How to wash your beads

Posted by Mortira vanPelt
on Thursday, July 03, 2014

Java beads before cleaning.

Java beads after cleaning.

Love beads before cleaning.

Love beads after cleaning.

Whenever new beads arrive in our workspace, it’s always tempting to open them up and get beading right away. Anything that comes between new beads and a great idea is bound to be a little unwelcome, but sometimes a few extra steps are necessary. Washing beads before using them is definitely one of them.

While most beads are ready to use right out of the package, there are a few that need some care to make sure they’re at their best so that they can make your designs shines. Freshwater pearls and shell, trade beads, and vintage beads can all use a bit of freshening up, and you’d be amazed at how different they look after a quick wash!

Here’s how I do it:

1. Remove your beads from the strand or package, and place in a clean container that is about 3 to 4 times the volume of the beads you’re washing. I like to use fruit or applesauce cups, but just about any container will do. 

2. Add some plain water, enough to fully submerge the beads. Do not add any soap or other products - you don’t want to have any film left behind on the beads. Give them a swish, or place a lid on your container and shake gently. Pour off the water and repeat 3 or more times. If your beads have lots of residue, let them soak for awhile in a bit of warm water, then rinse.

3. Carefully pour off as much of the water as possible, then lay the beads out on a clean towel - lint-free or microfiber is best. Fold the towel over the beads, then use your palm to gently rub the beads in small circles to remove excess water.

4. Spread the beads out on a new dry towel, and let them air dry for a few hours or overnight to be sure that no water is trapped within the bead holes. If necessary, give the beads another soak until you’re happy with the results.

The shine and color that comes out after beads have been washed is absolutely worth the extra effort. It’s also a good way to test your beads for colorfastness. If you’re worried about color coming off, test wash a few beads first.

Do you prefer to wash or prep your beads when you buy them, or just before using them?

Mortira is a full-time bead lover with a passion for seed beads and ancient elements in beadwork. She shares her favorite color ideas, bead finds, and projects every week on her blog, Inspirational Beading.

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