How to Clean a Watch Movement

Proper cleaning of all parts to remove traces of oil residue, dirt and other sediments from the surface is one of the most essential aspects of a watch movement. It is necessary for various reasons, and one of them is that it keeps time more reliable.

A clean watch movement will look more enticing especially when displayed in a watch case. Also, thoroughly cleaning the movement is essential in order to preserve the movement’s lifespan.

Although there is a difference between mechanical and manual watch movements, they are cleaned quite similarly. To know how to clean your watch movement, follow these simple steps below.

cleaning of a watch with a cloth

Source: Glam Lelaki

Step 1: Soaking the Watch Parts

watch parts soaked on water for cleaning

Source: Watch Repair Lessons

This is the initial step of cleaning a watch movement. You need to soak the parts in a cleaning fluid for a couple of minutes. Then, you start brushing the surface using a small paintbrush in order to remove any stroppy particles. You can use distilled water and washing liquid during this stage.

You can also use an ultrasonic cleaner and using a paintbrush to clean up the parts. It is also helpful to load the watch parts into a small sieve so that it will be quicker to move the tiny parts from one cleaning liquid to another.

One thing you need to remember is that larger parts should be placed in the solution prior to putting the smaller delicate ones. The use of warm water is more recommended in cleaning watch parts.

Step 2: Transfer to Another Cleaning Liquid

watch parts being transferred to another liquid

Source: The Military Watch Resource

After you’re done with the first solution, next is to transfer the watch parts to the next cleaning liquid. You can use 99.9% isopropyl alcohol for this since this type of alcohol is very useful in cleaning solvent. It dissolves any oils or grease that was not removed during the initial step.

No need to dry the parts when moving them to another solution, but it is recommended to blot them on a paper towel. This is to remove excess residue from the first solution. Usually, the parts are submerged in the solution for about 10 minutes. While being submerged, stir the parts’ surface to help the cleaning process.

It is also helpful to steady the parts using a piece of peg wood while cleaning the parts’ surface using a small brush.

Step 3: Moving to the Final Solution

moving of watch parts to the final solution

Source: GJSelgins Blog

During this phase, all watch parts should be clean. 

However, it is recommended to move the parts to one more cleaning solvent to take out residue traces.

Just like in the second step, parts should be blotted prior to moving them to the final solution. You can simply use water or to remove traces of dirt.

Transfer each watch part carefully from the previous container holding the other cleaning liquid into a sieve first, in order to get rid of the elements.

Then, move them one by one to the final solution that you have prepared for the total cleaning of your watch and its parts.

Step 4: Drying Every Watch Part

drying of watch parts

Source: Watch Workshop

So your parts are now clean, the next step is to dry them out. All parts should be moved one by one from the cleaning liquid. Make use of tweezers to transfer them from one solution to the final one. Then, dry them up using a blower.

Remember, it should be one part at one time. Once it is done, each part should be properly checked for cleanliness and stored in a dust-cover container to avoid the newly cleaned parts from being contaminated. 

If some parts are still dirty, change the cleaning fluids with a new one, or perhaps use another cleaning fluid type. Soaking the parts for a couple of minutes/hours and at the same time stirring the surface will help improve the cleaning process.

Step 5: The Extra Delicate Parts

intricate and delicate parts of a watch

Source: Gentleman’s Gazette

The pallet fork and balance assembly have jewels that are maintained through shellac. The shellac can be dissolved by specific solvents and one of them is ethanol. While it is safe for these certain parts to clean using the same method above, you should take extra precautions to avoid any damage.

Make use of lighter fluid, soak them for a few minutes, then brush the surface carefully. Once done, transfer them to another container of a lighter solution to remove residue.

After you are done soaking these parts in the other cleaning solution, dry these parts thoroughly. A similar method is used to dry them up, just like the other parts mentioned.

Once everything is properly cleaned and all tidy and dry, the watch movement can be assembled again and lubricated.


Whether you’re a watch expert or not, it’s important to learn and understand how to clean a watch movement. This process is essential in maintaining your watch’s movement to work properly. The method itself can be tedious since you need to deal with tiny and intricate stuff, but the aftermath is worth it. Also, different watch movements manufacturers can teach you how to properly do it, what are the best tips, and other helpful insights in watch and watch movement. You can even learn how to replace watch battery by yourself. If you have different ideas on the watch movement, please comment below to share your thoughts.

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Since the water can make metals rusty, I use benzene to remove grease and oil, ultrasonic cleaner, hair dryer, and for the last clean into acetone, dry them once more then asembly. This methode is work only on mechanical movement, don’t use it on Quartz or hybrid movement. Benzene and acetone will damage the plastic parts. So be carefull.

I have a watch that I need cleaned. I believe this to be the problem with it not running . Do you have anyone that cleans watches.? Please Email me if you have and what the procedure for getting it to you.

Cleaning the watches is always hard. Much easier to clean my silver jewelry: just use some toothpaste lol.
Thanks for the tips. I always got my handwatches to a professional because they seemed so hard to clean. Will take your tips into consideration next time.

Hello SOFLY,
I just noticed your website and would like to order a catalogue (if possible). I’m interested in watch parts and tools as well!
Thank You!!
Eddie Stekar
(Watch Tech.)

——–> Eddie Stekar,
153 Rosemount Avenue,
Weston, Ontario, Canada.
M9N 3C2

Good info. I like it. I am curious in the case of old movements. Timex etc, not expensive. Are there cheats to getting old mechanicals going again without overhauling. I heard of a fella using petrol. Put the whole movement in to soak. Then alchohol. Only oil the mains etc. What do you think.?
Maybe I need to look at better screwdrivers.?

I’m glad you explained that an ultrasonic cleaner can be used to clean up the parts of a watch. In the next couple of days, I want to purchase an antique watch to add to my collection that I started a couple of months ago. These tips you shared will help me to know how to properly clean my watches and make sure that they last for a long time.

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