How to clean a fossil with vinegar

Written by jill lee
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How to clean a fossil with vinegar
Vinegar can help you clean and preserve fossils. (fossil banner white image by Studio Pookini from

Cleaning fossils helps remove excess dirt and debris, making it easier to study the fossil. If you wish to display a fossil you find, cleaning also helps make the cracks and crevices more distinct so that you can enjoy the full beauty of the fossil. You can buy kits for fossil cleaning, but one of the easiest ways to clean fossils is with vinegar, which also helps preserve the piece when used correctly.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • White vinegar
  • Bowl or cup
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Paper towels or rags

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  1. 1

    Pour a small amount of white vinegar into a bowl or cup. Dip a soft-bristled toothbrush into the vinegar until the bristles are completely saturated.

  2. 2

    Place the fossil on a paper towel or rag and rub the bristles of the toothbrush over the fossil. The acidity of the vinegar will help dissolve excess particles, revealing the tiny crevices of the fossil. Soft-bristled toothbrushes are very flexible and are easier to get into tight spaces.

  3. 3

    Re-moisten the toothbrush periodically as you clean the fossil. Scrubbing the entire fossil with vinegar can help preserve it, so work the toothbrush over all sides.

  4. 4

    Pour about 4754 ml (2 cups) of white vinegar into a bowl and place the fossil inside if you are working with a fossil that requires a lot of cleaning due to excess debris or build-up. Let the fossil soak for about two minutes.

  5. 5

    Remove the fossil from the bowl, wipe it clean with paper towels and scrub it with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove excess dirt and other particles.

Tips and warnings

  • For smaller fossils, try using a toothbrush made for babies or toddlers.
  • Never soak a fossil for more than 15 minutes to an hour at a time, depending on the size of the fossil. Vinegar can deteriorate the fossil and damage it permanently if you let it soak too long.

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