Provincial Romans Ancient Coins & Antiquites

Alternative Cleaning Methods

1. Personal Safety

It is very important to take care of yourself while cleaning coins. All to often we get too caught up in the coins, that we ignore the punishment our bodies take.

For example: Do you allow your arms to rest on the edge of a cold sink? You'll only do that till you tire of your hand constantly falling asleep. Also, what angle is your body to the sink? Are you comfortably seated? Do you have adequate air flow? How are your feet? I bring all this up again because all too often we become so absorbed in what we're doing that we don't pay attention to our bodies, and this punishment can continue for hours and hours. Imagine the damage after years of cleaning?  Also very important, don't forget to protect your eyes. If you don't wear glasses, you may wish to consider purchasing a cheap pair of clear eye protectors to keep the soap, chemicals and particulates out of your eyes!

The most serious health risk I have encounter so far, from cleaning coins, is damage to my fingers from repeated coin cleaning and holding the coin with my bare hands while cleaning. There is no need for you to suffer this embarrassing "tell-tale" sign of ancient coin cleaning. There are some handy household products you can use to help ease your way.

Gloves are a priority! They may be a pain to put on and take off repeatedly, however, if you don't, this is what may happen to your fingers. The next level of damage is cracked, bleeding and painful fingers! :(

Gloves are the cure!
Also, if you'll notice the ridges (on the glove, not my fingers), these work better than fingers for cleaning. Remember, your finger nails are not a tool for cleaning ancients! It may look like they're cleaning your coin, when in reality, it is the coin cleaning your nails!

For those who won't wear gloves, there are alternatives. An example is using a "jar opener" or small piece of a rubber mouse pad or similar to hold the coin while cleaning. It also works well on flat surfaces for optimized (full-force) cleaning without the coin sliding around while you try to hold it. It does take time to adjust, so keep the coin close to the sink. Some coins, after sitting in the cold ground for 2,000 years, become mineralized/fossilized and become very brittle. Nothing like dopping a coin and watching it explode into several pieces. (No, they won't explode, so quit throwing them!)
Note the white drain catch? Nothing worse than having to take your sink apart to recover an uncleaned Procopius denarius or ancient gold coin that has slipped down the drain! :)

2. Distilled Water versus Olive Oil.

At present, debate continues on whether Distilled Water alone works better at removing dirt & encrustations than other penetrating oils. The theory is that distilled water will, because it is hungry for minerals, remove the ion particles attached to the coin which in turn loosens the dirt. Some people have noted that when using olive oil, that some encrusted coins become more difficult to clean and even turn a darker color.

First step is to clean the coins using a toothbrush, water and soap. Sometimes this step alone can reveal enough detail to attribute a coin, which is when they say you should stop cleaning.

Next comes the distilled water soak. Ensure that you don't have too many coins for the container (plastic or glass) as it is easy to dilute the power of the water by having too many coins throwing off ions. Next, you need to change the water weekly if not daily. If the water becomes cloudy or discolored, then it is time to change it.

Every week or two, remove the coins and give them another toothbrush, water and soap scrubbing. Some people prefer using denture brushes, as they are harder and remove more than normal brushes. It is important to make sure that you rinse the coin thoroughly. Any soap remaining on your coin will reduce the effectiveness of the distilled water and can cause a white film to develop on your coin while soaking.

Silver or silvered coins should soak by themselves in individual containers. Apparently they don't get along with the other coins. Monitor them closely! ;)  I find that a good prescription (bottle) will do the trick for me. You should try and change the water daily. This is where a fine mesh strainer comes in handy!

More on the intricate and sometimes impossible cleaning of emotionally unbalanced silver coins later.