care when reattaching straps to avoid damaging the watch case or strap. Follow manufacturer guidelines for proper attachment.

Professional Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular home cleaning can maintain your watch, but professional cleaning is necessary for complex problems or features, exposure to water, persistent dirt, or maintaining vintage watches. Professional watchmakers can provide the required care and specialized techniques.

Benefits of Professional Watch Servicing

  • Expertise and Experience: Professional watchmakers can diagnose problems, perform necessary repairs, and ensure that your watch is functioning optimally.
  • Specialized Equipment: Professional watch servicing facilities are equipped with specialized tools and equipment designed specifically for cleaning and maintaining watches. 
  • Long-Term Preservation: Regular professional helps prevent potential problems from developing over time. By addressing issues early and performing preventive maintenance, you can extend the lifespan of your watch and preserve its value.
  • Warranty Maintenance: Many watch manufacturers require regular servicing to maintain the warranty validity. By adhering to these requirements and having your watch serviced by authorized professionals, you can ensure that your warranty remains intact.

Maintaining Your Clean Watch

After you’ve cleaned your watch, it’s important to maintain its cleanliness and appearance. Here are some tips for daily and weekly maintenance, as well as how to store your watch properly:

Daily Maintenance Tips

  • Wipe Down: Use a soft, lint-free cloth to gently wipe down your watch at the end of each day. This helps remove any oils, dirt, or grime that may have accumulated during wear.
  • Avoid Water Exposure: Unless your watch is water-resistant, avoid exposing it to water during daily activities such as washing hands or doing dishes.
  • Check for Damage: Regularly inspect your watch for any signs of damage, loose parts, or scratches. Addressing these issues early can prevent further damage.

Weekly Maintenance Tips

  • Deep Clean: Give your watch a more thorough cleaning once a week using mild soap and water. Be sure to dry it thoroughly afterward to prevent water damage.
  • Inspect the Strap: Check the condition of your watch strap and clean it if necessary. Leather straps may benefit from occasional conditioning to keep them supple.

Proper Watch Storage

  • Use a Watch Box: Store your watch in a watch box or case to protect it from dust, dirt, and scratches.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Keep your watch away from direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure can cause the dial and strap to fade or deteriorate.
  • Consider a Watch Winder: If you have an automatic watch, consider using a watch winder to keep it running smoothly when not in use.


1. What’s the best thing to clean a watch with?

The best thing to clean a watch with is a soft, lint-free cloth dampened with lukewarm water. For tougher grime, a mild soap solution can be used. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the watch’s surface.

2. Is it OK to clean a watch with alcohol?

No, it is not recommended to clean a watch with alcohol as it can damage certain materials, such as the watch’s case or strap. Alcohol may also strip away protective coatings and affect the watch’s finish.

3. How do I clean and shine my watch?

To clean and shine your watch, start by wiping it down with a soft, lint-free cloth dampened with lukewarm water. For stubborn dirt or grime, use a mild soap solution. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials. After cleaning, gently buff the watch with a dry cloth to restore its shine.

Final Word

Maintaining the cleanliness of your watch is vital for preserving its appearance and functionality over time. Knowing when to seek professional help ensures that your timepiece receives the care it deserves, especially for intricate issues or vintage dress watch requiring delicate handling.

Key Takeaways

  • Knowing your watch’s specific type, water resistance level, and any particular vulnerabilities is crucial before cleaning.
  • Utilize the right tools for cleaning, such as soft-bristled brushes, toothpicks for crevices, and microfiber cloths to avoid scratches.
  • While regular home maintenance can keep your watch in good condition, professional cleaning is advised for watches with complex features, after exposure to water, for persistent dirt, or for vintage pieces.

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