How To Clean Your Old Coin Collection Like A Professional

There are people out there who are fascinated by collecting old items. One of the most popular things among them are old coins. And you might find yourself wondering why would anyone want to collect old coins! They’re old, rusty, grime and corroded.

A bunch of old coins

Someone might do it as a hobby, out of a passion for rare coins or even professionally. Keep in mind that old coins have great value after all! However, the main problem that coin collectors face is that they need to clean them and keep them in good condition; otherwise, they’ll lose their value. As you can see, coin collecting isn’t easy. You don’t just find an old coin and place it into a box. Plus, you can’t just wash it with tap water. There are more you need to do to maintain their value. So, if you’ve recently decided to become a coin collector, we’ve got a full guide on how to treat your old valuable coins

Why clean old coins? 

Generally,  it would be best if you didn’t clean old coins.  It’s that rusty film that makes them valuable. You can’t use chemical cleaners and scrub the coins to remove the patina from them. If you do that, you’ll automatically reduce the coin’s value

Patina is what a serious coin collector appreciates. It’s the green film that all coin collectors wish to have in their collection. That’s why professional collectors don’t clean their coins. They ask for professional help to treat their collection, especially when they want to sell or trade a piece. However, if you do want to clean them on your own, we can tell you how to do it while keeping their value.

How to clean your old coins?

We strongly recommend not to clean silver, nickel, copper and gold coins. Don’t try to remove the tarnish; the natural oxidation formed over time. There’s not a single coin dealer that will ever accept a non-tarnished coin. If you insist though, on cleaning coins, here are some of the right methods to do so.

Using one of the most popular beverages: Coke

Not only one of the most popular drinks all over the world but also one of the most famous methods. All you need is:

  • A glass or a small bowl
  • Coke

Then follow these steps:

  1. Put the coin into a glass or a bowl.
  2. Pour coke over the top. Make sure that coke has covered the coin
  3. Let the coin in the liquid for 5 minutes. Check it. If it needs more time, let it soak for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the coin from the glass and rinse it very well with cold running water
  5. Wipe it carefully and let it air dry.

Note: Don’t soak many coins at the same time in the Coke. It’s better to do it one at a time. Some coins might fade away and colour others. 

Something even simpler:  Distilled water

This kind of water is the gentlest and safest way to clean your no so dirty and corroded coins. Avoid using tap water. It’s treated with fluoride, an agent that might cause chemical reactions if it comes into contact with certain metals that your coins are made of. You’re going to need: 

  • A bowl
  • Distilled water
  • A soft cotton towel

Then you have to:

  1. Fill a bowl with water and soak your old coins.
  2. Let them soak for a day
  3. The next day, refresh the water. Repeat the same process for as long as it’s necessary.
  4. Wipe dry the coin gently with a soft towel. 

The superhero of your home: White vinegar solution

A bottle of white vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most familiar and most used cleaning agents, when it comes to cleaning your washing machine, stains off carpet, your shower glass and so much more. Many people use it to clean their dirty coins as well. And once again, it can get the job done. Supplies you’ll need:

  • A glass or a bowl
  • A cup of vinegar
  • Distilled water

Now, time to:

  1. Pour a cup of vinegar into the glass or bowl. 
  2. Place the coins into the bowl. Make sure they lie flat on the bottom.
  3. Let them soak for a few minutes
  4. Pull the coins out of the vinegar solution. Just make sure that you hold them by their edges
  5. Then rinse them with water.

Here’s something extra:

a) If the coins are still tarnished after having soaked into the vinegar solution, then brush them gently using a soft brush.  

b) If they’re still dirty, then let them soak in the vinegar solution for a few hours. You can even leave them overnight just to be sure.

Not only for baking: Baking soda

Another famous cleaning agent is baking soda.  It’s used a lot for many household cleaning purposes, like cleaning silver, stains on the mattress, your oven and much more. From now on, you can use it to clean your old silver coins as well. It’ll remove the patina and tarnish from them. Plus, it’ll remove corrosion off your old, rare coins. You’re going to need:

  • Baking soda
  • Distilled water
  • A clean toothbrush
  • A cloth or towel

Then, follow the steps:

  1. Soak the coin in water.
  2. Grasp the coin firmly by its edges.
  3. Apply a small amount of baking soda on each surface of the coin at a time, and rub it softly with the brush. In case you don’t have one, you can use your fingers. 
  4. Then, rinse the coin with water and then dry it with a clean cloth or towel. 
Some baking soda and a toothbrush for cleaning old coins

The one you didn’t see coming: Ketchup

It might sound a bit awkward; however, a small amount of ketchup can clean your tarnished copper coin collection, due to the vinegar and salt it contains. The ingredients and tools you should have are:

  • Tomato ketchup
  • Distilled water
  • A toothbrush
  • A clean cloth

Now, do as follows:

  1. Hold the coin of its edges and pour a small amount of ketchup on both sides of the coin.
  2. Rub softly the front and the back of the coin using the brush
  3. Afterwards, rinse the coin with water and dry it with the cloth.

Note: You’ll have certain results using this method on coins produced before 1982 since they were made of real copper. Coins made after 1982 contain zinc; an agent which ketchup can’t clean.

An easy one: Gentle dish soap

Cleaning coins with dish soap is a safe option to remove gunk off your dirty coins without damaging them. You’ll need:

  • A gentle, liquid soap
  • Warm Distilled water
  • A plastic container
  • A soft cloth

And then…

  1. Fill the container with warm water and pour a small amount of liquid soap. 
  2. Hold your coin from its edges, soak it into the soapy water and swirl it around.
  3. Rinse the coin with water and dry it with the cloth.

Note: If you want to avoid using dish soap because it’s too abrasive, you can use hand soap which is more gentle and not so powerful.

Right from Chemistry Class: Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can remove all sorts of materials, including organic. So, why not use it to clean your coins? You’re going to need: 

  • A plastic container 
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Then all you have to do is:

  1. Fill the container with hydrogen peroxide and place your coins in there.
  2. Let them soak for 24 hours.
  3. Then, rinse them with water and let them dry on a windowsill. 

And right from the bathroom: Mouthwash

We know! It’s weird to use mouthwash to clean your collectable coins, but it’s very effective and safe too. You’ll just need:

  • Mouthwash
  • A container or a bowl
A woman filling a glass with mouthwash


  1. Fill the container or bowl with mouthwash.
  2. Place your coins in and let them soak for 12 hours

And that’s all. After 12 hours you’ll get rid of dirt and oil that was on your coins. 

Back to the basics: White vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt

In method 5, we’ve mentioned that ketchup can clean your coins due to the salt and vinegar that contains. So, why don’t we make a solution of these two ingredients to clean old coins? You’ll need to have a couple of things:

  • A tablespoon of salt
  • Vinegar (lemon juice can get the job done as well)
  • A container
  • A cloth or paper towel

All you need to do is:

  1. Mix vinegar and a tablespoon of salt into a container. Stir until you dissolve the salt. 
  2. Put the coins into the salt-vinegar mixture. Make sure that while you add the coins, they don’t touch each other.
  3. Let them soak for 15 minutes.
  4. Then, remove the coins and wipe them with the cloth or the paper towel. 
  5. If they haven’t cleaned from the oxidation, put them back in the container and let them for 5 more minutes.

And last but not least: Olive oil

In this method, we’ll use the oil to clean coins. It’s a simple, inexpensive and effective method. However, it’s a time-consuming process. For this method, you’ll need:

  • A plastic container
  • Olive oil
  • Liquid soap
  • Distilled water
  • A toothbrush
  • A clean, soft cloth
A cup full of olive oil

Then follow these steps:

  1. Add the coins in the container and pour olive oil until they’re covered. 
  2. Let the coins into the oil for at least a month and up to 6 months. If you notice any colour changes in the oil, change it.
  3. After the time has passed, remove the coins form the oil and wash them with soap and water.
  4. Scrub the coins gently with the brush.
  5. Rinse them with water and dry them with a cloth. 

As you can understand, cleaning your coins needs special attention, as they can be damaged very easily and affect their value. The best way to learn how to clean your old valuable coins is to address to a coin expert or a numismatic. They are the most suitable to inform you which ones to clean and what is the right way to do so, without destroying them and losing their value.

Never try to remove the tarnish on silver coins, which is called toning, that gains over time. If you try to remove it, then you’ll probably damage the coin’s surface and reduce its value. One last piece of advice: When you store coins after cleaning them, make sure they’re completely dry; otherwise, dampness will damage them for sure.

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