How to Clean and Polish Dirty Pennies (The Chemical Free Way)




Here's an Instructable on how to clean and polish your pennies and smashed pennies if they're dirty.

For all of you coin enthusiasts out there and elongated penny collectors, you will probably find this Instructable very helpful. I collect elongated pennies (you know, those penny smashing machines you see in museums and whatnot) however, after a while the pennies would start to lost their shine because of oxidation (in layman's terms: when the pennies are exposed to air, they lose their shine gradually)

I found out that you can restore the shine by rubbing a pencil eraser on the coin and therefore polishing it, however the process is long, hard, boring, and it kills your wrist.
The way I polish pennies uses the same concept, but is much more faster.

The pros and cons of this method are:  

-Decent shine
-No volatile chemicals/ fumes
-You could get a better shine with chemicals
-It would be faster with chemicals

(((Important Note)))
When I write Instructables I put multiple pictures showing multiple steps on only one step, so be sure to look at all of the pictures. 

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Step 1: The Tools

 Here is what you need to do this:

-A small vice
-Power drill
-A  bunch of those cheap pencils you can get at the dollar store
-A small saw (like one you'd get on a multitool)
-Dirty, oxidized pennies just waiting to be polished

Step 2: Prepare the Tool You Will Use to Polish With

 This step will show you how to prepare the drill so you can use it to polish the pennies.
Just look at the tags in all of the pictures so you know exactly what to do.
Basically what you're doing is using the eraser part of the pencil with the drill in lieu of a drill bit.

I would write all of the steps up here, but I find that it's annoying to keep looking up at the instructions and the down at the pictures, so I made it so it's easier to view the pictures and the instructions.

Step 3: Polishing Pennies

 This step will show you how to polish the pennies.
A few notes though,
When polishing the pennies, make sure you're using the drill at full power and use little force when pressing down on the drill, but you still want to put some force into it while moving the drill around at the same time. Continue to do this until it has the shine you desire.  

Don't use the eraser bit to the point where it's almost completely worn out, the metal around the eraser could scratch the penny and ruin it.

Small nooks and crannies may be hard to to polish so here's the part where it's okay to use a little extra force when using the drill so you don't get any uneven spots.

And last but certainly not least, Be careful not to hit the sides of the vice securing your penny. It will wear down your eraser bit very quickly and you will have to make a new one. When you've polished the penny as much as you can when it's secured in the vice,remove it and turn it at a 90 degree angle so you can polish the rest of it.

If there still dark spots on the penny even after polishing it, it could be one of two reasons

1.The penny isn't evenly polished, go over the darkened area with the eraser bit again. If the dark areas are in small indents that you otherwise couldn't get by going at it head on, angle the eraser so that the edge is getting into those nooks and crannies on the penny.

2.This is for elongated pennies. If there are dark areas that are colored a dark grey, this is zinc, what pennies are mostly made of today. Unfortunately you can't do anything about that.  If your elongated penny was minted before 1980, you won't have this problem.

And that's basically it! Repeat as necessary with your coin collection.
Enjoy your shiny penny! 

Step 4: Polishing Elongated Pennies

 Yes! You can polish elongated pennies too! The process is the same as the one in the previous however,  you must take extra care in securing the penny in the vice since it's thinner, and again, pennies are made of copper, namely those minted before 1980, so they will bend even more easier than a normal penny. 

Thanks for checking out my instructable! I hope you found this information helpful.



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    13 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Drop a penny into a glass of 'coke'. Leave it there undisturbed. If you check back later and find it gone...not 'magic'...just 'disolved' completely by the acid in the cola. Now...imagine what cola does to the lining of your stomache over a period of years of drinking it regularly. Good for cleaning rust off chrome auto bumpers too. Just FYI stuff here.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Stomach lining is not the same as a penny. Any solid evidence that cola does ANYTHING to one's stomach lining?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    the absolute easiest way to clean dirty pennies is to submerge them in white wine. red wine works too. the acid from the wine strips away the grime, leaving behind beautiful coins. And the bonus is that the wine usually tastes better. This is a winemaker's trick--they use copper additions to balance wine before it goes to bottle, but many wines don't receive it, so the quick fix is to drop a penny into your wine glass.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    However this will not work with pennies made after the mid 60's as they are not made of copper but other alloy's and as such will not work the same way in balancing the wine. Furthermore it would not be a good idea to drink any wine that has had a previously uncleaned coin(s) placed in it due to the fact that money is actually dirty as it has passed through many hands over its life and carries any number of germs / bacteria.


    3 years ago

    It doesnt work pennies are coated with a dye vinegar and salt are too acidic you need a buffer added to vinegar and salt to buff the coins gently to oxide tarnish ..You add -yogurt -salt and apple cider vinegar then whip to a cream lotion and buff coins


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great method, I prefer it over the chemical options because you don't lose any detail, 5 stars


    7 years ago on Introduction

    All you need to clean copper is a salty acidic solution. Salt and vinegar work well, as does ketchup and as pointed out above, many many other solutions....almost all guaranteed to devalue a valuable coin.

    As a coppersmith, I find the solutions are fast, easy, and get into nooks and crannies beautifully. While bright and clean, it may not be as shiny as you like and left long enough, detail may be lost (ie the Coke example above).

    On my shiniest pieces, I use silver polish (not copper polish, it is abrasive and will cause scratches). Voila! a piece that looks like rose gold .... until a few days later when the normal copper patina begins to form.

    A note to add, rose gold (the real stuff) does tarnish (albeit slowly) and does so more quickly that most other gold types (remember - 24K is too soft to be particularly useful, so other metals are generally added to make gold sturdy - that "other" usually tarnishes somewhat). Why? Because the copper to achieve the rose color tarnishes somewhat faster than other metals added during manufacture.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    that dark color is called patina and is best left on the coin but cleaning it with just soap and water will not hurt it just don't use abrasive cleaners and such if you value said coin and if ya use em for makin thing like jewelry, for polishing it brite you could add a dab of toothpaste!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    try using A-1 steak sauce and a tooth brush to clean pennies. not my idea, i got it online; but it works REALLY good... try it!!!! now!!!! then cook me dinner!!!

    Hi all!! If you follow these instructions and happen to use them on a coin that has some, historical, rareity or sentimentality then all that "GOOD STUFF" ie: the value....... is all rubbed away!!! In other words if you clean a coin that has a value you will more than likely ruin it's value...... Professional coin collectors "NUMISMATISTS" will all say the same thing........... clean it .....KILL IT!! So be sure before you set about cleaning any coin that comes into your possesion be very sure it is not valuable........ here endeth the ....... WArning!!


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Dunking in cola also helps, as sort of a primer.  You'd have to wash it, of course, but as a "primer" of sorts it works quite well.  Also, if you are lazy (like me), you can just leave it to sit overnight.  It won't be shiny, but you'll be able to see it slightly clearer.