How to Remove Tarnish from Silver Coins

Written by emily patterson
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How to Remove Tarnish from Silver Coins
Silver coins with most of the tarnish removed. (old coins of Russia image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from

Tarnish appears as a black or green layer on silver coins due to oxidation that occurs when silver is exposed to airborne sulphur. The only way to prevent tarnish is by isolating the coin from exposure to air. Before removing tarnish from silver coins, keep in mind that cleaning older coins can reduce the sale value of the coin. Tarnish is removed by using a mild acid and a cloth.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Small container
  • Lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Soft bristled brush
  • Soft cotton cloth

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  1. 1

    Fill a small container with lemon juice or white vinegar. Test a couple of pieces of regular currency first to see the results.

  2. 2

    Soak the coins in the liquid until the tarnish dissipates. Remove and wipe with a soft cloth.

  3. 3

    Rinse the coins with distilled water then the desired amount of tarnish has been removed. Dry the coins with a soft cotton cloth.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use abrasive powders to remove tarnish from silver coins. The abrasive can cause fine scratches and remove some of the silver on the surface of the coin.
  • Many coin collectors request that the coins are not cleaned and will not accept coins that have had the tarnish removed. If you are considering the sale value of your coin collection, coins in their original, tarnished condition, may have a higher value to collectors.
  • Coin dealers offer a cleaning called "dripping."

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