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Cleaning Copper with Lemon Juice and Vinegar
Article © MAIL User: Tesserex

Based on the thread about cleaning copper with lemons, I decided to put the theories to the test. Although pennies have the least copper of any coin, it is on the surface, and pennies are often very dirty.

I chose my six worst looking pennies. I tested cleaning them in lemon juice, lemon juice and salt solution, and 5% concentrated vinegar. The tests were for 30 seconds and 30 minutes.

Image: pennies.jpg

The results were not quite what I expected.

Lemon juice only - The 30 second penny was only dull to start, no black stuff or oxidation to speak of. The half hour one had a little black on it. They both came out several shades lighter and somewhat shiny, and most of the black was gone.

Lemon juice with salt - This had the most dramatic quick effect. The 30 second penny was very dark, and when I was swirling it, I could see the grime coming off. It still has the outline of the residue but it's much shinier. The half hour penny gave a good result. This one had some oxide at the top, and that was completely removed. It also got a few shades lighter. When washing this off, it had some black coating, but that rubbed off under water.

Vinegar - 30 seconds, nothing out of the ordinary, but it shined up nicely. I meant to take an after picture of the same side, but oops. This half hour penny must have been hit with something awful. It was almost completely black in several spots, with rings around the spots. Look behind and in front of Lincoln's head on the before picture. When this was done, that black was mostly gone, but the rings remained.

I'll let you judge which method you prefer. The most dramatic result was the lemon juice and salt for 30 seconds. I never expect any copper maille to look like this, so I did the most severe cases I could find. When the vinegar was working for the half hour, it created bubbles around the pennies. They were probably hydrogen gas or something, being liberated from the acid.
Happy cleaning!
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