My kids really get a kick out of cleaning pennies, and today I’m sharing tips for how to clean pennies so they really shine! Plus I have a couple free printable templates along with some fun ideas for what to do with all your shiny pennies and how to turn them into gifts!
How to clean pennies so they really shine!
Impress your little leprechauns by having these penny cleanning tricks up your sleeve this St. Patrick’s Day! Cleaning pennies is a fun activity to do with the kids, and there is a little bit of science behind it too!
Even if you thought you knew how to clean pennies, you might want to brush up a bit since you’ll want to take a different approach depending on when the penny was made.
Read on to learn how to make pennies really shine and of course WHY it works — because you know your little inquiring minds will want to know!
I recommend cleaning pennies stamped with a year that is special to you — like a birthday or anniversary.
FOR PENNIES MADE PRIOR TO 1982:
Mix ½ cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt in a non-metal bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves. Place 8-10 pennies in the solution for about 30 seconds. Remove, rinse and dry.
WHY THIS WORKS: Getting those pennies to shine is not just luck. The acidic vinegar is reacting with the salt to remove the copper oxide that makes pennies look dull. Copper oxide dissolves in a mixture of weak acid and table salt-and vinegar is an acid. That’s why you will also see suggestions for lemon juice (an acid too!), but I think salt and vinegar is just easier!
FOR PENNIES MADE AFTER 1982:
Rub both sides of the penny with an eraser to make them shine.
WHY THIS WORKS: After 1982, pennies were made with zinc, not copper, so the salt reaction doesn’t have the same effect. If you simply rub these more recent pennies with an eraser, you will make them shine like new!
What to do with your shiny pennies?
Now you can turn your shiny pennies into a thoughtful gift! Simply attach them with glue dots to my free printable bookmarks or gift cards. In the past, we have also glued ours to ring backs or pin backs before gifting.
For extra fun, I recommend cleaning pennies stamped with a year that is special to you — like a birthday or anniversary.