If you are fond of wearing jewelry, chances are high that you’ve worn a ring at least once in your life that stained your finger green. Don’t worry; this green tinge, while unsightly, is not a sign of infection.
The stain on your finger appears due to a chemical reaction between your skin/products on your skin and the copper in your ring. While harmless, most people prefer their rings not to leave a green band behind.
Having trouble with your ring turning your finger green? Stick around, because we’re going to solve your problem and save you the trouble of scrubbing your skin raw in the future.
Why Rings Turn Your Fingers Green
You know that the green staining on your finger is due to a reaction between your skin and copper in your ring by now, but why does that happen? Let’s talk about that.
When copper encounters moisture, oils, or chemicals, it oxidizes. This means that a thin layer of corrosion forms and turns green over time. Prolonged exposure to any of these elements only adds to the corrosion over time and rubs off on your fingers. This is called tarnish or patina.
One good example of the oxidation of copper is the Statue of Liberty. The statue itself is made of copper and originally looked like a shiny penny. Over time, rain and air exposure caused that green layer to form. This is what happens to your ring, just on a smaller scale and easier to clean off.
Ways to Stop a Ring From Turning Your Finger Green
Now you understand what happens and why it happens, but how do you prevent or delay this reaction from happening altogether? There are several ways to do this, and we’re going to go over each in detail. You can use the tips you learn here to keep your fingers looking perfectly natural.
Keep Your Hands Dry
The best way to prevent the reaction between your skin and your ring from happening is to keep your hands (and ring) dry as much as possible. Lotion, soaps, and water all trigger the reaction. Follow these tips to prevent green staining:
- Apply hand cream before putting on your ring or after taking it off. Those of you who regularly apply hand cream or other lotions may be experiencing green staining because you do so while your ring is on or don’t remove enough of the excess before placing it on your finger. To prevent this in the future, apply the cream without the ring on and wipe off any excess product.
- Avoid wearing lotion at all while you wear your ring. If you can avoid wearing lotion at all when you plan to wear your ring, you should. Even a tiny amount of product could react with the copper.
- Always take your ring off before washing your hands. The biggest enemy of many ring metals is water. When you constantly expose yours to moisture, a thin layer of corrosion called tarnish forms and the water can react to the metal, turning your finger green. Take your ring off to wash up and dry your hands completely before putting it back on.
- Take your ring off while handling household cleaning products. The chemicals in cleaners, whether gentle or harsh, can react on your hands with the metal in your ring and cause staining. Regardless, you should wear gloves when cleaning anyway to avoid skin irritation which can make wearing a ring painful.
- Take off the ring when taking a shower or bath. The same rule applies when swimming or relaxing in a hot tub. This helps you avoid staining and tarnishing your jewelry. Store it in a safe, dry place while you do these activities.
Add a Clear Coat
In a pinch, coating the inner band of your ring with clear nail polish will delay the oxidizing process. This is because the polish creates a barrier between your skin and the metal itself. You should still use caution (i.e. avoid moisture) but this green layer of corrosion should not form as long as you keep the coat maintained.
If you choose to do this, be sure to recoat the inner band when you feel it needs a touch-up.
Avoid Wearing Low-Quality Jewelry
The green staining effect on your finger from a ring often happens because the metal your jewelry is made of is of lower quality. This is not always the case, but it is the most common reason.
Avoiding green staining is easier from the start if you choose jewelry made of only high-quality materials. One of the only examples of high-quality jewelry that can still form this green layer is sterling silver. There is copper in the alloy, but most of the mix is made of pure silver.
What to Do When a Ring Turns Your Finger Green
If this advice is coming a little late for you and you already have a stained finger, don’t fret.
The stain is simple to remove and can even rub off on its own over time! However, there are a few immediate solutions that you can use to remove the sick, green hue.
Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
Nail polish products are much more versatile than one would think. A clear polish coats the inner band of your ring, and nail polish remover can take off a pre-existing stain. This is better used on heavy, stubborn staining; other cases can often be resolved with less drastic measures.
Here’s how you do it:
- Apply a small amount of nail polish remover to a cotton ball or pad.
- Rub your finger gently with the cotton ball/pad to remove staining.
- Wash and dry your hands.
This method is not ideal if you have open wounds. Even non-acetone nail polish remover can be harsh on the skin if used too often, so do this once per week at most.
Rubbing alcohol is also extremely versatile, used for everything from cleaning to medical procedures. It can be used here to remove simple stains due to copper oxidation.
Here’s how you do it:
- Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or pad.
- Rub the stained area gently, remembering to scrub the webbing too, as stains form there and can be harder to remove.
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly afterward.
While this can burn open wounds, it will not be quite as harmful as nail polish remover would. In either case, exercise caution when using this product. Remember, rubbing alcohol is very drying. Prolonged exposure on the skin can cause irritation and burning.
Soap and Water
Some oxidation stains on your finger from your ring will be quite easy to remove. If the staining is very light and rubs off when you touch it, then you should try washing your hands with soap and warm water.
Do this for at least 20 seconds. In many cases, this takes care of the issue; if it doesn’t, feel free to move on to the other methods!
Cleaning Corrosion/Tarnish Off of a Ring
If you can see this green or dull layer building up on your ring, it is definitely time to give your jewelry a good cleaning. Cleaning and polishing your rings will prevent staining on your fingers and help the rings last longer overall.
There are a few methods that you can use when polishing/cleaning your ring. These include:
- Soap and water
- Lemon juice and olive oil
- Baking soda and white vinegar
- Water and baking soda
For in-depth instructions for each method, please click on this link.
What you generally need for cleaning and polishing a ring includes:
- Small bowl
- Cleaning material (as listed above)
- Non-abrasive cloth (x2)
- Soft-bristled toothbrush
- Cotton swab
All of these materials are readily available in your local supermarket and are affordable.
If you prefer not to do the dirty work yourself, though, you can always take your ring to a professional polisher! All you have to do is take your ring in, request the service, hand it over, and pay the person.
It may cost more than the materials you could buy for DIY polishing, but it does save manual labor and support a business. This is the route that most people go when they are unsure of their own cleaning abilities. If you are in doubt and fear that you may scratch or otherwise damage your jewelry, take it to a cleaner.
Preventing your ring from turning your finger green is simple when you know what to avoid and how you can utilize everyday items to make your life easier! Remember, avoid moisture and utilize what you have when it’s safe to do so.
Everyone wants a green thumb, but no one wants a green ring finger. To prevent green stains, try to buy high-quality jewelry and take special care when handling and polishing it. Years in the future, you’ll have clean hands and a beautiful ring to cherish!
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