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How to clean and care for your threader earrings and ears

Above: Sterling Silver threader earrings with pink CZ hearts

So you’ve chosen your perfect threader earrings and they’ve arrived in your letterbox. How do you now take care of them to ensure they last a long time and wearing them is trouble free? The key is to keep both your earrings and ears clean.

With any earrings, you will get a build up of oil and dead skin cells that can accumulate on the earring and sometimes on the ear itself. This is perfectly natural but it can smell quite unpleasant, earning it the nickname ‘ear cheese’!

This builds up around piercings because your body renews and replaces skin cells constantly, and since the ears are a harder place to clean, this can build up and cause that familiar smell. This is more so if you wear earrings with earring backs, as the earring back presses the build-up against the skin.

For newer piercings, you’re more likely to see this happen because your body is still dealing with being punctured – but it can occur even if your piercing has been there for years.

The good news is, you’re less likely to get this with threader earrings because they don’t have an earring back. However, threader earrings have a lot more intricate parts than standard earrings. For most designs, it is the fine chain that sits in the ear and this is an opportunity again for the build up.

This build up can be worse if you tend to leave in the same earrings for a long period of time. Whilst threader earrings can be super comfy to sleep in at night (i.e. no hard earring posts or backs), if you wear them every night you may see more build up.

So how can this be prevented? Simply, remove your earrings, clean both the earrings and the ear, and (assuming you can because they are not new piercings) give your piercings a rest from wearing earrings from time to time. You should also try to keep the site of your piercing clean and dry.

What should I clean my threader earrings and ears with?

Protolind earring cleaning spray

A very good option for cleaning both your earrings and ears is Prontolind Spray (above) which is recommended by a lot of piercing studios. This is an antibacterial spray which you can use with a cotton bud to keep your earrings shiny, clean and grime-free. For ear-cleaning, it penetrates into the piercing and reaches areas that are difficult to access with ordinary cleaning. The manufacturer explains:

“The polyhexanide-betain-complex reliably protects against germs and associated infections. Healing is promoted without burning or itching. Prontolind Spray is dermatologically compatible and suitable for all types of piercing.” ~ Protolind

Protolind is really inexpensive and dual-use (great for cleaning both earrings and ears). However, an alternative homemade remedy for cleaning earrings is to simply mix a small amount of baking soda with a few drops of water to form a paste. You then need to use a lint-free cloth to clean the earrings using the paste. A cotton bud or old toothbrush can also be handy for cleaning in the ‘details’. Once you’ve cleaned them, give them a rinse to remove the paste and dry them with a clean lint-free cloth.

An alternative cleaning method is to soak the earrings for 30 minutes or so in rubbing alcohol which is relatively cheap – but don’t use this if your earrings have stones (such as Cubic Zirconia) as it may melt the glue used to attach the stones. You could instead use the rubbing alcohol selectively on the chain, applying with a cotton bud to remove any residue.

Another reasonably cheap solution for cleaning the ear piercing itself is to use a 0.9% sterile saline solution. This should be sterilised, pre-mixed, and ideally have a sterile delivery method like a can spray that ensures bacteria cannot enter the can once opened. This might be something you already have in your first aid kit, saving you a bit of money – otherwise, you are probably better off buying the Protolind as the pricing is quite similar.

Avoid using antiseptic preparations on new piercings such as Savlon, TCP, Hydrogen Peroxide, Surgical Spirit, Dettol, Tea tree oil or Lavender oil, which you will see recommended from time-to-time. These are too harsh and will cause irritation.

We would also advise you to avoid bottled re-sealable piercing solutions. Manchester piercing studio ‘Holier Than Thou‘ explains:

“Although these are marketed as a piercing aftercare solution, they often contain nasty preservatives and do not have a sterile delivery method – this means that once opened they carry a high risk of causing infection due to growth of Pseudomona aeruginosa or Notuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM).”

How can I keep my threader earrings looking their best?

Cleaning cloth for threader earrings

We use Connoisseurs Silver Jewellery Cleaning Cloths which are ultrasoft polishing cloths made from 100% cotton. We’ve been using this type of cloth for around two years now and we can honestly say they really are the best ones we have ever purchased. Using the cloth is a two-step process:  first, you remove any tarnish with the inner cloth which applies an anti-tarnish formula, and second, you buff and polish with the ultra soft outer cloth to make your threader earrings really gleam.  These cloths are superb and really long-lasting.

We would however recommend that you still use the Protolind spray on your jewellery. Whilst the Connoisseurs cloth is superb for cleaning surface grime and bringing the silver up all bright and shiny, the Protolind will kill any hidden bacteria that might cause irritation.

What if my earrings are plated?

Some of our pieces have gold or rhodium plating over the Sterling Silver.

Rhodium is hypoallergenic, lustrous and highly durable. It can prevent the silver oxidising when in contact with the air or skin thereby reducing tarnish. It also makes the jewellery more resistant to scratches. Gold plating allows you to own beautiful gold jewellery without the associated price tag! Unlike cheap base metals, gold plated sterling silver keeps its shine and gilding for longer.

Both types of plating wear off over time but you can slow the process down by avoiding common causes of wear such as chlorine, humidity, perspiration, salty air, cosmetics and household chemicals. Avoid wearing your jewellery in the swimming pool, ensure any creams/lotions/perfumes have dried before you put it on, keep it away from cleaning products and so on. When you’re not using your jewellery, store it away in a jewellery box or pouch.

In addition, avoid chemical or abrasive cleaners – instead clean plated silver jewellery with a very mild liquid soap, warm water and soft brushes/cloths.

What should I do if my ears get sore?


  1. you wear threader earrings in piercings that have healed properly;
  2. you insert them and remove them gently; and
  3. you keep your earrings and your ears clean,

they should not get sore. However, sometimes it is easy to make a mistake and pull out your earring a little harshly, or neglect cleaning it for a while. If this happens, treat the ear with Protolind and insert a clean pair of simple ear studs until the piercing has healed. Apply the Protolind as the packaging instructs, to help the piercing heal faster. If you don’t have Protolind, a chamomile tea bag (pure chamomile without any real tea or caffeine) which have been allowed to cool slightly so they don’t burn will make a great compress for your ear. Hold this on the piercing until the teabag cools, and repeat this daily.

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