How to Clean Your Metal Detecting Finds

The joy of metal detecting involves discovering an unexpected treasure. That happiness can turn into frustration once the extent of the cleaning work becomes apparent after you’ve unburied the item.
It’s not just dirt that requires removal from something you’ve found with a metal detector. There can be rust, mineralization, and tarnish to clean. These issues affect all metals, including jewelry and coins.
If you want to know how to clean old coins or remove rust from metal, this guide will help you get your treasures ready for display – or resale!

How to Start Cleaning Metal Detecting Finds

If you’re ready to start looking for buried treasure, the best waterproof metal detector for beginners can help to make that happen! Once you get into the water to start the hunt, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much metal can be found at the beach, in parks, or along sidewalks.

best waterproof metal detector for beginners

Before using your PANCKY metal detector, please remember to obtain permission to be on the property. (Learn More: Where Can I Metal Detect in the US?)
Once you’ve found something, here are the techniques to perform your cleaning work.

How to Clean Old Coins

Most old coins you find with a metal detector benefit from a simple cleaning before re-entering circulation. Once exposed to the elements, you’ll find a patina developed on the surface that looks like brown or green film.
Some old coins sell better with a natural patina, but those items are typically of historical value. The following technique is intended for everyday currency only.

  • Pour the coins into a large bowl.
  • Fill the container with cold water until the money is covered.
  • Place one teaspoon of baking soda into a second bowl.
  • Dip a toothbrush into the baking soda, and then scrub the coins.
  • Rinse the coins with clean water, then dry them with a soft cloth.

If you don’t have baking soda, you can substitute hydrogen peroxide or Coca-Cola for the steps above.
The coins need to soak in the soda for up to 15 minutes, while it can take up to 24 hours of soaking for the hydrogen peroxide to work.

How to Clean Your Metal Detecting Finds

cr. Denis Torkhov

How to Remove Rust from Metal

Rust forms on metal when a combination of oxygen, iron, and moisture exists in the environment. If you’re searching at a beach for buried treasure, you’ll have the perfect recipe to find items that require cleaning to remove this corrosion.
The easiest way to remove rust is to cover the item in distilled white vinegar. Spray the area liberally or place a saturated cloth over it. Allow the liquid to soak into the metal for at least 30 minutes, checking its progress every 10 to 15 minutes to see if more vinegar is necessary.
Gently scrub the rusted metal with a soft-bristled brush to remove the corroded surface. If you found something with detailed carvings or small nooks and corners, try using an old toothbrush for this step.

 Clean old coins

cr.Vadzim Yakubovich

Once the scrubbing work is finished, rinse and dry the metal item. You may need to repeat this process several times to remove all the corrosion.

How to Eliminate Mineralization

When metal items are buried for a long time, they can attract minerals that harden when the moisture around them evaporates. A water source with a significant amount of dissolved minerals causes these deposits.

metal detecting finds

cr.Taras Senkiv 

You can remove most calcium-based mineral deposits with a standard household cleaning agent. Lemon juice, CLR cleaners, and white vinegar are excellent choices.
If you need something stronger, look at phosphoric, sulfuric, or muriatic acid cleaners. You’ll need to work in a well-ventilated room when using these products on your found metals.
Follow the cleaner’s instructions to remove the unwanted mineralization. Rinse, pat dry with a clean cloth, and repeat as necessary.

How to Remove Tarnish from Metal

Did you know that older US quarters were primarily made of silver? If you find one while using a metal detector, it might appear dull and dark. That means the surface has tarnished.

Other metals develop tarnishes, such as copper. The technique to remove this unwanted patina is the same for most items.

  • Start by using some warm water with dish soap, scrubbing the surface with a microfiber cloth. Then rinse with cold water and buff the surface.
  • Heavily tarnished items can be cleaned in a pot lined with aluminum foil. Fill it with water, then bring it to a boil with one teaspoon of baking soda per cup.
  • Add the silver to the solution, ensuring it touches the foil. Allow it to sit for up to ten minutes.
  • Remove and buff with a soft, dry cloth to restore its appearance.
Polishes, including toothpaste, can help to restore heavily tarnished items, but they also increase the risk of damaging the outer surface. If you use laundry detergent, corn starch, or hand sanitizer, start with a few drops to ensure damage doesn’t occur.

A Final Thought on Cleaning Metal Detecting Finds

It is essential to avoid overcleaning any of your metal-detecting finds. Whenever you discover something of historical importance, it is helpful to consult with a professional before implementing any of the tips in this content.
The information contained here is for amateurs to reference when practicing the cleaning process with the items they find. Anything valuable could require specific techniques that were not covered.

Clean Metal Detecting Finds


PANCKY disclaims any and all liability for damages, losses, liabilities, costs, and expenses arising from attempting any of the cleaning methods listed.


Read More:

Best Places to Detect Different Metals

 Metal Detector for Beginners: How to Choose Your First Metal Detector