How to Clean Money

Money laundering is definitely bad, but there’s really no harm in cleaning your money. It can be easy and fun to do, and it can improve the appearance of that clear piggy bank.

Before You Start

Before you even think about cleaning your money, take a thought as to whether that coin you’re looking at may be a collector’s item. People can make big bucks from selling old money, but only if it’s in a certain condition. If you’re planning on saving your paper money or coins as an investment, it’s not a good idea to clean them. This could hurt their value in the future by scratching the surface or removing the outer coating from the mint.

It’s best to leave this money as you found it unless there is something truly repellant on them, such as you dropped them in a pile of cow manure. But that would probably reduce the value anyway. If absolutely have to have it cleaned, consult a professional. Your local hobby shop should be able to give you some names.

How to Clean Paper Money

Unfortunately, there is really no good way to clean paper money. You can try soap and water, but it doesn’t do much to penetrate the surface of the bill. You can always run your paper money through the washing machine in your pants pocket, and then let it air dry.

Other than that, just keep your money in your wallet and out of the dirt. And if you have a really gross dollar bill you don’t want to look at anymore, you can spend it and pawn it off on someone else or trade it in for a crisp new one at the bank.

How to Clean Coins

There are basically two ways you can go about cleaning your (not valuable) coins. You can wash them and/or you can dip them. If you want to simply wash the coins, these are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Dish soap (the kind for hand-washing)
  • A rag or dish towel
  • Tap water and/or distilled water
  • A Small bowl

Prepare the bath

If your coin is only slightly dirty, or the dirt isn’t deeply set in, you can simply rinse it off in lukewarm water. If the dirt is more set on than that, run hot water in the sink or boil it in a pan on the stove. Then take about a cup of this water and fill the small bowl. You should use the hottest water possible to clean your coin, but use caution when running it so that you don’t burn your hands. Next, add about a teaspoon of dish soap and mix it with the water until it is becomes fairly uniform solution.

Submerge the coin

After you’ve got the bath ready, take your coin and place it in the soapy water. Let it soak for a couple of minutes. If you’re soaking more than one coin at a time be careful that you don’t scratch the coins already in the solution as you put more in. Do not stack them up in the water and make sure they don’t touch each other. If you’re worried about this, you can always wash each coin separately.

Lightly buff the coin

If after a few minutes of leaving your coin in the water bath it still has dirt on it, first, try moving it around in the water vigorously and seeing if that shakes it off. If that doesn’t work, you can use your fingers to rub the coin gently, but do not try to pick the dirt off of the coin with your fingernail. You could risk scratching it that way. Also, hold the coin by the edges, never by the face.

Soak the coin further if needed

If your coin still isn’t clean, you can try soaking it in a tablespoon of olive oil, though it may take quite a while: days, weeks or years, even (no exaggeration), for the oil to remove the particles that are ground into the coin. Just put the coin and the oil in a sealed container and let it work its magic over time.

If you don’t have that kind of time to wait or just lack the patience, try using rubbing alcohol instead. Pour about a half a cup of the alcohol into the bowl and leave the coin submerged in it for five to ten minutes. Then follow the instructions below to rinse it off.

Rinse the coin

Once you’ve gotten the coin clean, you can rinse it under the faucet. But if you want to prevent hard water deposits or spots on your coin, rinse it in distilled water instead. Just pour about a cup of it into a bowl and dunk the coin in the water for a few seconds, making sure to get all the soap off of it.

Dry the coin

To dry your coin, place it on a paper towel or dish towel and let it air dry. If you’re too impatient or need the coin right away, you can dab it with the towel to dry it. Don’t forcefully rub the coin dry or you risk scratching its surface. If you hadn’t figured it out by now, they scratch very easily!

Dipping your coins

If your coin is clean but you want it to be shinier, you can dip it in a jewelry cleaner. (Again, do not do this if you plan on selling your coins later!) After a very short soak, a couple minutes, in the solution, you should be satisfied with the improvement in the appearance of your coin.

And remember: Think it may be worth more than a dollar? Don’t clean it!

Feel free to share any other ideas you may have on cleaning paper money.


  1. Tiffany says:

    Try to put it in vinegar overnight and then wash it with hand soap and then dry it very well!

  2. If your coin is more than 50 years old, don’t wash it.

  3. If it isn’t that dirty and you are going to spend it soon, don’t bother. Unless it is so disgusting that you would be embarrassed handing the coins over.

  4. To Clean Paper Money:

    Take a bowl of warm water and some basic dish-washing liquid. Wet the note in the water, then pour about a teaspoonful of soap into your palms and rub your hands together. Place the note flat in one palm then with the other palm, gently rub the soap in light circles over the note. Do this for about 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse note in the warm water then get more clean water and rinse again. The note will be slightly discolored when damp. Lie the note flat and allow it to dry for about 30 minutes or until normal color returns.

    Then take a pillow case, place it over the note and iron with a medium hot iron. All done!

    I think this question was asked by someone with foreign notes and you can’t just exchange it in local banks and shops often refuse foreign notes that are dirty! I have done this with USD $ notes and UK £ notes. If the note is genuine, then the printed color won’t be affected. It will look crisp and new!

  5. For coins, try Tabasco sauce.

  6. You should also mix hydrogen peroxide and hot water.

  7. For coins, try Coca-Cola, but rinse afterward; it leaves a sticky residue.

  8. Ok, so we didn’t have any olive oil, or rubbing alcohol, so I used some hydrogen peroxide, and it worked! Now, my pennies and coins are really sparkly. :)

  9. Musafir says:

    Hi, how do I clean a black US dollar? Any ideas would be helpful.

  10. What would clean a dirty penny better – water with soap or rubbing alcohol?

  11. Let’s be real; we want to know how to clean a really dirty scuffed up penny with gunk on it. I could have wrote this article. Soap, water…duh? What about the ones that need a serious buff job?

  12. Banks won’t take dirty or mutilated money anymore. You have to go directly to the Federal Reserve.

  13. Mustafa says:

    You can iorn it.

  14. B Nanyetu says:

    To clean old paper money: get 4 bowls and pour into the first water and liquid dish soap, water and bleach in the second bowl, water and starch in the third, and just clean water into the fourth. Stir them. Put the money into the first, second, and then third bowls for about 5-10 minutes in each bowl. Rinse them in the fourth bowl, then dry them up (it doesn’t matter; not too dry), then iron them.

  15. Put the coins in the dishwasher; I do that with hairbrushes and combs (pre-de-haired of course) too.

  16. Paper money has many ways of cleaning. If there are serious dark stains, including blood, on money, you can use peroxide to soak/bubble off the contaminants. For most other stains or dirt, you can put paper money in a pillowcase or mesh lingerie bag and wash in your washing machine with detergent or light soaps. Place into the dryer, or air dry afterwards. Ironing them flat is optional, but the fabric of the money will then be clean enough to use at the bank or any other uses.

    Some people have said when cleaning or using bloody or filthy money to just deposit it in an ATM or something else, but remember that a person must then touch those parts and currency and could become sick or contaminated themselves.

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