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A few years back my folks decided to renovate our ancestral house which was built somewhere in the 1920s. While scraping through the junk to find things worth keeping, we came across a huge pile of old coins that would seem like junk to anyone because of the extent to which they were corroded.
I guess it was the prolonged exposure to a damp environment that reduced the elegance and grace of these worthy possessions. Or maybe they came in contact with certain degrading chemicals and minerals.
Whatever the reason, we were faced with the big challenge of cleaning these corroded coins. I wasn’t too keen on paying a professional to clean them for us. But the good old internet came to my rescue and imagine my surprise when I found out that the things I use daily could be used to clean them.
I bet you are here searching for the same tips and tricks. Don’t worry, I got you. Below is a list of methods that helped me get rid of all the rust and made my coins look as good as new!
9 Ways To Clean Corroded Coins
This might seem complicated at first, but it’s as easy as making instant noodles. The basic kitchen ingredients can do wonders, we just need to know the elementary school science!
1. Baking Soda
This is the most favorite and effective method of coin cleaning taken up by coin collectors worldwide.
Wet your coins with water. Toss them into some baking soda and scrub away the rust using a toothbrush. Ta-Da! Your coins are new again.
2. Vinegar, Salt, and Lemon Juice
Vinegar is acidic, making it one of the most popular ingredients in removing the corrosion layers from coins.
In a bowl, take ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons of iodized salt. Mix until the salt dissolves completely. Now drop your coins in the mixture and leave it until the corroded layer leaves the coin surface.
Then, take the coins out and scrub them if needed.
3. Tomato Ketchup or Tomato Juice
Tomato ketchup, another acidic material, facilitates the removal of rust.
Put a drop or so of tomato ketchup on the coin. Spread it evenly on the affected area. After 5 minutes, use a toothbrush to scrub off the layer. That’s it!
Acetone or nail polish remover, with its great dissolving properties, is another lifesaver.
In a container, take acetone as required to completely soak the coins. Now leave the coins soaked in it for 5-10 mins. After that, take out the coins and wash them with soap and water.
You might need to soak coins with a higher corrosion extent multiple times.
5. Mineral Oil or Olive Oil
These oils have certain minerals in traces that help in loosening the corroded layers from the coins.
Step 1- Take some oil in a container and soak the coins in it. Let the coins rest until the corroded layer falls off. This process can take several weeks.
Step 2- After removing the coins from the oil, wash them with water and soap to remove excess oil.
Step 3- After that, pat a small amount of baking soda on the surface to neutralize any damage that could be caused by the excess minerals left on the surface.
This might be a long process but is equally efficient as any other method.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has always been The Indian Grandma’s first choice to remove ear wax due to its cleansing properties. Though it’s not recommended by doctors nowadays, its cleansing properties are still of great use when it comes to clearing the rust off the coins.
Take a container and pour hydrogen peroxide solution so as to cover the coins completely. Now soak the coins for 24 hours. After the corroded layers have fallen off, take them out, clean them with water, and pat dry.
Mouthwashes generally have their pH lying in the acidic scale, thus making them another apt option to clean all your old pennies.
Pour some mouthwash into a container and soak the coins completely. Leave this for 12 to 18 hours. When the debris and corrosion have left the coins, take them out, wash them, and pat dry. You’re good to go!
8. Pencil Eraser
This not-so-popular technique is effective with coins that have moderate or low levels of corrosion.
Place your coin on a rigid surface and hold it with one hand. With your other hand hold a pencil eraser and move it in circular motions over the surface. Do this until the desired results are obtained.
This process is quite cumbersome but ensures minimal to no damage to the coins. Make sure to use an eraser that is not too hard as they are not as effective as the soft ones.
9. Soap and Lukewarm Water
Though not as effective as any other method stated above, this step surely helps to remove debris or excessive dirt from the coins. It’s advised to always follow this step with any one of the desired methods stated above.
Step 1- Take a container and add lukewarm water to it.
Step 2- Now add few drops of mild soap or detergent to this and mix it well. Now soak the coins in this soap solution and leave them for 10 minutes.
Step 3- After 10 minutes take out the coins, wash them, and pat dry.
Now, carry on with any of the methods stated above.
Do’s and Don’ts while Cleaning
1. Don’t scrub too hard
The shinier the coins, the more elegant they look. But over-scrubbing can scrap the top layer of the coin, leaving it looking dull and disgraceful.
2. Wash and dry after cleaning
Washing and drying the coins is the most crucial step after cleaning them so as to remove any chemicals left on the surface after the cleaning process. This will ensure that the coin suffers no more damage.
Maintenance and Presentation
After cleaning your coins, the next step is to store and present them. There is a wide variety of storage options available out there.
The main concern is to keep the coins away from a humid environment as it enhances the corrosion process.
Display options like coin albums, capsules, and flips are some commonly used options. Anything that can keep them away from conditions that facilitate corrosion is the best fit for storage as well as display.
It might seem challenging at first but it gets easier with time, trust me. Follow the right set of steps and you’ll be at the finish line in no time!
Do U.S. banks accept corroded coins?
If your coins are covered in rust or debris, they won’t be accepted by the bank. Use any of the above methods I’ve shared to clean your coins before trying to get them reimbursed.
But there are many more conditions for coins to be reimbursed, you can check them out under this consumer alert put on the United States Mint website.
How should I clean corroded gold and silver coins?
Silver and gold coins should be handled with the utmost care. They can be soaked in a soap water solution (made using dishwashing liquid soap and distilled water) for a few minutes, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a soft cloth to rub the coins from the center to the periphery.
After this, clean them in distilled water and gently pat dry.
Should I clean ALL dirty coins?
You might be surprised but the answer is a big NO. Dust, grime, oxidation, or other chemical processes cause a layer called patina on coins which makes the coins extremely valuable. Patina is proof that the coin is authentic and in a way, tells its history and use.
So before you decide to clean an extremely old coin, get a professional opinion first.