My jewelry smells like the Bog of Eternal Stench
November 19, 2010 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Please help me de-stinkify my costume jewelry!

95% of my (large) accessory collection is costume jewelry made of different metals. And these necklaces smell. Bad. Like feet. Like so bad that I can't wear some of them any more because it grosses me out (plus I imagine that if I can smell it, people around me must be stifling gags).

Right now I'm wearing a necklace of metal chains with acrylic crystals (similar to this), and this is the second time I've worn it and it already smells. I bought a sunshine cloth to try and get rid of the stench, and though I blackened half of the thing, the smell is still there.

I know how to clean my gold & silver, it's the cheapo metals that baffle me. I've tried plain soap & hot water & it didn't even make a dent. I've seen that toothpaste is good and toothpaste is bad; ammonia is good and ammonia is bad, so I don't want to try those unless someone can assure me they won't destroy my stuff.

Do you think the baking soda/salt/aluminum foil method described in previous jewelry-cleaning questions would get rid of stank?

A possible complication is that most of these pieces have more than just metal attached--acrylic charms, pieces of ribbon & fabric, glass, plastic, etc. (no precious or semi-precious stones, though)

Other facts that may help: I live in a year-round-humid area, and this problem has gotten worse & worse each year that I've been here. I sweat a lot, naturally and due to medication (could the meds affect the chemical content of my sweat in a way that makes the jewelry smell)? No metal allergies. The jewelry lived in various small containers and on wall hooks, though I'm now transitioning to a large felt-lined jewelry armoire. A sonic cleaner is not in my budget, so I'm looking for stuff that's at the drugstore or easily thrown together at home.

Sorry, that's a lot, but I love love love these necklaces and it stinks not to be able to wear them! Thanks for your help!
posted by Fui Non Sum to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know this is a gross question, but what's the smell like? That might help to know.

I would rub the offending pieces with pure lemon juice, or even a piece of lemon, and then either rub them with salt, or if they're too small, pack them in salt for a few days. I have not tried the method you suggest, but it sounds helpful. Desiccation is probably a large part of the answer.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:49 PM on November 19, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry, I kind of buried it in my question. It basically smells like stinky feet. It's a strong odor, though not very sharp, if that makes sense? It won't curl your nose hairs, but it is consistently unpleasant.

Would the salt take care of the stickiness from the lemon juice?
posted by Fui Non Sum at 5:12 PM on November 19, 2010

Just throwing in my two bits here, but if dessication is the key, perhaps pack them in a jar full of silica gel? You can usually get these from shops that sell camera supplies and such.
posted by Alnedra at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2010

I have this problem with my earrings--cleaning them with rubbing alcohol takes care of it.

Another possibility would be Zeolite -- it's a great odor remover. Clean any visible gunk off the jewelry, then pack it (the jewels, not the gunk) in a jar or box of the zeolite granules for a day or so. This stuff doesn't work fast, but it works. Also keep a pouch or open container of the zeolite in the jewelry cabinet.
posted by Corvid at 6:27 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

For stinky sweaty runners/shoes, a reasonably effective way is to freeze them. Like, in the freezer, for a day or two.

Afterwards, keep them in an airtight container with silica gel or some other dessicant.
posted by porpoise at 8:22 PM on November 19, 2010

I'd be guessing that they're picking up and holding both sweat and some natural (ie we all have them) skin yeasts/fungi/bacteria. Thus the athlete's foot type smell.

I'd second the rubbing alcohol idea - it's the quickest way to kill and remove most fungi and mold on household surfaces, but also think about vinegar.

Test small areas first - there's a chance vinegar might be acidic enough to cause some corrosion.
posted by Ahab at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2010

Wipe and soak in isopropanol overnight - rancid fat from sweat is soluble in alcohol, which is why an alcohol wipe works well at cutting pit sweat.

After that, I would try peroxide. Peroxide will actually break down the molecules responsible for the bad odor (as long as they are organic in nature and not H2S from some weird corrosion). Bleach would break down the stink as well but it will eat and pit many metals. If the jewelry is a solid plastic dilute bleach might be ok, but test a small area first.
posted by benzenedream at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2010

Try soaking them in white vinegar.
posted by GEB's fun world at 1:01 PM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I'll report back and mark some best answers when I've tried a few of these.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2010

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