Client Resources


How to Clean Old Coins

Written by: Daniel Gleich

Cleaning Techniques

When cleaning old coins, the most important thing is to not damage the coin. Also, coins are dirty in different ways: It's not always just dirt that makes a coin look dirty, so it's essential to know a few different cleaning techniques.


Slowing rubbing an eraser over a dirty coin can reveal a fresh new finish. This is very labor-intensive, and it's worth it to buy an electric eraser that will last longer and be easier to use than a pencil eraser.


Ketchup can restore the copper glow of a penny. Lightly rub the ketchup into the coin with a soft toothbrush, then rinse off the ketchup. Next, mix baking soda and water into a thick paste and rub this paste over the penny using your fingers.

Vinegar and Salt

Mix vinegar with salt. Place pennies in the solution and let them sit for a while, and then use a clean, soft toothbrush to clean any dirty areas. Rinse the coins, and then polish them with baking soda paste.


Brasso is a product available to purchase at big-box and hardware stores that can clean metal. Apply it to dirty coins, and then let the coins sit. Rub dry with a clean paper towel. The towel will turn black as it is rubbed across the coin.

Lemon and Salt

Cover pennies with a mix of lemon juice and salt. After several minutes, remove the coins and wipe them dry.

How to Clean Zinc Pennies

While acidic substances are great for cleaning copper pennies, the composition of a penny changed after 1982, and this will affect how you clean them. Modern pennies are made mostly of zinc, which can turn black when exposed to acid. Instead, start by washing them in a mix of water and gentle soap.

Trisodium Phosphate

Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is one cleaning solution collectors can try on zinc pennies. After soaking them in a mix of warm water and TSP, gently rub the pennies with a scrubbing pad. Then, rinse the pennies again and thoroughly dry the coins.


Rub Nevr-Dull polish onto the coin and then buff it with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. The coin should be quite shiny when you are done.


Kaboom makes even blackened zinc pennies shine like new. Rub a small amount of the paste onto the coin, and then buff out with a white cloth.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Pour undiluted apple cider vinegar into a small, nonreactive container. Drop in one penny at a time. Remove the coin after a minute or so. Follow up with baking soda paste, and then rinse the coin clean before drying with a soft, clean cloth.


Rub a small amount of toothpaste on the surface of the penny. Wet a soft toothbrush, and make gentle circles over the coin. Rinse the coin while brushing the penny. Dry the penny completely.


Put on rubber gloves. Pour a small amount of Tarn-X into a plastic container with a lid. Place the coins in the solution and put the lid on the container, then shake it up. Remove the pennies with a spoon, and then thoroughly rinse and dry them.

Goo Gone

Sometimes old coins have debris stuck to them. Goo Gone will remove stuck-on debris, even from the crevices of the penny. Simple rub the solution on the coin, scrub lightly with a soft toothbrush, rinse the coin, and dry with a clean towel.

Cola Technique

Soak the penny in a bowl of cola. The penny should only need to be wiped clean when it's removed from the bowl.

A.1. Sauce

This steak sauce is one of the best cleaners for old pennies. Wipe a little of the sauce across the surface of the penny to clean it.

Wright's Copper Cream

Rub a little of the cream, which is available online and at many major retailers, onto the coin with the sponge that comes packaged with the product. Next, rinse the coin and then polish it with a dry cloth.

Orange Glo Power Paste

Rub the paste onto the penny using a dry sponge. Let the paste work for about two minutes, and then use a cloth to remove the paste from the coin.

Car Wax

Put a small amount of car wax on a clean cloth. Buff the coin with the wax for a shiny, like-new finish.

Rock Tumbler

Fill a rock tumbler with around 200 pennies and add a bit of vinegar. Spin the coins for around three hours. Remove the coins from the spinner, rinse, and dry with a clean cloth.

Brillo or S.O.S. Pad

Some zinc pennies turn green or dark black. Simply wet a Brillo or S.O.S pad and gently rub the pad across the coin, then dry it with a clean cloth. The coin should look new.

Scrubbing Bubbles

Spray the bathroom cleaner on the pennies. If cleaning very dirty pennies, scrub lightly with a soft toothbrush. Otherwise, simply dry the pennies, which should now look like new.

Denture Cleaning Tablets

Soak the pennies in a container with denture cleaner. From time to time, shake the container. It's best to let the pennies soak overnight before rinsing and drying them.

Epsom Salt

Mix Epsom salt with warm water. Immerse the pennies and let them sit in the water for about ten minutes. If the pennies are still dirty, soak them again. Dry them with a soft, clean towel.

Further Reading on Coin Cleaning, Collecting, and More

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