Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vinegar and Salt to Taste

NEVER CLEAN COINS!                         NEVER CLEAN COINS!

Some collectors are wanting to clean their new hoards of copper cents. Of course I advise against it even if they are currently low-valued cents. Still the internet is full of not so helpful advice that tells them that vinegar is fine. So I got to do an experiment to confirm my suspicions.

Equipment:
  • Heinz Distilled White Vinegar of 5% acidity
  • Glass candle holder
  • Himalayan Pink Sea Salt 
  • 3 dirty copper coins
  • Tap water and cloth for rinsing
1st Cent - 15 Minutes in Vinegar:
Before left and after right.
1st Results:
I wanted to get rid of the spot, fingerprints, and crust and the base. Unfortunately it did not work well. Yes the coin did turn bright dull-pink. The spot stayed and the fingerprint is still visible at a tilt. The crust was mostly gone.

2nd Cent - 45 minutes in Vinegar:
2nd Results:
This coin was not dirty but had that brown patina that happens over time. Only the highest point remained brown but that is because I put very little vinegar. It was left with a very dull pink finish.

3rd Cent - 5 minutes in Vinegar and Salt:

3rd Results:
Started brown and dirty. The fingerprint stayed highlighted, the back stains also remained. The front turned dull pink but the back kept a nice copper color. The salt did not completely dissolve and was in contact with the back, although I am not sure if that mattered. This one looked the best in hand.

Conclusion:
If you see a penny, cent, or any other copper coin that is dull pink then someone has cleaned your coin.

Despite the fact that this mild acid should not affect the surface of copper it does. Since the browning of the coin is already damaging when the dirt and air damage is removed you are left with an uneven dull surface. Some baking soda would add luster but will also further damage the coin.

Vinegar and salt is great for chips and steak but horrible on coins. Colas, ketchup, and A1 sauce are also on the list of coin cleaners I think are better left in the fridge.

Feel free to share your experience with any type of coin cleaning.


Do you have a coin cleaning issue? Leave a comment/question and I will do my best to advise you

8 dollars worth, for Comments/Questions click here.:

Anonymous said...

tried it once too. They turned pink and eventually back to almost their original color

Man said...

tried it once too. They turned pink and eventually back to almost their original color

Wow, did they turn dirty brown or the copper-mint like a new cent.

Anonymous said...

Oh I meant to the dirty brown color right before I "cleaned" them. I still can tell which ones they are though, I think they look sickly. I actually prefer the brownish color they get over time. Got a bunch of brand new 2's today BTW ( thought I might share that )

Man said...

I think they look sickly. I actually prefer the brownish color they get over time.
--Oh that makes sense, the dull surface I suspect can never be "healed". I also like the brownish almost chocolate color it gets.

Got a bunch of brand new 2's today BTW
--Nice, good to see they are still out there.

Dr. Math said...

I have tried some of these before. The vinegar seemed to work while the coin was in it, but when I took it out it turned pink. The baking soda cleans off virtually everything but leaves a shiny, unnatural look.

Man said...

The vinegar seemed to work while the coin was in it, but when I took it out it turned pink. The baking soda cleans off virtually everything but leaves a shiny, unnatural look.

Very unsatisfying as a cleaner. I have not tried the baking soda polish but I can take your word that it will be a waste.

Anonymous said...

As if on cue, today, 1 day after reading this I got a 1981 penny in change that looked like it had been cleaned in the way you described (maybe it was one you cleaned). ( and I paid with one of the twos I said I got). It also came with a 1957 D penny. Can you give me a quick value? thanks

Man said...

1957 D penny about $0.05 in fine

I got a 1981 penny in change that looked like it had been cleaned in the way you described (maybe it was one you cleaned).
--No, I put mine aside to see if they turn brown in a month or two.

But yes dull pink is a sign of cleaning. Sometimes they are cleaned by banks this way dirty coins don't get handed back to customers.