Removing Milk Spots from Silver Coins | How to Clean Silver Spots

how to clean silver coins, silver coins cleaning, how do you clean silver coins, silver spots

How to Clean Silver Coins | How To Clean Silver Spots

Wondering how to clean silver coins? When it comes to silver coin cleaning, many people ask us here at Bullion Exchanges “do you know how to clean silver coins? Do you know how to get rid of milk spots?”

We will start with a disclaimer. NEVER clean coins that are highly collectible or rare key dates. Even though you might personally want the coin to shine, cleaning can damage the coin’s numismatic value. Coins that are mostly fine to clean include older, common date American Silver Eagle coins,1 oz Silver Rounds, older silver bars, and common pre-1964 90% US silver coins

Sometimes, silver coins can develop “milk spots.” Milk spots are those obnoxious, thin, white marks that develop on reflective silver coins. This is not because the coin is not silver. Milk spots form from the annealing process. Annealing is one of the final processes the silver goes through when manufacturing a silver coin. This process is a system of baking and cooling the coin in order to prevent the silver from becoming brittle. 

Unfortunately, during this process, borax can be left behind on the surface of the coin and end up baked into it. Exposure to this chemical is reportedly due to cleaning residue left behind on the dies that strike the coins. Milk spots do not reduce the intrinsic value of your coin, but they can have a negative impact on the premium over the spot price. Aside from that, they reduce the visual appeal of the coin, which on beautiful releases such as the Canadian Maple Leaf or the Austrian Philharmonic, is a definite blow for collectors. You might also find this on the Chinese Panda silver coins. 

Why Should I Clean Silver Coins?

Honestly, you do not have to if you don’t want to. Some collectors prefer to keep their coins in the condition they are in order to maintain their numismatic value. Some prefer to clean silver coins to remove milk spots, whereas others want to clean tarnish or other spots from their silver coins. 

However, silver can also tarnish simply because it reacts to the air. This leaves silver coins with discoloration, also known as the silver sulfide. This is dark, naturally occurring tarnish that forms on silver products. Although some collectors prefer to leave their coins in this state, many others prefer to clean off any tarnish, dirt, and anything else on the surface of the silver. 

While you do not have to clean silver coins, the option is available to you as long as you do not try to clean a key date, toned, or highly valuable numismatic coin. For those of you who prefer to have clean silver coins, feel free to read on. 

MILK SPOT MYTHS:

  • Overhandling your coin can cause milk spots

  • Milk spots are actually scuff marks or scratches from improper storage or packaging

  • Milk spots and tarnish are the same, and air exposure causes both

Collectors are often confused and frustrated by milk spots on their carefully cared for and beloved coins. Rightfully so! It was unclear how or why they showed up on valuable, otherwise spotless coins. This confusion led to the rise of certain myths, like that milk spots were caused by handling, scratching, or air exposure. Even only ten years ago, it was said that there was nothing to be done for the spots without causing irreversible damage, and many numismatists were left with these unsightly spots on their precious investments. 

So please keep in mind that milk spots, because they are baked into the coin, can never be fully eradicated once the borax is there. No matter which method you use to get rid of milk spots and clean silver coins, cleaning them will damage the coin to some degree. This is because the cleaning method requires rubbing, which can cause the borax and any dirt on the coin to scratch the surface.

How Common is a Milk Spot on a Silver Coin?

In more recent years, the striking process is better monitored. So, the likelihood of a milk spot appearing gets less and less likely as technology advances. 

We remind you again that you should never clean a “key date” silver coin, or coins of high numismatic value. Toned coins carry their own high value, and cleaning them can ruin their price premiums. The original luster is what makes certain coins valuable with a high natural collector-eye appeal. If you clean a coin like this, then you might end up brightening the coin, but ruin said appeal. 

How to Clean Silver Coins & Get Rid of Milk Spots

With this in mind, if you still prefer to remove the milk spots, here are two methods to do so. If you want to learn how to clean silver coins and milk spots, try these methods out. 

  1. Can I Use Jewelry Wipes to Clean Silver Coins?

Jewelry wipes are available in most drugstores or in your local grocery store. Before undertaking this method, be sure to clean the surface of your coin of dirt. This way, the small particles are less likely to grind against the silver as you clean it. Gently wipe the coin with the cloth and watch the residue lift immediately. Be aware that even if you ensure that both the wipe and the coin are clean, this method will still leave behind small abrasions on the surface of your coin. These will only be obvious to someone who is specifically looking for them. Also, they are certainly less obvious and more preferable to the unsightly milk spots. However, do not be surprised if milk spots resurface. 

  1. How to Clean Silver Coins with Erasers:

Perhaps the most surprising method, a normal, everyday rubber eraser can also clean milk spots! Your best choice is a brand new, unused, very soft eraser. Again, ensure that both the coin and eraser are clean or you will cause more damage to your coin. Simply erase the milk spots just as you would erase a mistake made in pencil. This method will erase the milk spot, but will also leave small scratches on your coin.

Following these two methods may result in your coins looking visually appealing for a longer period of time. These methods may not totally remove the milk spot or prevent it from resurfacing because borax may be baked into your coin. 

How to Clean Silver Coins - Tarnish

  1. Cleaning Silver Coins with Baking Soda

The tools you need include a well-ventilated space, your silver item, aluminum foil, baking soda, hot water, a container for soaking, latex gloves, a toothbrush or small brush, a second container with clean water for rinsing, and towels for drying. 

Begin by lining your soaking container with aluminum foil, either side. Then, add some baking soda to the foil’s surface. Next, add your tarnished common date silver coins and the hot water to cover them. You should now add more baking soda to cover the coins. Now, you should let the coins sit for 5 minutes, flip, let sit again, and repeat this for two rounds. This means both sides should soak face up at least twice.

After you put on your gloves, you can pick up your silver item and rub away the tarnish or grime with your toothbrush, little brush, or towel. At this point, you can decide if the silver coins need additional soaking or not. If you determine that your silver is as clean as you want it to be, rinse it off with cold water. Now, take a moment to inspect your coins if there is anything else you need to do. 

  1. Clean Silver Coins with Fabric Softener

Similar to the last method, this requires soaking your silver. Therefore, the items you need in addition to a well-ventilated area, your silver item(s), and latex gloves include aluminum foil, liquid fabric softener, iodized table salt, hot water, a container for soaking, toothbrush or small brush, cold water for rinsing, and towels. Because this method calls for more chemicals, it is strongly recommended you perform this in an area that receives fresh air to perform it safely. High volumes of fumes from chemical reactions can be toxic. 

Once you line a container with aluminum foil, sprinkle some fabric softener and salt on the foil. Now you can add your silver, and then generously add hot water to cover the silver coins fully. You should leave this to sit for five minutes. Then you must put on your gloves, remove your item(s), and lightly rub the surface of the silver with your brush or towel. If your coin does not need another round of soaking, then rinse your silver off with cold water and dry. 

Bullion Exchanges

For other questions on how to clean silver coins or how to remove milk spots, feel free to get in touch! Remember if you are going to wash your coin, wash your coin in warm, soapy water, and then dab it dry with a clean, soft towel. Store your coin somewhere safe where it is protected from possible damage from the air or curious visitors. For more information on best practices for caring for your beautiful collectibles, check out our Learning Center.