How to clean coins

Whether your coins are copper or silver, new or old, this guide will give you handy tips on how to clean coins and make sure any collectables look their best!

Updated 24 September 2021


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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How to clean coins

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Coins can pick up a lot of dirt over time. Whether you’re hoping to brighten up your old change or bring a shine to a collectible, there are various methods that provide an effective cleaning solution – but before you start, you need to ask yourself if you should clean your coins. This easy guide will firstly help you decide whether cleaning your coins is appropriate, and then explains how to clean a coin safely and effectively in seven simple steps.

One easy method for cleaning everyday pocket change is to place your coins in an airtight jar of distilled water and sand. Simply seal the jar and shake vigorously to brighten your coins up. Be warned, however, that this method relies on abrasion and is not suitable for valuable, antique, or collectible coins.

Cleaning Old Coins: Should You Do It?

If your coins are collectibles, or antiques you might want to sell or trade in the future, you should first ask a specialist for advice. You don’t want to reduce the value of a coin by cleaning it.

However, if you are simply collecting coins as a hobby, and do not intend to ever sell or trade your coins, then yes, feel free to make your coins bright and shiny. As it circulates from hand to hand, coins do pick up germs, so cleaning coins will make it more hygienic to handle them. If a child is starting a collection, using coins that are in regular circulation, you may want to clean these coins to make the hobby more hygienic for the child.

How to Clean Old Coins and Dirty Coins

If you do decide to clean your coins, there are various tried-but-true methods you can use. Never use jewellery cleaner or a metal polish, as these are quite harsh and will damage your coin. Always use a cloth or fabric on your coins, and not a tissue, paper towel, or other paper-based material – these can scratch the surface of your coin. And always start by washing your hands with soap and water, to remove any oil or grit from your fingers.

  • Run cold water over your coins — You might want to start simply by holding the coins under the tap and running cold water over them This will start to knock away any dirt or grit that is encrusted on your coins. Faster-running water is more effective.

  • Soak your coins in warm soapy water — Add a squirt of mild dishwashing detergent to a plastic container filled with warm tap water. Rub each coin inside this soapy bath to work off any dirt or grit. Don’t put all your coins in here at once. Work on them individually, and do not use a metal or ceramic bowl, as this can also scratch your coins.

  • Use a toothpick or extra soft-bristled toothbrush to work off encrusted dirt — Either of these, in combination with warm soapy water, can be useful to pick off dirt or corrosion stuck on your coins.

  • Soak dirtier coins in a cup of white vinegar — The acid in vinegar is great at dissolving stubborn stains or corrosion. You can soak the coins for at least 30 minutes, a few hours, or even overnight.

  • Rinse under hot running water — After soaking, make sure to rinse off any soap residue or vinegar with hot or warm running water. Take care not to scald yourself with the hot water.

  • A final rinse with distilled water adds shine — Distilled water is free of any impurities or minerals, so it can rinse away any contaminants in tap water. One by one, swish each coin around in a plastic container filled with distilled water.

  • Pat or air-dry on a soft towel – Do not rub your coins dry. Pat them dry to remove, and let the air do the rest. If the final rinse was with distilled water, just let them air-dry without any patting.

So long as you are aware of the effect on their collectible value, you can now clean your coins with any of these easy methods. With just a few simple steps, you can remove the dirt, grime, and germs from your coins and leave them looking shiny and new.

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