How to Clean Corroded Pennies Safely and Effectively

Learn how to clean corroded pennies

Pennies are made from highly reactive metals like copper or copper alloys, so it is only normal for them to get corroded with time.  This fact makes it all the more important for you to know how to clean corroded pennies, especially if you’ve found a few wheat pennies from metal detecting.

In this article, we will go into details about the steps you should take if you want to turn corroded pennies into their original fine, bright form.

We will focus on the materials you need, how to use them, and most importantly, how to carry out the cleaning process in a safe way so that the pennies do not get damaged or lose their integrity.

How to Clean Corroded Pennies

Before we go into the process of bringing corroded pennies back to life, let us look at the cleaning materials you must have.

It is easy to just use any cleaning agent for this, but you need to understand that there are many cleaning materials that will potentially damage the pennies—and even hurt your skin in the process.

The right materials will effectively clean your pennies and will also be safe for your hands. They include:

  • Fresh lemon juice 
  • Salt
  • White vinegar
  • A toothbrush
  • Baking soda
  • A small container
  • A paper towel.

As you can see, these materials are very cheap and easy to find anywhere. There is even a high chance that you have all of them in your kitchen right now. 

So there is no need for you to buy harsh bleaching agents, because you want to clean corroded pennies, these simple ones can help you achieve your goals if you use them properly.

Breaking down the cleaning process

Okay, so you have found some corroded pennies you want to clean and you have also gathered all the materials we listed above — now it’s time for action.

First step

In your small container, measure in a cup of fresh lemon juice (or white vinegar) and add one tablespoon of salt to it. Then mix gently until the salt totally dissolves in the lemon juice.

Second step

Start adding your pennies into the solution, but don’t throw everything inside at once. The level of water in the container should determine when you stop adding pennies into it because they must all get totally submerged into the solution for this process to work.

Third step

This step is basically you leaving the pennies to soak inside the salt and lemon juice solution for 15 minutes. But before you start your timer, make sure none of the pennies are touching themselves. They must all lie flat at the bottom of the container.

Fourth step

At this stage, the corrosion on the pennies must’ve reacted with the lemon and salt solution, so it is time for you to start removing them from the container.

With your paper towel, clean the pennies carefully and watch how they start getting clean and shiny.

Fifth step

It is okay to stop at the fourth step, but if some of the pennies don’t get clean after you use the paper towel to clean them, you can put them back into the solution and soak for an extra five minutes. This should be enough to get them clean.

Sixth step

If your pennies still don’t get clean after the fifth step, you can mix baking soda with a tablespoon of water, then use an old soft toothbrush to gently scrub the surface. You must be gentle. 

Baking Soda for corroded pennies

After brushing each penny, rinse with clean water and dry, it should be looking good as new by now.

Will Cleaning My Pennies Damage Them?

You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your pennies just so you can have them looking good. If you use the right materials and carry out the process in a gentle manner, you can get the best of both worlds — a set of cleaned shiny pennies that are also not damaged.

In fact, there are a lot of people who may suggest that using vinegar will hurt the integrity of your penny by making it tarnish.  That would be true if your plan was to only use vinegar to clean a corroded penny.  But, when you combine vinegar with other ingredients, it will become a cleaning agent, not a tarnishing agent.

But do note—nothing is 100% safe or 100% fool proof.  So my suggestion would be to take a random corroded penny that you don’t care about, and try this cleaning method.  If it works for you, stick with it.  If it doesn’t work for you, or somehow has hurt or damaged the penny in your eyes, stop using this method and find one you feel is a bit better


We all enjoy the metal detecting finds we discover, and sometimes, even pennies fall into that category.  Whether it’s a regular penny or a wheat penny, hopefully you’ve found this article to showcase a helpful method on how to clean a corded penny.  

Good luck, my friends.


While it is very possible to clean your pennies without damaging them, it is hard to say the same for the market value of the pennies.

When you clean via any method, you are clearing off small parts of the penny surface along with the corrosion, so a slight change in the appearance of the pennies is actually inevitable.

You may not see these changes with your naked eyes if you clean carefully, but they are there. You just can’t see them because they are microscopic—but your intended buyer will see them. 

Collectors actively look for the tiniest flaws in pennies and they have all the necessary tools to find those flaws. 

So our advice is that if you have found some valuable pennies (and have hopes of selling them for big money), it is actually safer to not clean them at all.  It might even be a good idea to stay away from even hiring a professional service to clean them for you. 

Sell them the way they are (or “as is”) and you will surely gain more money from your pennies—well, assuming they are actually worth something, of course.

Of course, there are other ways to clean corroded pennies. But we recommend the vinegar or lemon juice approach because the materials are safe for your skin, overall quite very effective, creates little to no mess, and the risk of damaging the pennies is fairly low.

Some other options include you can at least look into are:

  • The ketchup method
  • The pencil eraser method
  • The coca cola method
  • Using over the counter rust remover
  • Hiring a professional 

There are many rust removers you can use to clean your coins, and some of them can be very fast and effective, but that is just part of what you need.

Since we are also concerned about safety, it is important for you to know that the acidic substances that these rust removers contain could be harmful to your skin, so you should protect yourself with gloves and a mask when using them.

Basically, it all depends on why you are getting your pennies cleaned in the first place.

It is definitely cheaper to clean it yourself, but there are occasions where it would be more prudent of you to allow professionals to handle it.

If you are planning to sell your cleaned pennies, using chemicals or scrubbing methods for cleaning could leave marks on the coins and an appraiser could easily discover this, which will greatly reduce the market value of your pennies. 

But if you simply want to clean the coins for non-commercial reasons (for example, you just want a bunch of cleaned pennies you’ve found to become part of your coin collection), the vinegar/lemon juice method will be good enough. You like wouldn’t need the professional cleaning.

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