Pennies get dirty over time and develop a dull, brownish patina that can be difficult to remove. If your pennies look old and worn, you may be wondering how to clean off the skin and restore them to a shiny, copper color.

Luckily, there are several easy methods you can use at home to remove the skin from pennies and bring back their original shine.

If you need a quick solution, soaking the pennies in a bowl of vinegar or lemon juice for a few hours should help lift most of the skin. For best results though, read on for a more thorough walkthrough of effective at-home penny cleaning techniques.

Gather Your Supplies

Distilled white vinegar or lemon juice

One of the key ingredients you will need to remove skin from pennies at home is distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. Both of these household items contain acids that help break down the oxide layer on the surface of the penny, making it easier to remove the skin.

Make sure to use pure distilled white vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice for the best results.

Baking soda

Another essential item you will need is baking soda. Baking soda is a versatile cleaning agent that can help remove stubborn dirt and grime from a variety of surfaces, including pennies. When combined with the acid in vinegar or lemon juice, baking soda creates a chemical reaction that helps lift the skin off the penny.


In addition to baking soda, having salt on hand can also be beneficial. Salt acts as an abrasive agent, helping to scrub away any remaining skin or residue on the penny. You can sprinkle a small amount of salt on a cloth or use it in combination with the other ingredients to create a paste for more effective cleaning.

Dish soap

Using dish soap is optional but can help remove any grease or oil from the surface of the penny. It is recommended to use a mild dish soap that does not contain harsh chemicals. By washing the penny with dish soap before applying any cleaning solution, you can ensure a thorough and successful cleaning process.

Steel wool

Steel wool is a useful tool for removing stubborn skin from pennies. Its abrasive nature allows you to gently scrub away the skin without damaging the underlying metal. When using steel wool, make sure to use a fine grade that is suitable for delicate surfaces like coins.

Aluminum foil

Aluminum foil can be used as a substitute for steel wool if you don’t have any on hand. Simply crumple up a piece of aluminum foil and use it to rub the penny in a circular motion. The foil’s texture will help lift the skin off the penny, leaving it clean and shiny.

Clean, dry towel

Finally, you will need a clean, dry towel to dry the penny after cleaning. This will help prevent any water spots or residue from forming on the surface. Gently pat the penny dry with the towel to ensure it is completely clean and ready to be admired or used in your coin collection.

Try the Vinegar or Lemon Juice Method

When it comes to removing skin from pennies, two household items that are often recommended are vinegar and lemon juice. Both of these acidic substances can help dissolve the oxidized layer on the surface of the penny, revealing the shiny copper underneath.

Here’s how you can use these methods to remove skin from your pennies:

Soak pennies in a bowl of undiluted vinegar or lemon juice for 2-4 hours

Start by gathering the pennies you want to clean and place them in a bowl. Pour enough undiluted vinegar or lemon juice into the bowl to fully cover the pennies. Allow the pennies to soak for 2-4 hours, or until you start to see the skin loosening and peeling off.

Scrub with an old toothbrush to remove remaining skin

After the soaking period, take an old toothbrush and gently scrub the pennies. The bristles of the toothbrush will help remove any remaining skin or debris. Be sure to scrub all areas of the penny, including the edges and any hard-to-reach crevices.

Rinse thoroughly and dry with a towel

Once you have scrubbed the pennies, rinse them thoroughly under running water. Make sure to remove any traces of vinegar or lemon juice. Pat the pennies dry with a towel or let them air dry on a clean surface. You should now have clean and shiny pennies!

It’s important to note that while vinegar and lemon juice are effective in removing the skin from pennies, they may not work on all types of corrosion or oxidation. If you encounter stubborn stains or discoloration, you may need to try other methods or consult a professional coin cleaner.

For more information on cleaning coins and other numismatic topics, you can visit websites such as or

Use Baking Soda and Salt

Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part salt

To effectively remove skin from pennies at home, one simple and inexpensive method is to use a paste made of baking soda and salt. To make the paste, mix three parts baking soda with one part salt in a small bowl or container.

The combination of these two household ingredients creates a powerful cleaning agent that can help remove stubborn residue from pennies.

Gently rub the paste onto the pennies using fingers or a soft cloth

After preparing the baking soda and salt paste, it’s time to apply it to the pennies. Take a small amount of the paste and gently rub it onto the surface of the pennies using your fingers or a soft cloth. Ensure that the entire surface of the penny is covered with the paste.

The abrasive nature of the baking soda and salt mixture helps to loosen and remove the skin or oxidation from the coins.

Rinse and dry completely

Once you have rubbed the paste onto the pennies, it’s important to rinse them thoroughly to remove any residue. Rinse the pennies under running water, making sure to get rid of all the paste. After rinsing, pat the pennies dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

It’s crucial to dry them completely to prevent any further oxidation or damage to the coins.

Remember, this method is suitable for removing skin or oxidation from pennies, but it may not be appropriate for other types of coins. If you are unsure about cleaning valuable or collectible coins, it’s best to consult a professional or do further research to avoid damaging them.

Go for the Tin Foil and Hot Water Approach

If you’re looking to remove the skin from pennies at home, one effective method is to use tin foil and hot water. This simple yet effective technique can restore the shine and luster to your dull and dirty pennies. Here’s how to do it:

Line a bowl with aluminum foil, shiny side up

Start by lining a bowl with aluminum foil, making sure the shiny side is facing up. The aluminum foil acts as a catalyst in the process of removing the oxidation and dirt from the pennies. It helps to enhance the cleaning process and bring back the original shine of the coins.

Fill bowl with hot water and a squirt of dish soap

Next, fill the bowl with hot water, ensuring that the water covers the pennies completely. Add a squirt of dish soap to the water. The dish soap helps to break down any grease or grime that may be on the pennies, making it easier to remove the skin.

Add pennies and let soak for 30 minutes

Place the pennies into the bowl, making sure they are fully submerged in the soapy water. Allow the pennies to soak for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, the chemical reaction between the aluminum foil, hot water, and dish soap will work to remove the skin from the pennies.

Wipe off skin with microfiber cloth

After 30 minutes, remove the pennies from the bowl and gently wipe off the skin with a microfiber cloth. The skin should easily come off, revealing the shiny surface underneath. If there are any stubborn spots, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub away the remaining skin.

Remember, this method is safe to use on pennies, but it is not recommended for valuable or collectible coins. It’s always best to consult a professional before attempting any cleaning methods on rare coins.

For more information about cleaning pennies and other coins, you can visit the U.S. Mint website. They provide valuable insights and guidelines on how to properly care for your coins.

Try Gentle Steel Wool Scrubbing

If you’re looking to remove skin from pennies at home, one effective method is to try gentle steel wool scrubbing. This method can help restore the shine and luster of your pennies, making them look brand new again. Here are some steps to follow:

Get a fine grade steel wool pad (000 or 0000 grade)

To begin, you’ll need a fine grade steel wool pad. Look for pads that are labeled as 000 or 0000 grade, as these are the least abrasive and will be gentle on the surface of the penny. You can find these pads at your local hardware store or online.

Rub lightly over penny surfaces under running water

Once you have your steel wool pad, wet the penny and the pad with running water. Then, gently rub the pad over the surfaces of the penny. Be sure to use light pressure and circular motions to avoid scratching the penny.

The combination of the steel wool and water will help remove any dirt, grime, or skin that may be stuck to the penny.

Rinse and dry pennies well

After scrubbing the penny, rinse it thoroughly under running water to remove any residue from the steel wool pad. Make sure to rinse off all the soap and debris. Once rinsed, dry the penny using a soft cloth or towel. This will help prevent any water spots from forming on the penny’s surface.

Avoid pressing too hard to prevent scratching

It’s important to note that while using steel wool can effectively remove skin from pennies, you should avoid pressing too hard. Pressing too hard can cause scratches on the penny’s surface, which may diminish its value. Remember to always be gentle and take your time when scrubbing the pennies.

By following these steps, you can successfully remove skin from pennies at home using gentle steel wool scrubbing. Not only will this method give your pennies a renewed appearance, but it can also be a fun and satisfying DIY project. So go ahead and give it a try!


With a few simple household ingredients and some elbow grease, you can easily remove years of dirt and oxidation from your old pennies. Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, steel wool and dish soap all help lift and dissolve the skin, bringing the pennies back to their original copper shine.

Just be careful not to scrub too aggressively, as this can scratch the penny surfaces. With some trial and error, you’ll be able to clean large batches of pennies at a time and have them looking brand new.

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