The 'Ol Ketchup technique is a time-tested standard for collectors. Simply grab a bottle of ketchup from the fridge and rub a little onto the penny.
For the best results, use a toothbrush (your spouse's works best) and scrub the surface lightly to work the ketchup into all the tight areas.
Rinse the penny (and the toothbrush) and you will notice that it is now dull and pink. Not to worry. We are not finished yet.
Now pour some baking soda into a small dish and add some water to make a thick paste. Rub that all over the penny with your fingers to bring back the shine.
Drawbacks: Time, smell, wrath of spouse.
We tested a commercially available metal cleaner named Brasso. I would think that anything similar would work the same way.
After applying the cleaner to the penny surface, rub lightly and let it sit for several minutes.
Once the solution begins to dry, take a paper towel and start rubbing. When the towel turns black, you know your making headway. Incredible shine! This picture doesn't do the penny justice at all. You could signal planes with this thing.
Drawbacks: Time. Expense.
Lemon & Salt
This one works great and tastes wonderful with crab or fresh shrimp.
Simply place your pennies into a shallow dish and cover them with lemon juice and salt.
Wait a few minutes, rinse and serve. No rubbing required. (The dots you see on the 'After' penny were caused by air bubbles in the lemon juice. Be forewarned!)
Drawbacks: Cost of crab & shrimp. Leave it in too long (like overnight) and it will turn the penny black.
How to clean old, dirty ZINC pennies?
Forest LeDoux TEC #4281
Cleaning pennies, zinc or copper is easy before pressing, but not so easy after.
Rule number one thru ten, DO NOT use anything ACIDIC, even slightly acidic, on pressed zinc pennies! You will not be able to remove the black stain from the exposed zinc.
First, wash the pennies in a strong, soapy solution. In my case I used TSP in warm
water. Then thoroughly rinse the pennies in clean water. Now comes the hard part as each penny must be done individually. Gently, and I stress gently, scrub each penny with a wet SOS pad. The goal is to remove as much dirt and coloration as possible without marring the coin. When you are satisfied, clean the soap from the coin with a soft toothbrush and rinse in clean water. I just drop them in a bucket of water till I’m done with all of the coins. When done with all your pennies, remove from the water and thoroughly dry. I do not do the back side of the pennies unless it is a ’mule’. The pennies will not be bright and shiny, but will be presentable and readable. I suggest you try it on a duplicate first.
Nevr Dul Technique
Apple Cider Vinegar Technique
Materials: Penny (of course), Toothpaste (any, but I've had good luck with Aquafresh & regular Colgate, and of course Arm & Hammer for obvious reasons.) & a toothbrush.
Directions: Smear dab of toothpaste onto penny, wet toothbrush, 'scrub'. Then rinse under room temperature tap water, while scrubbing penny. If it's still grimy, then repeat until it's at your desired color. You shouldn't have to repolish it afterwards with the baking soda paste, as is ought to be shiny. Pat dry. The neat thing is, it will even smell 'mint' fresh.
There is a brand of metal polisher called Tarn-x that works really well that is available in most big stores. It is a bit toxic so you are supposed to use rubber gloves when your hands will be coming into contact with it. I just pour a little of the Tarn-x into a plastic container, put in the coins to be polished, snap on the lid, and shake it up for a few seconds. Fish the coins out with a spoon, rinse them off and dry them. I always polish the coins before squishing them so I can tell if they are really clean.
A.1. Sauce Technique
Wright's is ALL RIGHT! Technique
The very best way to clean your pre-1982 pennies is to use "Wright's Copper Cream. It comes with a sponge in an 8 ounce round container, and it works better than any other method listed on this cleaning tips page! Just rub some of the cream on the pennies with the included sponge, rinse, and wipe dry. Your pennies will shine like the day they were minted!
Update - Wright's BRASS Polish actually works far better than their copper cream and much faster and with a lot less mess than Brasso! It's water soluble too for easy cleanup (Brasso is not).
Orange Glo Power Paste Technique
Car Wax Technique
Cranberry Juice Technique
Caution For Soaking
Hot Sauce Technique
Taco Bell's fire sauce to clean your pennies. It works really good & it's free.
Another Hot Sauce Testimonial:
My class experiments each year with what will remove the tarnish from pennies. ...All work to varying degrees with hot sauce at the top of the list.
I've been using Arby's sauce for quite some time. Louisiana Hot Sauce works pretty quickly in getting the tarnish off, at least as quick as most things. Lemon Juice can also commonly be found in packets free at restaurants.
Warning (with follow-up):
When using things like hot sauce to clean pennies, I’ve found that it can actually turn the penny completely black on occasion... I don’t know why this is but I suggest testing a cleaner on the back or edge of a penny before covering the entire coin. This way if the copper reacts badly, the penny is not ruined.
I have since discovered that the black caused by hot sauce can be erased with a pencil eraser and come out shinier than it would have had I not used the hot sauce. Just thought I’d update my findings.
Rock Tumbler Technique
I have a cleaning tip I use and I think its one of the best for a serious EC collector, I'm not talking about someone who carries 4 pennies, I'm talking about the individual who carries 50 pennies and 3 rolls of quarters... Just in case....It involves the Rock Tumbler, that's right a rock tumbler filled with 200 or so pennies... I use a vinegar, and a polishing medium.... However I also have just used vinegar alone and achieved excellent results. I know vinegar doesn't leave coins gleaming, however one could experiment with other cleaning compounds. I don't know how many coins it could actually hold? probably 500-600 at a time? But I usually leave it spinning for 3-4 hours, rinse and pat the coins dry.
Brillo or S.O.S. Pad Technique for Zincs
Hi everyone, I have been addressing the problem of green and black ruined zincs...and I found a way to clean them that works great . Brillo or SOS pads! They look better than new, now I am going to coat them with clear nail polish. I am so happy, I saved some very old retired EC's from Six Flags from the 80's that were green or black and I couldn't even tell what was on them anymore. Now they look perfect!
Power Drill Toothbrush Technique
Steel Wire Brush Technique
The best way to clean pennies is by using the steel wire brush wheel which is included as a bonus on most table mounted grinders. Get a "Vice Grip" or similar type locking plier and use it to secure the dirty penny while you hold the pliers as the rotating steel wire brush wheel is scrubbing away on it. I found it only takes about 10 seconds per side of the penny to clean it to such a bright shine that it looks like gold!
Very fast. No chemicals or liquids needed. One step from dirty to clean. Cleans even the "impossible" pennies such as black or green. Cheap, only the cost of running the electric motor. Even works on zinc pennies. Gets off all the tarnish and gunk, even inside the lettering and in all crevices.
Need moderate wrist and forearm strength. Somewhat abrasive to penny surface (Thats why it cleans so well) so would not recommend on already smashed pennies or valuable coins. Must observe safety as for all power tools. Need protective eye wear and possibly work gloves. Pliers will leave slight marks on edge of penny but they vanish when it is smashed. Leaves a small layer of "Coal Dust" on the work area. This is all the grime that was removed while cleaning.
Don't take a shortcut by using regular pliers else the penny might become a projectile and cause damage. Locking pliers must be firm enough to secure the penny while cleaning yet not so firm that it leaves large dents on the edge. Works best when slowly rotating the penny while cleaning. The penny may become momentarily hot while cleaning. Handle carefully. Do not clean the "Heads" side if want year to appear on back of smashed penny. Wear sunglasses while examining them after cleaning - no kidding!
Scrubbing Bubbles Technique
It's very fast and easy. It's the bathroom cleaners magic. The cleaner in spray bottle you use to clean bath tub and shower curtain. No need expensive brand, just the regular or Walmart brand is fine. Just spray on pennies and soak them. Pennies get cleaned in less than a minute, even before all the bubble from spraying disappeared. If pennies is very dirty, you can also use a toothbrush to scrub it a little bit. You can use the
solution over and over until it gets really dirty. I also gave this tip to another collector, she's really impressed of how easy and fast it is. I hope you and the other collectors find this tip helpful.
Brasso / Drill Press Technique
Denture cleaning tablets
I have been collecting pennies for a long time now and I decided to try something out to make the older and more used pennies look bran new. So I took some Epsom salt and put it in a small plastic glass then mixed it with warm water and put my pennies. Then let it I let it sit for about 5-10 min and wipe them off with a towel. Older pennies might need a second time around. I do this before I go out to press pennies that way mine are nice and shinny.