The Best Way to Clean Pennies: 5 Ways to Clean them if You Must

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The Best Way to Clean Pennies… Or Not.

Being a penny collector is not just about finding rare collectible pennies but also maintaining them.

Coin cleaning is a significant part of coin collecting because this keeps your coins in pristine condition. It also prolongs the life span of your coins and makes it a sight to behold.

In general, there is not much you can do to better your current pennies’ value as its worth lies primarily on its coin grade, rarity, and the demand.

Also, it is worth knowing that not all coins can be cleaned, especially the super rare collectible coins as it may decrease their numismatic value. Still, if you intend to keep your pennies to yourself, you will benefit from knowing the best way to clean pennies.

There are different methods of cleaning your pennies…or not.

Should You Clean Your Penny?

This question is trickier than it sounds. Beginning coin collectors may be tempted to clean their newly acquired circulated coins to free it from scum and filth.

Seasoned numismatics, however, maintain that cleaning pennies is not necessary because it won’t improve the coin grade and will only wipe away a great fraction of its price.

This is especially the case if it is a proof penny, uncirculated penny, or in mint state. But if you are keeping your pennies to yourself with no interest in upping its worth, your pennies are heavily circulated ones, and you want it to look shiny and new, then you might as well know the best way to clean pennies and clean them right.

Different Methods of Cleaning Pennies

  • Distilled water: The simplest and least harsh method of cleaning your penny is to soak it in distilled water overnight, rinse it the day after and air dry on soft cotton cloth.
  • Mild soap and water: Using high-quality mild soap and water, gently clean your penny one after the other by stroking each side in a circular motion from the center to the edges. Rinse with distilled water and air dry on soft cotton cloth.
  • Eraser: Use this in circular motion to remove some of the stains on your penny.
  • Baking soda: Mix this with water to form a paste and rub a small amount on each surface of the penny with a circular motion. Rinse under running water and dry with a soft cotton cloth.
  • Lemon juice/vinegar and salt: The low acidity removes the brown oxidation on pennies and leaves a bright orange copper hue. Just soak your pennies for 5 to 15 minutes in a mixture of acid of choice and a teaspoon of salt.

The Best Way to Clean Pennies

Expert coin collectors will tell you that the best way to clean pennies is to not clean them. Instead, it is better to focus your energy and invest your time in proper caring and handling of coins.

Watch this video on handling and storing valuable coins:

1. Do not clean uncirculated or proof coins.

Determining the coin grade requires research, practice, and a keen eye. If you’re unsure, seek the help of a professional or just leave it alone.

2. Amateurs’ coin tarnish is actually numismatists’ coin toning.

Coin discoloration or tarnish is dubbed as toning by seasoned coin collectors and is a good sign. Toning is what expert collectors look for to know that an uncirculated or proof coin has never been erroneously cleaned, tampered with or damaged.

3. Proper coin care, handling and storage.

The best way to clean pennies is to never ever clean them.

Maintain your coins in great condition through proper care, handling and storage. You will not need to clean your coins repeatedly if you know the best way to clean pennies and how to preserve them properly.

Always handle your coins the edges between the thumb and forefinger, and do not touch the surface. Should you need to touch the surface, do so with a soft cotton glove or ensure that your hand’s clean and oil-free. Hold your coins over a soft towel in case you drop it.

Do not talk directly over your coins because even the smallest droplets of saliva can leave a mark that’s impossible to remove. Store your coins in an appropriate coin album or professional coin case. Mediocre coin cases have plastics that can melt over the coin’s surface.

Adhesives can cause damage and discoloration. Steel cases can stain coins with rust.

While coin cleaning is not advised for proof and uncirculated coins, it must not be condoned. If your circulated coins, pennies in this case, are severely filthy and you really want to make it look spotless, then try one of the many ways of cleaning it but proceed with caution.

These methods yield different results, chemical reactions or blemishes that may ruin your penny altogether. But it is still recommended by coin experts to leave your collectible pennies alone because the untouched original state has more historic merit and higher numismatic value.


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