You’ve found something that could potentially be interesting and you’d love to get a better look at your find, but it is so dirty you can’t even see if there are any distinguishing marks on it or not. Welcome to the exciting world of metal detecting. Cleaning items can be one of the most exasperating parts of the whole hobby.
Removing the dirt from your metal detecting finds can be incredibly tedious work. If you do it incorrectly, you can seriously devalue your item without even realizing it. But it can drive you crazy to see something so interesting and potentially valuable covered in grime, especially if you are a person who feels compelled to clean everything whether it needs it or not. Here is a quick guide as to the rules of cleaning your finds.
Leave Your Coins Alone
Coins, in particular, should be handled with care. If you scrub them too vigorously, you’ll cause tiny scratches that will reduce their value, sometimes dramatically. If a coin has been cleaned, many serious coin collectors will pay far less for it or they may potentially not want to buy it at all.
If you aren’t planning to sell your coin, but you suspect it may be rare or valuable, you should still hold off on cleaning it. If you’ve found a more common coin with little suspected value, I still wouldn’t clean it with anything more than water, a Q-tip and perhaps a super soft toothbrush.
I have cleaned common wheat pennies I’ve dug up, but I try to resist the urge to clean other coins. It’s a slippery slope because a little light cleaning tends to lead to more cleaning, and before you know it, you’ve damaged the value of your coin.
Avoid Chemicals and Strong Solutions
It can be tempting to clean your finds with some industrial strength product that you know will eat away that grime in no time. You really shouldn’t though. Powerful chemicals can cause damage to your metal finds.
One of the main reasons many detectorists pursue their hobby is to preserve history. If you use harsh cleansers or chemicals you are actually doing the opposite – you’re destroying the history you’ve uncovered.
Cleaning Iron and Steel
Rust is the old archenemy of iron, and some of the items you find will be thoroughly rusted. If you find a nice iron piece and it doesn’t have much rust, that can soon change if you don’t have it professionally cleaned. Sometimes inactivity can be bad when it comes to protecting your metals.
If you are absolutely certain your iron find isn’t historic or valuable and it isn’t something you’ll ever want to sell, you can remove the rust that is marring the surface. You can use a wire brush to delicately brush your object. Once you have it suitably cleaned up, you should seriously consider applying a protective coat to stop any additional rust from forming.
There are methods you can use at home to clean silver. They can sometimes do the trick, and they can also be improperly handled. I feel like silver has too much value for me to attempt to clean it at home. If it’s a silver coin, never, ever clean it at home. I can’t stress that enough. They are far too easy to damage.
Gold Doesn’t Need Much Cleaning
Here’s another reason to love gold – it doesn’t require much cleaning. While many other metals look filthy straight from the ground and are a pain to properly clean, gold leaves the ground looking just as shiny as the day it was lost. At most, you might want to rinse or soak it with a little soapy water.