One of my favorite (and the cheapest) souvenirs that we collect are Pressed Pennies. We get them everywhere we go, whether its at Disney World, the zoo, or the Smithsonian, we love collecting them. Normally we start collecting the shiniest pennies a few weeks before we are about to go somewhere, however on our latest trip to Washington, DC, we noticed that our pennies would come out with a streak in them. NOT COOL!!! I did some research and discovered that any penny that was minted after 1982 contains a zinc core with only the outside shell of the penny being copper.
We are about a month away from our May Disney trip, so I decided to go through our piggy bank and pull out all the pennies that were minted before 1982 and boy, were they ugly. However, after researching different cleaning methods, I decided to try 5 of them to see which way I liked the best and what was the quickest and easiest!
Please note that all methods listed below only apply for pennies that were minted before 1982.
Method 1: Coca-Cola
This method is super easy but takes a while!
Gather your pennies and place them into a container where they are not touching.
Pour a layer of Coca-Cola (or any generic Coke brand) over the pennies. Let them sit for 4-5 hours while the Coke performs its magic!
Scrub them with a toothbrush to remove any leftover residue. Rinse them in the sink with warm water and dry them off.
Method 2: Vinegar and Salt
(Note, you can also use Lemon or Orange Juice as a substitute for the vinegar)
Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of vinegar into the bowl. Stir well to ensure the salt has dissolved. (For lots of pennies, you can use 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup of vinegar) Smells nice, doesn’t it?
Add your pennies and be sure those babies aren’t touching each other. The transformation happens quickly, it’s pretty cool to watch. Let them sit in this solution for about 5 minutes.
Scrub them with a toothbrush and run them under some warm water. Be sure to dry them completely or they will be ruined!
Method Three: Ketchup
Prepare to get messy.
Pour some ketchup into a container. Add pennies while trying not to let them touch each other. Let sit for 3 minutes.
Go fishing for your pennies and scrub them clean with a toothbrush.
Rinse them in warm water and dry them well.
Method Four: Tabasco Sauce
This one is also messy.
Place your pennies into a container so they are not touching each other. Add a layer of Tabasco so it covers them completely. Let sit for 3 minutes.
Grab those suckers out and scrub them with a toothbrush.
(Can you guess what comes next?) Rinse them with warm water and dry them completely!
Method Five: Bar Keepers Friend
We have some that we use for our Stainless Steel appliances, sink, and pots (I actually used it after I finished this to remove the rust ring in my sink) and if you have anything metal in your kitchen, this stuff works really well, I get mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Place your pennies into the container so they do not touch each other. Add a layer of Bar Keepers Friend (be sure to shake well!) Let them sit for 5 minutes.
Scrub the pennies with a toothbrush. This part really makes a difference here, Bar Keepers Friend works miracles only if you are willing to put in some elbow grease.
Rinse in warm water and dry the pennies completely.
The easiest method is either the Vinegar and Salt or the Coke method. The Bar Keeper’s Friend gives them the best shine, but you really do have to scrub them a lot to get the gunk off. The Ketchup and Tabasco work well, they are just the messiest, so if you don’t want to get too messy, skip these. Salt and Vinegar is definitely the quickest method, so I have determined that for me personally, I will continue to use the Salt and Vinegar trick to clean all our old pennies before our vacations!
Purchase Disney Pressed Penny Albums before your trip: