How to Clean Old Coins Without Devaluing Them

In general, old coins should not be cleaned. While you might think that getting all the years of dirt and grime off a coin would make it more valuable, the opposite is actually true! By cleaning a coin, you may actually damage it and decrease its value. At worst, you could permanently damage the coin.

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However, if you have your mind set on cleaning a coin, there are certain ways to safely do it. You might consider cleaning a coin if it’s only for your personal enjoyment and has more sentimental value than monetary value, or if it’s not a particularly rare coin. One popular reason to clean coins is if you are collecting circulated currency, such as Lincoln pennies, that are not rare or ancient.

We have listed here four options to safely clean your coins without devaluing them. If you’re in doubt, always check with a coin expert or fellow numismatist before you try any of these methods!

Method 1: Water

Step 1: Gather materials

For this method, you will need the following:

  • Distilled water
  • Soft towel

Step 2: Rinse coin

Gently rinse the coin with distilled water. Pour distilled water over the surface of both sides of the coin. Or, set the coins in a shallow bowl of distilled water, and let them sit for a few minutes.

Note: It’s crucial not to use tap water, since the chemicals and fluoride found in tap water could damage your coin.

Step 3: Let coin dry

Let the coin dry on your soft towel or cloth. Do not rub the coin, as you could damage it with the fibers of the cloth. Simply let the coin air dry.

Method 2: Vinegar

Step 1: Gather materials

For this method, you will need the following:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Shallow bowl
  • Distilled water
  • Soft towel

Step 2: Soak coin in vinegar

Pour your distilled white vinegar into your shallow bowl. There should be enough vinegar to completely cover your coins. Gently place your coin or coins into the vinegar. Let your coins sit for at least 30 minutes. If your coins are especially dirty, you can let them set in the vinegar overnight.

Step 3: Rinse coin with water

Remove the coins from the vinegar and gently rinse with distilled water. Remember to use distilled water, not tap water! The chemicals and fluoride in tap water could damage your coins.

Step 4: Let coin dry

After the coins have been rinsed, let the coins dry on your soft towel. Do not rub the coins to dry them!

Method 3: Dish Soap

Step 1: Gather materials

For this method, you will need the following:

  • Distilled water
  • Shallow bowl
  • Dish soap
  • Soft toothbrush (optional)
  • Soft towel

Step 2: Gently scrub coin with soapy water

Add distilled water and a small amount of dish soap to your shallow bowl. Stir together until the soap is sudsy, then add your coins to the bowl. Gently scrub them with either a soft toothbrush or your fingers. Be extremely gentle!

Step 3: Rinse coin

After you’ve gently scrubbed the coins, rinse them with distilled water to remove all traces of soap from the coin.

Step 4: Let coin dry

Once the coin is rinsed, place it on your soft towel to let it air dry. Do not rub the coin with the towel, as you might damage it.

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