How To Clean a Gold Coin

Posted on February 15, 2021

The question of how to clean gold coins is a tricky one. While there are many precautions you can take to minimize the chances of damaging your coin, there are still many potential hazards involved in the process that could all reduce its value. You should approach this task with consideration and care if you decide that you need to clean your gold coins.

Is Cleaning Gold Coins Recommended?

Cleaning gold coins is not usually recommended. It takes an expert to understand how to clean a gold coin without damaging its delicate surface and intricate shape, and there can even be value in the patina it's developed. If you're thinking of selling your coins, it's worth noting that most purchasers would rather have a dirty gold coin than one that wasn't cleaned properly.

Gold is a very soft metal. Any details or fine edges that are present on the coin can easily get damaged if you apply too much pressure in the cleaning process. Improper use of chemicals can harm the coin as well. Even the oils on your skin are hazardous to a coin made from pure gold, so you should always avoid handling a gold coin with bare hands.

Using proper precautions, you may be able to gently clean your gold coins if you feel that they're excessively dirty. Consider both the benefits and potential hazards of cleaning gold coins carefully before you move forward with this project.

How to Clean Gold Coins Without Damaging Them

If you're planning to clean your gold coins at home, there are several steps that you should take to protect them during this process.

  • Cover your hands: The dirt and oil from your hands can cause the coins to tarnish, and handling the coins with too much pressure can leave fingerprints. Wear a pair of soft cotton gloves to help protect the coin. Avoid latex, plastic or other materials that may have a powder or lubricant coating them.
  • Use plastic tweezers: Handling your coins with plastic tweezers is another good way to protect them. Avoid metal tweezers, however, as these can scratch the surface of the coin.
  • Cover your work surface: Lay a towel or cloth on the surface that you will clean your coins on. Make sure this is a soft fabric that won't scratch or mar the coin. If you're working in an area with hard floors, you may want to lay a towel or blanket on the floor surrounding the table as well, in case the coin falls.
  • Handle the coin by the edges: Touch only the edges of the coin when you're picking it up so you don't apply any pressure to the surfaces that are likely etched.

How to Clean A Gold Coin

Take a minimalist approach to the cleaning process for your gold coins. Use only as many steps as necessary to get your desired finish. You don't always need to make gold coins shine, particularly if they're ancient artifacts. If your coin is particularly dirty, you may want a cleaned gold coin so that you can view the markings better, but you shouldn't attempt to scrub the coin until it looks like new.

Follow these steps to clean your gold coin, but stop the process and skip to the last two steps as soon as you feel that the coin has achieved the desired appearance.

  1. Fill a bowl with warm distilled water.
  2. Place your coin carefully in the bowl. If there is a layer of dirt on the coin, leave it to soak overnight or for a few days to loosen the grime.
  3. Gently scrub the dirt from the surface of the coin with a very soft toothbrush. Use as little force as possible to remove the dirt.
  4. Add a few drops of dish soap to the water if the coin is still dirty.
  5. Replace the coin and allow it to soak in the soapy water.
  6. Repeat step three.
  7. Rinse the coin gently under running water.
  8. Place the coin on a clean, dry towel. Dab it lightly with a corner of the towel to remove excess water and leave the coin to air dry.

Professional Cleaning Services

If you have valuable or ancient coins, it's often best to turn to a professional service when you feel that the coins need to be cleaned and restored. An expert in coins and antiques may have access to specialty cleaning products and tools, as well as the knowledge and skill set to clean your coin safely.

Some professionals even use an ultrasonic tank to clean gold coins. The coin is submerged in water, then subjected to sound vibrations that loosen the dirt and debris without the need for any physical contact. This approach to cleaning your coins will help ensure that they stay in good condition and retain their value.

How to Protect Gold Coins

Proper storage will keep your gold coins safe and protected so you won't have to clean them often. In the appropriate packaging, your gold will never be exposed to dust, dirt or other elements that can accumulate on the surface or cause it to tarnish. Follow these tips for properly storing your gold coins:

  • Keep the coin in an airtight plastic container. Make sure that it's graded by a third-party service, such as Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
  • Avoid any container made with PVC, as this releases an acid that can destroy your coin.
  • Keep the coin in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, heat and humidity.
  • Handle your coin as little as possible. Ideally, your gold coin will arrive in a protective plastic case that you never have to remove it from.

Understanding how to properly clean a gold coin will help you tackle this project as safely as possible if you feel it's absolutely necessary to polish up your coin. Keep in mind, however, that ancient or historic artifacts will usually retain more value when left undisturbed, even if they're not pristine in their current state. Consider the reasoning for your project carefully so you can make a mindful and informed decision about whether and how to clean gold coins in your collection.