How to Clean Rusty Coins: 4 Rust Removal Techniques

Coin collecting is one of the oldest hobbies in the world and is as valuable as collecting and restoring ancient paintings and art. Just like old artifacts, coin collecting also requires restoring old and valuable coins.

All coins should be cleaned differently, depending on what type of metal they are made of. You can either use commercial coin cleaners, which are specifically designed to suit the metal of the coin, or even clean them at home with acidic solutions such as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.

However, it is important to remember that if you plan on either studying or selling the old coins, it is not advisable to clean them yourself at home as this can diminish its value. If this is the case, you may want to talk to experts who can clean coins without damaging their value. But if you are just beginning your journey as a Numismatist and would simply like to know how to restore your coin collection at home, this is the place for you!

Let’s look at some effective ways to tackle coin corrosion.

Old rusty coins.

1. Metal Cleaning Pastes

If your coins are almost buried beneath dirt, grime, and rust, it is recommended that you use commercial metal cleaners to restore the coins. This is because they have strong chemicals that can tackle and cleanse all the corrosion that has taken place over the years without the need to scrape or damage the surface of the coin.

If you’ve never heard of metal cleaners before, I recommend 3M Metal Restorer and Polish, a metal restorer that removes rust and corrosion. One of the perks of this cleaner is that it can be used on almost all metals, so you need not be afraid of it reacting negatively with whatever coin you may want to clean.

How to Use

  1. You need to take an adequate quantity of the paste and apply it evenly over your coin until it is completely covered (It comes in the consistency of a paste).
  2. Leave it on for a couple of minutes.
  3. Then use a clean cloth and remove the paste by rubbing the surface with some force, which will enable the rust to come off with the paste.
  4. You can finish off by buffing the coin with another clean, soft cloth to give an added shine.

If you are unsure about using this on your coins due to the strong chemicals it contains, I suggest you have a look at Flitz Polish Paste. This is also a multi-purpose cleaner and is suitable for an even wider range of metals. In fact, this polish is even used to clean and polish jewelry, which makes it quite safe to use on coins as well. It removes rust, discoloration, oxidation, and grime.

To use this product, you can follow the same instructions found above as all metal cleaners work in a similar fashion.

2. Metal Cleaning Liquids

These are metal cleaners that come in the form of liquids and can be used for copper, chromium, brass, and bronze. It serves the purpose of both cleaning and polishing. It is also easier to use than metal cleaning pastes and is less strong when compared to the pastes.

Noxon Multi-Purpose Metal Polish is a liquid metal cleaner that can be used to clean and shine just about anything. It can be used to clean old and rusted instruments, buttons, pewter dishes, and copper as well. If you would like to see just how effective this liquid is, I suggest you check out the customer reviews on Amazon.

Another cleaner that is highly rated on Amazon is Brasso Metal Polish, which is a liquid cleaner that can be used on a variety of metals including brass, copper, pewter, and bronze. It is safe enough to be used on jewelry and can most certainly clean your coins as well. If you are cleaning pennies, then this should be perfect as it works wonders on copper metals.

How to Use

  1. Lather the liquid on the coin’s surface and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. Then scrub it off using a rough cloth or scrubber.
  3. Once the rust has come off, wash it off with warm water.
  4. Then proceed to polish it with a soft cloth.

If you are not impressed by any of these commercial rust removers or prefer using chemical-free removers on your coins, don’t fret, because there are quite a few ways to get rid of rust using just a few ingredients in your house. Let’s have a look at these DIY methods in detail below.

Before we begin, you should know that most homemade rust cleaners require you to soak your coins in acidic solutions. It is essential to remember to clean your copper coins (like pennies) and non-copper coins separately. This is because copper can discolor other coins if soaked together.

3. White Vinegar

One of the most popular methods of cleaning rust off coins is with the help of white vinegar, which contains acetic acid and helps remove rust. If you are washing pennies, wash them separately, and do not mix them with the other coins.

How to Use

  1. Take an adequate quantity of white vinegar in a bowl, depending on how many coins you are going to clean (For a stronger acid solution you could add a little bit of table salt).
  2. Then, submerge all the coins in the vinegar for at least 10 minutes. You can even leave it even longer if the rust stains are stubborn.
  3. This should cause all the rust to dissolve, but if required, gently scrub the coins with a toothbrush to remove the tough stains.
  4. You can finish by rinsing the coins in water and drying them with a cloth.

4. Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

You can use lemon juice and soda bicarbonate instead of vinegar as well. The citric acid from the lemon, along with the soda, which acts as a mild abrasive, is quite effective in getting rid of rust.

How to Use

  1. Mix the lemon juice and baking soda to form a paste.
  2. Then apply this paste on the surface of the coins.
  3. Let it sit for about an hour before you wipe it off and rinse underwater.
  4. You can also gently scrub with a toothbrush if the stains are strong.

Polishing Your Coins

Once you have gotten rid of all the rust, you can use metal wax or polish to give your coins an added shine. This also helps in preventing rust from corroding the metal again.

I highly recommend using Rolite Metal Polish Paste. This is a metal polisher and works on all metals, including copper and nickel. It is also non-toxic and does not contain harsh chemicals. It leaves behind a protective coating and also prevents rust from returning.

How to Use

  1. First, stir the contents well.
  2. Apply it on the clean surface of the coin using a microfiber cloth.
  3. Buff the surface immediately to make the surface of the coin bright and shiny.


After reading this article, you now know some of the most effective ways to restore your coins from rust and grime. Just keep in mind that different coins must be cleaned separately and should not be mixed together in methods that require soaking.

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