Search This Blog

January 06, 2019

Re-using Beads and Cleaning Bead Holes

If an article about cleaning bead holes doesn't make you excited for the new year, what does?

I realize it's not that catchy, but I've started the year with the intent to 'Do more, and buy less', so the topic is on point. Of the two wire wrapped rosary chain bracelets below, the top one has beads in desperate need of a cleaning. They are peach moonstone just like the new bracelet underneath it.  I guess when you wear a bracelet every day without taking it off, it can get a bit grimy.

Even though I own enough beads to stock a small bead store, I can't bring myself to throw out a perfectly good bead - no less an entire bracelet worth of them. Especially when they are gemstone beads. So, I had to find a way to clean them up, if possible.

First, I salvaged the clasp and used it on the new bracelet. It was still in good shape, so no need to do much more than give it a polish.

Next, I cut off all the beads and added the wire to my gold filled scrap jar.  I always save my wire scraps and with gold filled becoming more expensive, it will eventually add up.

But what about those beads? Black all the way through the bead hole. They were on 26 gauge wire, so the hole is small.

My first try to clean them involved putting them in a fizzy liquid. I ran across some Efferdent denture cleaner when I was cleaning out a drawer. Not sure why I had it or why I thought it would work. It didn't.  Maybe it loosened some dirt for the next steps - but there seemed to be no visible difference after their fizzy bath.

Since I was treating them like teeth, I got the idea to floss the holes. I found some twisted nylon c-lon thread - in a light color so I would have the satisfaction of seeing if it worked - and a flexible collapsible eye beading needle and while I watched the movie Bird Box last night, flossed the bead holes.

I'm pretty impressed that it worked! 

Of course, if I wasn't such a freak about tossing beads I would have to wonder if the effort was worth it. 

I put each bead individually on to the doubled thread using the thin wire needle. For most beads, it was a perfect fit or a little loose. I just pulled the bead up and down the thread pulling it so that the thread was dragging hard against the inside of the hole. Then I would rotate the bead a little and repeat. It didn't require any attention, so it was easy enough to do while watching the movie.  I had to do each bead a couple of times, and added some water to the thread on the second round.

After I got them all cleaned, the color wasn't as peachy or pretty as I expected, so I began to wonder if the stones were dyed. I couldn't find the rest of the strand, but I did manage to find a few that I added to headpins that have never been worn.  Same color, so I guess they didn't fade and probably were not dyed.

Now, what to do with them?  I decided since they had new life, maybe making a simple wish bracelet with gemstones would be a good option.  I usually use c-lon cord for wish bracelets, but for a quick prototype, I used the same c-lon thread that I used to clean them.

Nothing fancy. Just a few macrame square knots around the stones to keep them in place and give them a little breathing room. I wanted to add a little bit of interest around the stones. I think this might be more interesting with a different color cord that is a bit thicker.

My Beadalon tying station happened to be sitting next to me, so it was handy to hold the cords while I knotted.  I used super glue to secure the thread ends before I cut them.

I'll try to refine the new wish bracelet idea a little more and post the results, but I'm happy I was able to salvage the beads and return them to a useful state.

I think the technique will work with some other types of beads - vintage glass beads and lampwork.

With regards to lampwork, I'm never sure if I'm supposed to leave the white bead release in the holes or clean it out.  I'm assuming it's bead release in the holes. It's white and chalky. I'll have to look again - I think it is only on the less expensive beads that I have from China.

As 2019 gets under way, I am grateful and feel blessed to be able to continue my jewelry making journey and writing about it. After having spent several years writing about jewelry making and beadwork for other sites (, The Spruce, The Spruce Crafts), I'm back to writing just for me.

It feels invigorating not to worry about following publishing formats, schedules or making editors happy. It was a big decision to let that go, but I'm happy I did. It has opened the door for other opportunities and I look forward to challenging myself.

This year, I'll be allowing myself to experiment more, writing about things that are big and small, and most importantly, I'm just going to keep it fun.  If you'd like, you can follow along by getting notifications of new posts via email, on Facebook or other social media. You'll find all of the information on my Sign Up page.


  1. Flossing beads is a great tip :)

  2. what a great tip! I can't throw out glass beads either, unless they are Really ugly or Really worn out.

    1. I can't even throw out really ugly ones. I feel like someone has to love them.

  3. It seems I can't throw out ANYTHING!!! I would be driving myself crazy thinking about how I could re-use the thread or floss I used to clean them with! LOL!

  4. Lisa, as a budding beader I find yours to be my "Go To" site for fresh ideas and great AHA moments - and both are liberally seasoned with wonderful encouragement. And this one...about cleaning beads...? GREAT IDEA. I am on it! Thanks so much for sharing your jewelrymaking journeys.

    1. Thank you! It's funny how when you write about things you do that you think are silly, they can resonate with so many people. It's always great to know.

  5. Yes, remove the bead release. It comes off fairly easily with a soaking in water and a bead reamer or toothpick, like the flossing it might take more than once with a water change in between.


  6. Thanks for the tip, Lisa. I just cut up a blue Chalcedony necklace where all the holes turned black (not at black as your moonstone). I have 175 rondelle pieces to clean!