Can You Wear Used Earrings?

earrings on wooden plate

Jewelry is an excellent tool for self-expression, and it transcends cultural barriers. Earrings are as close to universal as accessories come. They are also the only jewelry worn through a part of your body, which raises the question– is it safe to reuse them?

You can wear used earrings. If you clean used earrings properly, they are perfectly safe. However, improperly sanitized or dirty earrings can cause infections. Simple disinfectant measures allow for repeat wearings.

No one buys earrings intending to wear them only once. This article discusses the safety of reusing earrings. I’ll look at how to get the maximum use of your jewelry hygienically and teach you the best earring cleaning methods and the frequency with which you should use them. 

Is Wearing Used Earrings Safe?

You absolutely can wear used earrings. However, the better question is, should you wear used earrings? Earring posts accumulate old skin, oils, and tissue. In some cases, these can cause infections in your ears, and they may even enter your bloodstream and cause a more severe illness.

Wearing used earrings is safe as long as you use a disinfectant to clean off all potential skin, oils, and other gunk that accumulates on the posts. If you fail to clean your earrings, you will likely develop an infection. 

beautiful bride with pearl earrings jewelry wears pink prom dres

Re-wearing Your Earrings

Re-wearing your earrings may seem safer than wearing someone else’s earrings, but it isn’t. Earrings build up gunk, no matter who wears them. 

Maybe you wear them frequently, and they collect microbes and bacteria. Perhaps you wear them once a year, and they’ve collected atmospheric debris. Either way, the posts accrue bacteria and dirt. 

Introducing this debris to your piercing can lead to:

  • Infection
  • Unpleasant smells
  • Allergic reactions

All are undoubtedly undesirable, if not quite fatal. 

It is also worth remembering that some stores allow shoppers to try earrings. You may think you’re wearing unused jewelry. You do not, however, know the entire history of the accessories. Err on the side of caution, and always assume new jewelry has been in other ears. 

Borrowed or Second-Hand Earrings

Friends borrow accessories. You might find an incredible pair of vintage earrings at a thrift store for fifty cents or pick up some at your neighbor’s yard sale. Or, perhaps you’ve inherited some heirloom earrings from your family. Reusing earrings is an excellent way to save some money.

However, it would be best if you took great care with them. Ears have a lot of blood vessels. 

Consider how earrings work. They touch body fluids and bacteria. So, essentially, sharing earrings is equivalent to sharing a needle. 

Neglecting to clean used earrings can lead to blood-borne diseases. For example, used earrings can spread Hepatitis C, staph infections, and other infectious diseases. However, a good cleaning can kill off these pathogens and keep your piercings in tip-top shape. 

How To Sterilize Used Earrings

There are several simple ways to disinfect your used earrings, and most use supplies you probably already have on hand. Each earring cleaning option below provides adequate sanitation and takes just minutes or even seconds if you’re quick.

cleaning jewelry pearl earrings with fabric cloth

So, let’s look at how to sterilize your earrings:  

Rubbing Alcohol

The best cleaning method uses an ingredient you probably already have on hand– isopropyl alcohol. 

To clean your used earrings, pour some rubbing alcohol into the bottom of a cup. Completely cover your earrings and let them soak. After 10 minutes, wipe them down with a clean cotton pad. However, be mindful that alcohol will dissolve some adhesives, so don’t use this method for cheaper earrings with glued-on stones or other decorative pieces. 

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works the same way as alcohol does. When using peroxide, you should submerge the earring for 10 minutes and then wipe it with a clean cotton swab. Be sure to swab every earring part that will contact the ear and get into all those nooks and crannies. 

Saline Solution

A simple saline solution ensures your jewelry doesn’t tarnish and is ideal for precious metals such as gold and silver. If you wear contact lenses, you likely already have this on hand. A little will go a long way. To clean your earrings, wipe every surface that touches the ear with a saline solution like the Equate Saline Solution. This saline solution is helpful for many cleaning purposes. You can use it on any jewelry item to keep it looking brilliant and ensure that it won; ’t cause any infections later. 

A Jewelry Cleaner

There are many jewelry cleaning machines on the market, and they are an excellent option if you want your jewelry to stay in its best shape. While they are more expensive, you can use them for more than just earrings, and they keep precious metals from tarnishing. 

The UKOKE UUC06G Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner is a good option since it offers a gentle but thorough cleaning. 

Liquid Soap

Peroxide and alcohol can damage some earrings since they dissolve plastics, resins, and adhesives. In addition, it will damage items such as Blomdahl Medical plastic earrings. 

So, to keep your plastic, resin, or glue-containing earrings looking great, clean them with warm water and uncolored liquid soap. Soak them for 20 minutes. Then, use a toothbrush with soft bristles to gently scrub the earrings.

When Should I Clean My Earrings?

You should clean your earrings weekly if you wear them often and clean the earrings you don’t often wear right before you put them on. Regularly cleaning your earrings will reduce buildup from your skin and ensure no environmental pathogens make their way into your piercings. 

So, let’s look at how often you should be cleaning your earrings depending on how much you wear them:

Weekly Cleaning

You should clean the earrings you wear at least once a week weekly. Use warm water and color-free liquid soap for the gentlest cleaning since using alcohol or peroxide too frequently could damage your earrings. 

Soak the earrings in soapy water for 20 minutes, which should be sufficient to disinfect them. For more thorough cleaning, use peroxide. Just be careful. Peroxide can damage adhesives and soft metals.

Before Wearing

Earrings you only wear occasionally do not need weekly cleanings. Still, if you haven’t worn them in a while, you should clean them before wearing them. 

Use a strong cleaner for this. Peroxide or rubbing alcohol works best. Sterilize every part of the earring that touches your piercing, or submerge the earrings entirely for 10 minutes. If you do not have the time for a soak, you can also use a disinfectant wipe. 


There is absolutely no reason why you can’t reuse earrings. Still, you have to be careful and employ a regular cleaning schedule to avoid developing an infection.

Improperly sanitized earrings can have unpleasant consequences ranging from foul smells to blood infections. Luckily, these are easily avoidable.

There are many ways to sterilize earrings, such as using alcohol, peroxide, soap, or jewelry cleaner. Done with the right frequency and care, this will assure you can wear your earrings safely for a long time to come.

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