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How to clean your watch

Posted 8 June 2023 by Miriam Reading time approximately 4 minutes

Cleaning your watch should be done regularly. After all, you wear your favourite watch every day. Over time, the watch may start to look somewhat dirty and dull. Dust, dander and sweat accumulate in the strap and corners of the case. You can of course go to the watchmaker for a thorough cleaning, but cleaning your watch yourself is not that difficult if you follow the step-by-step plan below.


How to clean your watch: four easy steps

Before you start, it is important to know whether your watch can withstand water. Usually the water resistance of the watch is stated on the dial and/or the back of the case. Good preparation is half the job!

Step 1: Preparation

- What material are your watch and strap made of? Steel, precious metal, plastic, ceramic? Often the watch strap is made of a different material than the case. In that case it is wise to loosen the watch strap and clean it separately. Do you need help with loosening the watch strap? Then view our information page about replacing watch straps.

- To prevent water damage, make sure that all screws and crowns of the watch are properly tightened so that no moisture enters the watch.

- Avoid damage. Do not use hard brushes to polish your watch. A soft, clean toothbrush and soft (polishing) cloth are fine.

- Can't detach the strap from your watch, and is the watch less than 5 ATM/Bar/50 meters water resistant? Then carefully wrap the watch case in clingfilm and work carefully to prevent moisture from entering the watch.

watch wrapped in clingfilm
watch polish
Cleaning bracelet with soapy water


Step 2: Cleaning the watch strap or bracelet

The watch bracelet is most sensitive to dirt due to direct contact with the skin. But with a little love, your strap will look spotless again in no time. The material of your watch strap determines how it can be cleaned:


Water resistant materials: Metal, plastic, ceramic

With lukewarm soapy water and a little bit of soap you can clean watch straps made of materials that can withstand water. For example, titanium and steel bracelets, ceramic bracelets, silicone, rubber and plastic watch straps. 
You can read detailed instructions and tips for cleaning metal and gold watch straps in our blog: “How do I keep my metal watch strap beautiful?”



A textile watch strap such as a (nylon) NATO strap is best washed with a detergent for coloured laundry at a maximum of 30 degrees centrigrade. You can even wash these straps in the washing machine! Put the strapin a sealed laundry bag or tied pillowcase to prevent loss or damage to your washing machine.


Leather and cork

Leather watch straps cannot withstand water well. But the same principle still applies: with proper maintenance, the strap will stay beautiful for longer. 
You can read extensive instructions and tips for the maintenance and cleaning of different types of leather and suede watch straps in our blog: "How do I keep my leather watch strap looking good?". 


You can clean straps made of cork in the same way as leather straps.


Type watch strapHow to cleanNeeded
Metal, steel, titanium, ceramicWater and mild soapSoft brush and cloth, wooden toothpick
Gold, silver and gildedWater and ammonia (6:1) or a purpose detergentCotton wool, soft cloth
LeatherSmall amount of water with a drop of natural soapSoft cloth, leather spray or leather grease
Silicone, rubberWater and soapSoft cloth
Kunststof, kunsthars, plastic, vinylWater and soapSoft cloth
Nylon, Canvas, NATOWater and detergent for coloured washLaundry bag
CorkSmall amount of water with a drop of natural soapSoft cloth


cleaning a leather watch strap
polishing watch crystal
cleaning with a toothpick


Step 3: Polishing the watch case

For smartwatches, always check the user manual first to see whether the product may come into contact with water.


If your watch is at least 5 ATM (5 bar, 50 metres) water ressistant and you have checked whether all screws, crowns and pushers are properly closed, you can first polish the case with a soft polishing cloth and then carefully with a soft brush and a little soapy water.

 If there is caked dirt in an edge, carefully remove it with a wooden toothpick. Do not use metal pins to avoid scratches.

If your watch is not waterproof or less than 5 ATM water resistant, clean the case only with a dry soft brush and a soft (polishing) cloth. 

Note: 'splash-proof' and 'water resistant' are less than 5 ATM!


You can read what you can do if your watch glass is scratched in our blog: "My watch crystal has broken, can it be replaced?".


Step 4: Attach the (dry) strap or bracelet back to the watch.

Now that you know how easy it is, she can clean the outside of your watch herself. This keeps the watch fresh and lasts longer.


Professional cleaning service for the inside of the watch

It is of course possible that an older watch is very dirty, scratched or corroded. Then visit a watchmaker to have the watch given a thorough overhaul on the outside as well as inside.