How to Clean Old Coins The RIGHT Way!

Over time, old coins can accumulate dust and dirt, and eventually tarnish. Since you think your collection looks better if the pieces are shiny and look brand-new, it’s time to pull up your sleeves and so some cleaning. This isn’t as difficult as you think.

Before You Start Cleaning Your Old Coins

If you know that your coin is old, unique, and has a very high value, it’s better not to clean it, otherwise you’ll reduce the coin’s monetary value. Collectors and dealers use a grading to determine a coin’s value and if cleaned, the value can drop to as much as 90%. if you aren’t sure, check the mint mark and date. Use a magnifying glass if you can’t see them. If these indicate that coin isn’t very valuable then, you can proceed to cleaning it.

Another sure way of ruining your old coins is by using silver dip cleaner or other polishing creams or solutions to clean any old silver coins. Avoid these cleaners, and just try this simple technique.

What You’ll Need:

  • Running tap water
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Hand soap
  • White vinegar
  • Malt vinegar
  • Old toothbrush
  • Container
  • Clean and soft cloth


  1. Wash your hands with a hand soap. You may accidentally transfer oils and grit from your hands and fingers on the coin.
  2. Put a sink stopper in the sink drain. Many valuable coins have gone done the drain accidentally because owners forget this step.
  3. Turn on the cold water and wash the coin under it. Hold your old coin by the edges. If you touch the surface, you might accidentally scratch it. If you want the coin’s surface to be protected don’t rub it; just let it stand under the running water for a minute or two. The higher the water pressure, the better.
  4. After the thorough rinse, put the coin in a container with vinegar. This will remove rust deposits, tarnish, dirt and other contaminants that remain. Leave the coin soaked in the vinegar for a few minutes.
  5. Coins made from different metal types also require certain cleaning procedures. Bronze coins for example, can be soaked in distilled water, while silver coins can do with lemon juice. Gold coins need a hot and soapy water soak. For nickel-clad or copper, you should stick to the white vinegar method.
  6. Rinse the coin once more, this time under warm water.
  7. Pour Malt vinegar over the coin, then wash it off after 10 minutes using a toothbrush. This gives it a more finished look. If the coin looks clean enough, you can skip this step.
  8. If you see any remaining dirt, use a soft, old toothbrush and mild dish detergent to scrub the coin. Don’t apply too much pressure, and only brushed the soiled area. Rinse the soap away afterwards.
  9. Dry the coin. Use a soft and lint-free cloth and pat it all over the coin. Afterwards, lay down the coin on another dry cloth to finish drying. Avoid rubbing on it.

Some Tips:

  • Avoid using abrasives when cleaning old coins.
  • Don’t mix different types of old coins together when you’re cleaning them. Some coins, such as copper, can discolor other coins.
  • Soda such as Pepsi or Coke can be used to shine a coin.

While most professional collectors opt for dirty coins, others clean theirs every now and then. Follow these steps and do this the right way.

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