10 Ways to Clean Pennies Without Losing Value

1. Soak in Vinegar and Salt

This method is particularly effective for cleaning pre-1982 pennies, which were made from solid copper. Combine equal parts white vinegar and salt in a glass or bowl. Submerge the pennies in the solution and let them soak for a few hours or overnight. Gently rub the pennies with a soft cloth to remove any remaining tarnish. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

2. Use Ketchup:

Surprisingly, ketchup can be a mild but effective cleaning agent for pennies. The acidity in ketchup helps to remove tarnish without damaging the copper. Simply apply a small amount of ketchup to each penny and rub it gently with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

3. Lemon Juice and Salt:

Similar to vinegar and salt, lemon juice and salt can also be used to clean pennies. Mix equal parts lemon juice and salt in a shallow dish. Place the pennies in the mixture and let them sit for a few minutes. Rub the pennies gently with a soft cloth, and then rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

4. Baking Soda and Water:

Baking soda is a versatile cleaning agent that can be used on various surfaces, including pennies. Make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply it to the pennies. Let the paste sit for a few minutes, and then gently rub the pennies with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

5. Toothpaste and Water:

Toothpaste, particularly non-gel toothpaste, can be used to polish pennies and remove tarnish. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a soft cloth and rub the pennies gently. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

6. Brasso or Metal Polish:

Commercial metal polishes like Brasso can be used to clean pennies effectively. However, it's important to use these products sparingly and with caution, as they can be abrasive and potentially damage the pennies if used excessively. Apply a small amount of polish to a soft cloth and rub the pennies gently. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

7. Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner:

For a more hands-off approach, consider using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. These devices use sound waves to vibrate dirt and tarnish off the pennies. Simply place the pennies in the cleaner with water, and let it run for the recommended cycle. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry completely.

8. Electrolytic Cleaning:

This method is more involved but can be highly effective for heavily tarnished pennies. It involves using an electrochemical reaction to remove tarnish from the copper surface. This process requires specialized equipment and safety precautions, so it's recommended for experienced coin collectors.

9. Professional Coin Cleaning:

For rare or valuable pennies, it's always advisable to consult with a professional coin collector or numismatic dealer. They can assess the condition of the pennies and recommend the most appropriate cleaning method to preserve their value.

10. Preventative Measures:

To prevent pennies from tarnishing in the first place, store them in a cool, dry place away from moisture and humidity. Avoid handling them with bare hands, as the oils from your skin can accelerate the tarnishing process. Consider using coin holders or albums to protect them from scratches and environmental damage.