Pennies are made from copper-plated zinc and copper, which is a reactive metal that can discolor quickly and is prone to oxidizing fast.
When the pennies come out of the mint, they were bright orange. With the copper reacting to the impurities floating around and the acids and oils from people’s hands, they will slowly turn to a brown color.
This is only on the surface and can be clean quite easily. If the steel penny has been damaged severely, most often by chemicals or the environment, it will turn green, and this cannot be fixed as it means the coin is corroding.
How To Clean Steel Pennies?
Steel pennies can be cleaned quite easily with household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, and even ketchup. With a good soak in the cleaning mixture, a good scrub, and a buff with a microfiber cloth your pennies will be looking like new again.
Is It Safe To Clean Steel Pennies?
It can be fun for everyone to clean that huge pile of pennies you might have sitting at home.
Most grandparents will have a jar of old pennies they keep for the kids to play with.
Before you begin cleaning your old pennies, you need to think about whether they are important to you and whether or not you are keeping them just for play or for their value.
Some steel pennies are actually collectibles and are worth money. When it comes to cleaning steel pennies that are worth money, you can actually devalue them.
If you want to clean your coins, it is a good idea to get them valued to ensure they are not worth money that you could be destroying the worth of just by cleaning them.
If your coins are worthless but you want to keep them, or the kids want a fun activity of cleaning them, there are several safe ways you can clean your steel pennies.
Lemon Juice Or Vinegar And Salt
This solution is a great way to clean your pennies, and it will help to bring out the beautiful copper orange color.
This occurs when the natural acids in vinegar come in contact with the oxidation and work to dissolve the patina.
First of all, you need to add half a cup of vinegar white is the preference or half a cup of lemon juice into a bowl.
Add a few pinches of salt and stir in until it is dissolved. Chuck your pennies into the bowl and spread them out, so they are not sitting on top of each other.
The solution should start working within five minutes. If you find that the pennies are not completely clean yet, you can let them soak in the cleaning solution for another five minutes.
Once you have removed the pennies from the bowl, give them a good rinse under cold water and dry the coins with a soft cloth.
While this will clean the pennies, it won’t actually give them a shine; you can achieve this by polishing the coins with a polishing cloth.
Pencil Erasers Can Clean Your Pennies
Yes, that is right. Using an eraser to clean your pennies is easy with no mess and liquids to clean up.
To do this, you want to get all your dirty steel pennies and lay them out on a clean cloth or paper.
Hold the penny in one hand, and then rub the eraser over the surface of the penny just like you would do to erase a mistake.
You can use the pencil to rub the grime and dirt off your pennies. It is best to use circular motions for this.
When your penny is all clean, flip it over and give the other side a good rub with the eraser.
Ensure you are using new erasers as old ones tend to get dry and can cause damage to the pennies.
This is a great technique that works well on many steel objects that have grime and dirt that just won’t come off with detergent alone.
First, you want to squirt some tomato ketchup into a bowl and dip a toothbrush into the ketchup and while holding the coins, use your toothbrush to work the ketchup into the surface of the penny.
Circular motions work well here, and within a minute or two, you will see your steel penny going from a dull color to starting to release its beautiful copper color.
If your pennies are extra dirty you can allow the ketchup to sit on the coins for a few minutes. Once done, run your pennies under some clean, warm water—Buff dry with a clean cloth.
Soap And Water For Penny Cleaning
If you have pennies that are extra soiled or have gunk on them and you don’t know what it is you can try using good old soap and hot water to see if you can remove the gunk and grime.
If you know all about cleaning dirty dishes, then you will know exactly how to use soapy water to clean your dirty pennies.
First, you want to mix some mild detergent in with your warm water.
Get a toothbrush and dip it into the soapy water and while holding your coin in one hand, use the toothbrush to rub the gunk off the penny with the other hand.
You can even soak the pennies in the detergent for a few hours if needed. Once done, rinse under warm water and dry with a clean cloth.
Using Baking Soda
Good old baking soda has been long used for many different cleaning techniques, from shower screen doors to cleaning stains off shoes.
Baking soda can even be used to wash steel pennies and have them looking their best in no time.
Take some baking soda and place it into a bowl and slowly mix in clean water until you reach a paste consistency.
Dip your clean toothbrush into the paste and, using circular motions, start to rub the penny with the brush.
The baking soda can be left on for a few minutes for stubborn stains and grime. Once you have finished cleaning the coin, rinse it under clean water and dry it with a cloth.
Using Goo Gone
If you have any type of adhesive or residue sitting on the steel coins, there is a great commercial product Goo Gone, that is fantastic to get rid of residues and adhesive that you cannot identify.
It will all depend on the type of coin that you have, but sometimes the Goo Gone can also help to bring the shine but to your pennies.
Once you have used goo gone, if the coin still isn’t clean, choose another method to clean the rest of the coin with, once goo gone has removed the residue.
All you need to do is pour some Goo Gone product into a bowl and dip a cloth or paper towel in until the cloth is damp.
Holding the coin in your hand, you want to rub the solution over the surface of the coin. If the residue or grime is stubborn, you can allow the coin to sit inside the Goo Gone solution for a while until it comes away easily.
Using Old Fashioned Olive Oil
Another easy way to clean steel pennies is to use a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in olive oil.
You can let your penny soak in a dish of olive oil for around five minutes. You want to roll the cotton bud or swab over the penny, this not only cleans the penny but it can also help to avoid minor scratching.
Cleaning Coins With Coca-Cola
There are many ways to clean steel coins, and it just so happens to be Coca-Cola is one. It works well and can be used all around the home for cleaning shower screens, sinks, and even toilet bowls.
To clean steel coins, all you need to do is place a coin in a bowl and cover it with some coke so it can fully submerge. You want to leave the coin soak in the coke for up to 15 minutes.
Once you have taken the coin out, you can rinse it under cold water and then let it dry naturally in the sun or on a windowsill.
Some coins have different grime and chemicals on them so when you are cleaning with the coke method, you want to make sure you only soak and clean one coin at a time to make sure some coins don’t discolor others.
Using Toothpaste To Clean Steel Coins
Toothpaste is another great cleaner that not many people know about. Toothpaste can get pen off certain materials and even whiten white shoes.
All you need to do is to fill a bowl with some warm water, add a squirt of detergent and place your steel coins into the bowl and let them sit and soak.
Once you have finished soaking them, you can remove them from your bowl and rinse them with fresh water.
Now you want to add some toothpaste to a clean brush and scrub the coin. If the copper still looks dull, you can add some toothpaste on the coin and let it sit.
Then rinse under running water. Once you have finished rinsing, you can pat the coin dry with a clean cloth.
Is It Best To Clean The Steel Pennies?
This has both a yes and no answer here. While cleaning steel pennies can make them look brighter and cleaner, sometimes cleaning can damage them and lower their value. It is important to know that not all cleaning is going to damage the coins.
If you would like to clean valuable coins, it is a good idea to seek advice from a professional or conduct a test spot on one coin first before you go ahead and clean the whole lot.
There are professional services that can conduct penny cleaning without causing any damage to the coins, they will also be able to tell you if the coins will be de-valued with a good clean or not.
How To Preserve Pennies After Cleaning Them
There is no point going to all the effort of cleaning your pennies if they are going to end up dirty and grimy again.
You want to store the pennies safely to ensure they are kept in great, clean condition.
Pennies can be easily damaged and even be stolen if they are left lying around. There are a few good ways to store steel pennies, such as plastic flip pockets, cardboard pockets, and professionally made penny folders that are designed for this very reason.
It is not a good idea to regularly clean your steel pennies. It is still something you can do before you store your pennies away properly.
The above options for cleaning your pennies might not work for you, and you might need to try a few different ones to find the cleaning solution that works for the type of pennies that you have.
Once you have cleaned your pennies ensure that you store them properly so they remain clean and protected.
Frequently Asked Questions About How To Clean Steel Pennies
Why Have My Shiny Pennies Turned Dull?
When oxygen connects with the steel material it can create a molecule which is known as copper oxide. This is what gives the pennies a dull look, it isn’t dirt, and with the right treatment, the pennies can be brought back to their usual clean self.
Can I Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Clean Pennies?
To clean pennies with hydrogen peroxide, you need to fill the container with enough solution to cover the coins. Let them soak, and then rinse them off and let them air dry in the sun. ensure you wear gloves as hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation in some people.