This might not be something that happens every day or one that everyone who loves earrings struggles with, but what happens when it happens to you? What happens when you wake up one day and realize the annoying smell you’ve been sniffing around the house for is actually coming from your ears/ earrings?
Do you throw the earrings away, put them away somewhere in the bathroom or by the windowsill, or do you look for remedies to clean the earrings and hopefully get rid of the smell?
While you may be tempted to get rid of the smelly earrings, we don’t think that this is the ideal remedy – the pair could be your most expensive and cherished pieces yet, or you may end up noticing the same problem with the next pair of earrings.
So, we’d recommend finding remedies to the problem. But before we look at what you could do, why exactly is causing the repulsive smell on the earrings?
Why do your earrings or earring backs become smelly?
Earrings and earring backs could become smelly after some time.
It’s, without a doubt, one of those things that will really gross you out, especially if that funky smell comes accompanied by the worst-looking gray-colored gunk around the earring’s back.
And nothing can be more embarrassing than the smell of cheese on your ears.
Well, it turns out that this stinky occurrence even has a name; some people call it ear cheese. The smell is quite putrid and distinctive and only worsened by the gray gunk around the back.
And the most interesting thing is that the ear cheese is considered a normal occurrence (you’ll agree with us that this will be a subject of discussion for another day, no?) and that a large number of individuals with pierced earlobes face this problem at least once in their lives.
But what causes it?
The ear cheese is regarded as one of the natural and expected things that happen to individuals with pierced ears. It often results from the build-up of dead skin and oils from the piercing site. In other words, a natural biological process.
Think of it this way: the human body is constantly renewed and replaces skin cells, and when we shower and cleanse, we get rid of the dead skin cells and never notice. But the ears can be a little hard to clean, especially with new piercings.
Given the delicate nature and the sensitivity of the new piercings, and the fact that the area is already hard to clean, there is a significant build-up of oils and cells, which form a thick-textured plaque. The body could also be reacting to the new punctures, -which means fluids and dried-up blood accumulates too.
This accumulation not only makes a good breeding ground for bacteria and other parasites but also, all that gunk will leave a smell – the same way smell comes from the garbage when it sits for too long.
Beyond the new and healing ear piercing, even people with healed piercings may suffer the same fate if they never take out their earrings.
The risk of getting cheesy ears is also higher if your ear piercings have been stretched over time. The good news is that this problem can be remedied easily.
How to clean earrings that smell
First, take your earrings out. Even if the piercing is not fully healed.
Then clean the piercing site gently using saline water and a cotton swab. You should clean the earrings too. And it’s also recommended that you take a break from wearing earrings.
If the piercing site is unhealed, taking the earrings out means risking the holes closing up completely.
How do you clean the earrings well?
There are different ways of cleaning your earrings, especially if they are smelly. But the most important consideration for you is to know that the cleaning process will depend on the materials that the earrings are made of.
Sterling silver, diamond, or platinum earrings can handle a bit of rough-housing, while delicate pearl earrings call for extra care and the use of gentler materials.
Here are the cleaning options available:
1. Using Hydrogen Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide is not only one of the best cleaning solutions for jewelry but also a great disinfectant. So, it will wash away all the grime, kill bacteria and other parasites, and in the process, take the smell away. To use hydrogen peroxide to clean the earrings, follow these steps:
- Pour a little hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol in a small bowl or bottle cap, then throw the earrings and the backs into the cleaning bowl with peroxide or rubbing alcohol.
- Let your earrings and the backs sit for about a minute when using peroxide or 10 minutes for peroxide.
- After 10 minutes, you should see some dirt settled at the bottom of the small bowel or the cap of the bottle you’ve soaked the pieces.
- Take them out of the peroxide or rubbing alcohol bath, then place the earrings and the backs on a clean paper towel. Now, if you notice that there is still dirt/ gunk left in there, take a toothpick and get in there to get out the remaining gunk. You could also use Q-Tips to gently remove any grime that could be leftover. Now, you may want to put these earrings back in the peroxide or alcohol bath, just to get rid of any other gunk that may have been loosened. Once satisfied, pat them dry on a clean paper towel, then wear or put them away in storage. Air drying is an option too.
2. Use alcohol wipe pads – Quick Remedy
If you are in a rush and need your earrings cleaned fast, you may want to get some alcohol pads.
- Take the earrings one after the other, and use the rubbing alcohol pad to rub them with until it feels and looks as clean as you’d want it to be.
- Next, place the earring on a paper towel and pat it dry.
- Repeat for the other earring and backs, and you’re good to go!
3. Cleaning pearl earrings
Pearls are very delicate, and you cannot clean them in peroxide or rubbing alcohol. To clean these earrings, you need soft and gentle materials.
- Get soft tissue or a cotton pad. Then dip it or run it under warm water, delicately, then wipe on the earring very gently and in small sections because you need to protect the pearls.
- If the pearl earrings are too dirty, you may want to add a drop or two of dishwashing liquid or hand soap (again, the mildest soap you can find), then dip the cotton swab in, and very gently clean the pearls. How gentle? As gently as you can handle a newborn. Also, make sure to use warm water. If this doesn’t work, soak the pearl earrings in lukewarm water for about 6 minutes, then pat it dry.
4. Cleaning smelly and tarnished sterling silver earrings
To clean these earrings, consider using a silver wipe. You could use a microfiber cloth first because it will get rid of all visible grime. The silver wipe will get rid of tarnish or any other grime and the smell in the process.
How do you stop my earrings from smelling again?
- Choose earrings that move freely and allow the skin to breathe
- Avoid metals that would cause allergies
- Always keep the area around the piercing clean dry
- Don’t keep earrings in for too long
Hydrogen Peroxide, rubbing alcohol, alcohol pads, warm soapy water, and even silver wipes are all remedies that would help you get rid of the ear cheese.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.