How to Clean Your Stainless-Steel Watch

With its sophisticated surfaces and tough exterior, stainless steel is a common metal in the watchmaking world. Many Timex® watches come with stainless-steel cases and bracelets, from classic silver to brushed metal finishes.

While a hardy material, stainless steel still requires love and care if you want to keep it looking fresh and bright. An important part of maintaining the look and function of your Timex is regular cleaning. Below, we discuss how to clean your stainless steel watch to maintain its polished shine and prevent damage to the bits inside.

clean a watch

Why does stainless steel require special care?

Over time, the polished look of a stainless-steel watch can begin to dull. The slight openings between the links of metal bracelets are also privy to settling dust and dirt, which can lead to wear or even corrosion. Even with water-resistant designs, stainless steel watches can be vulnerable to rust due to frequent swimming, saltwater exposure or even just frequent sweating.

If you do own a dive watch that’s used frequently in saltwater or even in freshwater lakes, it will need a bit of special care to make sure it stays clean, fresh and functional. Here’s a short video from the experts at Gear Patrol on how to maintain a dive watch:

Here’s how to clean your stainless-steel watch:

1.  Wipe it down
Start by wiping down the watch with a soft cloth to remove initial layers of dirt, dust or grime. You can use paper towel for this, but a microfiber or chamois cloth is recommended. In a pinch, a clean dish towel or t-shirt hem will work just fine, but likely won’t remove as much grime as a finer, softer cloth.

2. Dip the watch in warm soapy water
First it’s important to note that you want lukewarm water, not hot or steaming water. And here’s why: temperature fluctuations can cause the gaskets that keep water out to expand or contract, potentially allowing water to penetrate the watch itself and damage the delicate components inside. Even the most robust and water-resistant dive watches can fail after an evening in the hot tub or sauna, and most watch manufacturers recommend against showering with your watch on your wrist because of the exposure to water above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So to clean your watch, fill up a sink basin or clean bowl with lukewarm water. A short soak and some gentle wiping with a cloth should remove most grime from your watch. If not, you can add a drop of antibacterial dish soap to the water. Dish soap is formulated to dissolve grease, which is why it works to remove oils and debris from stainless steel. If the watch is not water-resistant, be careful to dip only the strap in the water — you wouldn’t want to damage a watch by trying to clean it.

3. Gently scrub the stainless-steel bracelet
Use a damp, clean toothbrush to get into the crevices of the stainless-steel bracelet. Be mindful of how much pressure you apply, as a heavy hand can cause unwanted scratches.

4. Rinse with warm water
Dip the bracelet in warm water or run it under the sink to rinse away the soap. Leaving soap residue on the steel can cause it to tarnish and look dull, while a proper rinse will help preserve the fresh brushed or polished surfaces like new.

5. Dry with a soft cloth
Pat the watch dry with a bath towel, or use a hair dryer on a low-heat setting to quickly dry in between the links. If you wear the watch immediately after you clean and rinse it, your body heat will help get rid of water between bracelet links and in other little nooks and crannies.

6. Add sparkle and shine
Spray glass cleaner on a soft cloth, and wipe down the watch face, case and bracelet to refresh the shine. If the cleaning is overdue, you can get deeper into the bracelet and its crevices by dipping the soft brush in glass cleaner and gently scrubbing the bracelet. If you’re comfortable removing the bracelet, you can remove it from the case and soak it in glass cleaner for about 15 minutes, and then rinse with clean water. Make sure to wipe it clean with a soft cloth when you’re finished.

How often should you clean your stainless-steel watch?

If you wear your watch every day, give it a deep clean once a month. The most meticulous watch wearers will wipe down their timepieces daily. Just like washing your face and brushing your teeth before bed, your watch can benefit from a quick clean. Use a soft cloth to wipe down the inside of the band, plus the back and front of the case. This will help remove any excess moisture or lotion that rubbed off your skin and onto the watch throughout the day. Regular maintenance and care for your watch will make your monthly deep cleaning even easier.

Every once in a while, it’s also worth taking your watch in for a professional service and cleaning. An expert can polish away scratches that your toothbrush can’t.  A jeweler can also perform regular tune-ups, including gasket replacement to maintain water resistance, to ensure your timepiece is in solid working order.

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