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Remove tarnish on pennies & copper

How can you remove tarnish from a penny without it coming back

Michelle [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Boston, Massachusetts


Hi Michelle,

If there was a really good way to keep pennies in circulation from tarnishing, don't you suppose the U.S. Mint would do it in the first place? :-)

If the penny is not going to be in circulation though, then you can clean it with a brass/copper polish like Brasso [on eBay or Amazon], and then apply a brass lacquer [on eBay or Amazon] . Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

I'm a eighth grader who is doing a project on tarnishing and cleaning of silver and copper. Could you please give me information? I have found almost nothing on it. Thank u,

maddie [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- new providence, New Jersey

"Electricity and Electronics"
by Bonnet & Kean

on AbeBooks

or Amazon

(affil links)


Maybe you could try cleaning the silver and copper with a toothbrush and toothpaste? You could also try a very fine wet sandpaper (very tiny sand particles), but you might wear all the way through the copper if you overdo it. Then try waxing it either with wax from a candle or with car wax.

The toothbrush and toothpaste, or sandpaper, are an abrasive and will scratch the tarnish off, leaving bare copper. Then the wax will keep air and water from reaching the copper so it doesn't tarnish again. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

I'm an 8th Grade student doing a project on how to clean pennies, in other words, how to get the tarnish off of the penny; I was wondering --

What exactly tarnishes a penny?(besides oxidation and corrosion)

Nellie W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Student - Lakewood, Colorado, United States
October 3, 2011

Hi, Nellie.

Pennies have a surface of copper. Copper is a metal, and almost all metals will slowly react with water and air to form metal oxides and metal salts like copper oxide, copper sulfide, copper chloride etc. These compounds on the surface of the penny are not bright and coppery but brownish or greenish.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 4, 2011

Note to students with science projects: Please see our FAQ on Cleaning Pennies; it will tell you everything you need to know! smiley face

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