How To Clean Old Ancient Coins Safely at Home? (Without Getting Them Damaged)

Have you just opened up your lockers and found that the coins you are planning to give away as a gift to someone dear, looked no longer new?

Worse is to find that the coins you hold for years are completely tarnished and need professional cleaning to get the shine back!

Worry not! Let us help you out in preserving your old ancient coins better…

In our DIY guide below we will try to help you with various different tips, tricks, and ideas that can help you clean your valuable possessions without getting them damaged or devalued.

So without wasting any time, let’s jump in…

cleaning ancient coins

How to Clean Ancient Coins? 3 Easy Methods

Cleaning antique coins (like from metal detecting or inherited) is challenging – one wrong step and your coins are completely damaged and devalued.

The good news is, there are different methods that can help clean your vintage coins to bring back their beauty and value.

So, if you are among the hobbyists who want to bring out the luster back of your old pennies and antique Roman coins, here we are mentioning some different ways for you.

Depending on the condition of coins, level of dirtiness and cleaning your desire to have, you can choose the method that best suits you and your old antique coins.

Make sure that you choose the right method and do all the cleaning patiently or else you can lose your investment forever.

Method 1: Simply Wash your Dirty Coins

Cleaning your old coins and pennies with water and soap is the simplest method you can try. The process is completely safe and you do not have to go out spending huge bucks for it.

You can even try this method for cleaning the unearthed or dug up coins (gold, silver, copper, bronze, nickel, and brass) naturally, which you may have found buried in dirt.

To start with you can follow the steps below:

Step 1:

Sort your dirty coins into three categories. First, that is showing the fine details, second that is showing only minor details and the third that’s showing no detailing at all.

Step 2:

Start cleaning the coins (by using a piece of rag) that are still showing the details as they need the least amount of work.

Step 3:

When you have removed the accumulated dirt and debris, its time to soak them in distilled water for a few days. Soaking them in distilled water will loosen up the dirt and other materials on your coin that’s not removed.

Step 4:

After soaking for a few days, inspect the coins and scrub them using a soft toothbrush to remove the dirt if any left behind. If soaking in plain water does not work you can add some liquid soap to get the coins cleaned better.

Step 5:

After you have the cleaned coins, you need to gently scrub them with a toothbrush one last time. Use a bit of dish soap and rinse them under running water.

If water and soap do not work, you can wash your coins with olive oil. Place the coins in a container filled with olive oil (for a week or two). And then wash them clean with soapy water.

Tips and Warnings:

  • Washing the old coins with water may take a few days (and even months). Be patient and make sure that you do not over clean the coins as it may damage and diminish the value of your antique coins.
  • Always use distilled water to clean the coins. Do not use tap water as it may contain minerals and ions that can inhibit the cleaning process.
  • Make sure that you use a good quality soap that does not have any harsh chemicals as ingredients. If possible use organic soap which is made up of organic/natural items and is best suited for cleaning old coins at home.
  • Always use a soft-bristle toothbrush for scrubbing. Do not use a metal brush as the hard bristles on it can scratch your coins.

Method 2: Make Use of At Home Cleaning Tools

Washing the dirty coins may not work if the antique gold or silver coins carry lots of grime, oil or gunk accumulated over the years.

For cleaning them mechanically, you may need to use tools such as:

  • Magnifying glass,
  • X-acto knife,
  • Plastic knives,
  • Curved blade,
  • Toothpick, etc.

When you have collected some of the above tools in your home you can start with the cleaning process as below:

Step 1:

Begin with cleaning the dirty coins using a dental pick. Do not scrap with the pointed tip.

Rather turn the pick sideways and try removing the dirt and grime by scrubbing the pick over the coin in circular motions.

Step 2:

If the accumulated debris is heavy to clean by a toothpick you can use an X-acto knife or a curved blade to scrape the coin.

Make sure that while cleaning, you hold the coin in your hand and go very slowly in circular motions.

Step 3:

After you have cleaned a bit of dirt, use a magnifying glass (a microscope or a table magnifier) to inspect the fine details on the coin.

Depending on the level of dirt and grime, different areas on your coin may need different tools and pressure applied.

Using a magnifier will help you to know where exactly you need to clean the coin using your tools.

Step 4:

After you have cleaned most of the dirt on the coin, as the last step you can now apply a bit of olive oil. This will act as a lubricant to loosen the dirt that is not yet cleaned.

After a few minutes repeat the scraping process as above and then wipe clean the coin using a soft cotton cloth or a piece of rag.

Tips and Warnings:

  • While cleaning the dirty or burnt coins using this method make sure that you have enough lighting in your room.
  • Using a magnifying glass inspect the coins between the scraping to see what tools you need and when.
  • Always use the tools that are made of soft materials to avoid getting the damage to your rare coins.

Method 3: Deep Cleaning the Coins with Chemicals

Deep cleaning of the ancient coins (using the chemical method) is needed when the coins are extremely dirty and are hard to clean using the above methods.

Depending on the level of cleaning your desire to have and the condition of your coins, you may use one of the following chemical-based methods.

1- Calgon Water Softener

To start with, soak your coins in a Calgon Water Softener. Depending on the dirt level on your coins you can either use a full-strength solution or a solution diluted with water.

Leave the coins in the solution for anywhere between 1 to 15 days. Be sure to inspect the coins daily making sure that the coins are not stripped by the Calgon solution. Scrub them gently with a toothbrush daily to remove the softened debris.

2- Applying the Chemicals

Cleaning the coins with chemical-based substances and solutions work well if your coins have some lime deposits or are heavily encrusted.

Some of the chemicals that have worked for people to remove the corrosion off coins are coke, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, bleaching powder, hydrogen peroxide, and Noxon brass polish.

Lemon juice and vinegar are the safest of all the acid chemicals and can be used without much risk. You can make a diluted solution of water with lemon juice or vinegar and then let the coins soak in it for about 10-15 minutes.

If you are using any other chemical options for cleaning the uncleaned coins, make sure that you start testing and cleaning with only one coin (that is cheapest) and do not expose them in bulk to the chemicals.

Place the old dirty money coin in the chemical (into a shallow dish) for only a few minutes. Then remove it from chemical and gently brush it using a soft toothbrush to restore the shine back.

Care that you do not rub the coins too aggressively.

Remember, while using the chemicals like coca-cola, soda or others you will need to be extra cautious as there will be a higher chance of getting your coins eroded or ruined.

Its recommended that you use this method as a last resort if every other method fails to work.

3- Cleaning Coins Using Electrolysis

Old collectible coins if found heavily smudged and grimed can be cleaned well using an electrolysis method.

As compared to soaking coins in water or olive oil (which usually takes weeks for cleaning), the power of electrolysis can clean your coins within a few minutes if done right.

This involves flowing electrical current over the coins wrapped in an aluminum foil. Find an old power adapter, a battery/transformer, wire and a tank for a chemical reaction. You will need to make an electrolysis machine using all this stuff.

Salt, water, and an old mobile charger can also be used at home to clean coins using the electrolysis method.

Although electrolysis is a very popular way of cleaning ancient coins that are corroded or tarnished heavily, there is also a high possibility of getting them damaged, especially if you do not use the method correctly.

Remember that electrolysis can also strip away the patina (a substance that holds the surface of the coin together) of an antique coin. It may also make the noticeable holes, pits or scratches, especially if your coins are rusty, corroded or burned in a fire.

So, make sure that you watch your coin carefully at every step so that it does not get damaged.

4- Cleaning Coins with Ultrasonic Cleaners

Using ultrasonic cleaners is one of the smartest techniques that can make your coin cleaning job very easy and fast.

An ultrasonic cleaner for coins uses ultrasonic fluid to create tons of microscopic bubbles in a cleaning tank. These offers enhanced cleaning results due to their aggressive cavitation action.

The cleaning unit of the cleaner works on a principle of ultrasound waves that emit around forty-two thousand ultrasonic waves per second. These help to clean the objects placed inside the cleaner in a much efficient way.

Make sure that you put your coins carefully inside the ultrasonic coin cleaner machine using a provided basket. Add a bit of cleaning liquid and switch the unit on. Within a few minutes, your coins are sparkling clean.

The best thing about buying and using the best ultrasonic coin cleaner is, you can use them for cleaning a variety of items like old antique coins, gold nuggets, gold flakes, jewelry pieces, and much more…

As the size of the object to be cleaned does matter, don’t try to fit in the item which is bigger than your device can actually accommodate.


Do Ultrasonic Coin Cleaners Really Work?

Manual cleaning of ancient gold and silver coins may not sound good to many. For those who are really concerned about their coins and want to be bit extra professional can use ultrasonic coin cleaners.

Ultrasonic cleaning devices are portable and come with a variety of cleaning features such as strong high powered transducers, heating, auto shut off, etc.

The reason to opt for ultrasonic coin cleaners is they are inexpensive, offer effective cleaning, are Eco-friendly, are quick to do and are low on maintenance.

You can choose them to clean all your copper, silver or gold coins/pennies safely at home without investing much money and time.

The device also enables you to clean any of your old buried coins, burnt coins, coins that have paint on them, and metal detecting finds that have been corroded severely over time.

In addition, you can also use the machine to clean delicate gemstones, jewelry along with your glasses and other tiny items in your home.

One of the best things about using the machine is you can remove the heavy grime and gunk deposited at hard to get places like around the coin inscriptions and other fine details.

Top Rated Ultrasonic cleaners for cleaning coins are now available online. You can check different brands before making a decision to buy one.


Important Things to Take Care When Cleaning Old Coins

Although the machine is safe to use, there are certain things you should keep in mind before you clean your antique coins in them.

This will help in avoiding the possible damage that can devalue your coins forever.

✅ The first most important thing while cleaning your ancient coins in an ultrasonic cleaner is – always use distilled water for cleaning.

As tap water contains minerals in it, it may react with them and can devalue your coin further instead of cleaning.

✅ The body of these cleaning devices is constructed out of stainless steel to keep the frame safe and durable. Hence make sure that you put sufficient water and solution into the bath tank that can submerge the coins completely.

Your coins if not properly submerged can possibly collide with the tank surface and can get spotted or damaged.

As placing the coins on the tank bottom can also impose a similar risk, it is best to use a plastic basket that comes included with many ultrasonic cleaning devices.

✅ Always try to under-clean the coins in an ultrasonic coin cleaning machine.

Over-cleaning of antique coins (made up of metals like copper, brass, bronze, etc.) can impose the risk to the coins and should be avoided.

When storing your collectible coins always use an airtight container that can prevent them from getting damaged due to environmental exposure around them.

Things you should not do while cleaning the coins at home are:

❌ Don’t rub your ancient coins while cleaning. As this may devalue (or completely damage) your coins you should avoid at any cost. If needed, you can wipe it with a soft clean cloth.

❌ It is always advised not to use hard abrasive cleaning agents such as Brasso. This can damage the coin by scratching the surface of the coin.

❌ Also take care that you do not touch the edges of the coin while cleaning, as it can scratch. On a similar note do not ever use any low-quality cleaners as it may harm your gold coins easily.

❌ Do not ever try to clean the collectible coins that carry a high value. Especially if the coins have been oxidized there is always risk involved which can devalue them greatly.

The bottom line is, if you are not confident about cleaning your gold coins and old pennies it’s better to seek professionals’ help.

You should not attempt to clean your ancient coins and gold dollar coins yourself, especially if they carry a significant value for you.

This may devalue your coins forever.

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