Dirty Water 10 Minutes UltraSonic Cleaner

Using an UltraSonic Cleaner on Coins and Metal Detecting Finds

An ultrasonic cleaner is a really nifty little device that removes dirt and debris by agitating fluid using 20-40kHz sound waves.

It can be used on coins, jewelry, (some) glasses, and tools.

I do not advocate for cleaning valuable coins in an ultrasonic cleaner. Exposing the coin to water and even gentle vibrations can damage the surface of the coin. This machine works great for common coins, or coins that have excessive debris and damage.

I received the Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Machine for my birthday (thanks James!) And decided it would be great for cleaning my metal detecting finds.

Here is the UltraSonic Cleaner I will be using for this review:

So, I went into my backyard and metal detected for about half an hour. In that time, I dug up 2 nails and a penny. (I wish I had found more coins for this demonstration, but I was at the will of the metal detector gods.)

Before Cleaner
My Metal Detecting Finds. Two Nails and a Penny.

Here is a close up of the penny. It is a 1976D, legible in-person, but covered in a lot of dirt.

Penny Before UltraSonic Cleaning Coin
Penny Before Ultrasonic Cleaner

First, I microwaved 1.5 cups of water for 45 seconds in the microwave. The ultrasonic cleaner works better with warm/hot water.

UltraSonic Dish Soap MagnaSonic Dawn
Magnasonic Cleaner Machine, Water, and Dawn Dish Soap

Next I submerged the coins in the plastic netting and added a few drops of Dawn dish soap. The soap should help the debris unstick when the machine begins vibrating.

I have advocated before for using acetone to clean coins. DO NOT PUT ACETONE IN YOUR ULTRASONIC CLEANER. Acetone will eat through any plastic and ruin your machine.

You can buy liquid concentrate like this one, which is made to be used in an ultrasonic cleaner. They probably work better than dish soap, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Here is the water after 2.5 minutes:

Dirty Water 2.5 min ultrasonic cleaner
Bleh! So much dirt came off.

My machine automatically shuts off after 2.5 minutes so I let it run a few more times until the penny and nails had been in for a total of 10 minutes.

The machine is not loud when in use. It does make a small humming sound, but as long as the lid is on the sound is not very noticeable.

Here is everything after 10 minutes of ultrasonic vibrations:

Dirty Water 10 Minutes UltraSonic Cleaner
Even more dirt came off after 10 minutes.

Here is the before and after of the penny:

This made a big difference on the penny and the nails. I will definitely be using this device for future metal detecting finds. It is easier than cleaning the coins by hand before putting them back in circulation.

After using the Ultrasonic cleaner, I could even see some of the steel on the nails.

Before CleanerAfter UltraSonic
Slide the center to compare.

I would recommend this product for metal detectorists. It is a very easy way to clean and sanitize your finds. They won’t come out spotless, but it is easier than scrubbing every item.

Remember that this cannot remove tarnishing from silver. Check any jewelry before and after the ultrasonic cleaning for loose gemstones. The vibrations may shake them off.

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Nails Attracted To a Magnet White Background

Can You Find Coins by Magnet Fishing?

From coin collecting I discovered metal detecting, from metal detecting I discovered magnet fishing! It’s amazing how one hobby can build into multiple!

I have read a lot of articles that claim there are no US coins you can find magnet fishing and this IS NOT TRUE. There is ONE coin from the United States you can find magnet fishing. Read more to find out which coin and why!

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What is magnet fishing?

Magnet fishing is a fairly new hobby that has been gaining traction the last few years and it’s exactly what it sounds like! (Well, maybe not exactly what it sounds like, as you are not fishing for metal fish.)

Magnet fishers tie a rope to a very strong magnet and cast the rope into a body of water to see if they can pull up any metal treasures in the water.

Can you find coins magnet fishing?

Unfortunately, it is very unlikely you will find any US coins, silver, or gold while magnet fishing. The most common metals used in US coins are: copper, zinc, silver, nickel, and gold; and of those only nickel is magnetic.

While nickel is magnetic, all US nickels are actually only 25% nickel. The rest is non-magnetic copper. The small amount of nickel in US coins is unlikely potent enough to be attracted to even a magnet-fishers magnet.

There is only one US cent that you will be able to find magnet fishing… the 1943 Steel Penny! This penny was minted during WW2 when copper was scarce. Since copper was being conserved for the war effort, the US Mint decided to use steel with a coating of zinc.

Even a small refrigerator magnet can attract a 1943 Steel Penny, so a magnet fisher should have no problems catching it if they come across one.

Of course… that is a lot of effort for just a single penny, with a low likelihood you would happen to cast into a river or lake that has a steel penny at the bottom.

Magnet fishers outside of the US should have more luck. Several Canadian and UK coins are made from magnetic materials. However, you are unlikely to get rich off of any of those common coins.

Is magnet fishing worth it if you can’t find coins?

You can still find guns, car parts, bike parts, sunglasses, and other things that get lost in rivers. If your motivation is to get rich or find valuable coins this is not the hobby for you.

Magnet fishing is about finding lost treasures and doing your part to keep waterways clean.

That being said, there is one way you could strike it rich magnet fishing. Although incredibly rare, it is possible to find a safe at the bottom of a river with valuables like coins, silver, or gold.

You would need to be incredibly strong and have a really powerful magnet to be able to pull a metal safe out of the water.

I think magnet fishing is still a great hobby. And it’s very inexpensive to try.

Here is a link to a beginners magnet fishing kit on Amazon. I like this kit because it comes with everything you need to get started. Along with a magnet and ropes, it also includes gloves (prevent tetanus!), an informational e-booklet, a plastic scraper (to pry things off the magnet), and a case!

As the magnets are very powerful, make sure to keep it in a case when not in use! The strong magnet can damage electronics and get stuck on metal.

What is a better way to find coins?

A better way to find lost coins is a metal detector! A metal detector does not need a coin to be magnetic to be able to find it. I’ve found all sorts of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters with my metal detector.

A metal detector does require a little more skill than magnet fishing. You can’t just chuck your metal detector into a river! But overall I was surprised how easy it was to learn.

My first time metal detecting I found 86 cents buried in my backyard! And I hadn’t even bothered to use the manual.

For detecting coins, I’d recommend a Garrett metal detector. They are user friendly and even have a “coin” setting which makes your metal detector only ping on metals that are likely to be coins.

I have a Garrett Ace 400 and it’s a great metal detector! I would recommend it wholeheartedly, but if it’s your first time metal detecting the slightly cheaper Garret Ace 300 has almost all the same features.

The best places to find coins metal detecting are parks and beaches. Parks are more likely to have older coins, but you will probably find more coins at the beach. If you are super adventurous you could even trek off into the woods to metal detect!

You never know where someone may have lost a few coins from their pocket or stashed a pile of gold. The mystery is what makes metal detecting fun!

So, magnet fishing or metal detecting: which is better?

I would have to say that metal detecting is the better hobby overall. There are many more places to metal detect as you don’t need a body of water. Even your backyard could be a great place to hunt!

Metal detecting can also find many of the same treasures as magnet fishing. You can still find old guns, bike parts, car parts, and LOTS of nails with a metal detector. Metal detectors can be tuned to only give you a signal for more valuable metals, whereas magnet fishers have only one setting: Magnetic.

Magnet fishing has the upside of being cheaper and more obscure. Most people I’ve mentioned magnet fishing to have never even heard of it! The downside to the relative obscurity is that there is a much smaller online community.

If my background was in fishing instead of coin collecting I may have given a different answer though. Both are great hobbies to try. Plus, for being under $100 to start, I think magnet fishing is worth the money.

Click Here to View Magnet Fishing Kits on Amazon >

Click Here to View Metal Detectors on Amazon >

Which hobby do you prefer? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below!

Nickel with Soap, Lemon, Baking Soda

Cleaning Coins is Actually Bad For Them (with pictures!)

Post on any coin forum asking how to clean your coins and you will be accosted with angry coin collectors tell you to absolutely not try to clean them. There is good reason for this.

Although a cleaned coin may look better to the human eye, it actually damages the coin.

After being exposed to oxygen, water, and other elements in circulation, coins develop a patina. The patina is a thin layer of green or brown film caused by oxidation on the surface of the metal.

Cleaning a coin involves removing the thin layer of patina on the top of the coin to expose the shiny metal below. From afar, the coin would be shinier and look newer.

In reality, the cleaned coin now has very small scratched called micro-abrasions. These small scratches hurt the coins value for most collectors. Plus, by giving the coin a more scratched surface, the coin is now more prone to oxidation.

Here are the coins I will be using to show the different cleaning methods sometimes prescribed.

1.) 196(?)D Nickel – Dish Soap, Sponge, Lemon, and Baking Soda

This coin was the worst of the bunch. I could only barely make out the first part of the year (maybe 1968 or 1969?).

Since this coin was the worst of the bunch, I decided to use the most abrasive cleaning methods on it.

First I used a sponge with Dawn Dish soap aggressively on the surface of the coin. As I ran hot water over the coin I continued to rub in circular motions.

After this, it looked a bit cleaner, but I decided to get some chemistry involved and let the coin sit in lemon and baking soda before I rubbed it with a Q-tip.

The obverse of the coin after cleaning.

The coins look ever so slightly better after being cleaned. However, the amount of long term-damage done is not worth the small increase in eye-appeal. The date was still illegible after cleaning.

2.) 1986D Penny – Lemon and Baking Soda

For the 1986D, I put the penny in a small glass ramequin with fresh lemon juice and added about half a tablespoon of baking soda. I could tell something was happening as the concoction began to fizz!

Penny soaked in lemon juice and baking soda.

After letting the coin sit in the mixture a minute, I flipped it over so it could effect the coin evenly. Once that side was done I took the coin out to rub it with a Q-tip.

The coin certainly came out much shinier! If I had been more aggressive with the Q-tip, I could have gotten it much cleaner.

The obverse before (left) and after (right).
The reverse before (left) and after (right).

Much shinier of course, but you can still see small sections where the q-tip scratched the surface of the coin.

3.) 2000D New Hampshire Quarter – Acetone and a Q-tip

This coin was pretty clean already. Just a few blemishes keeping it from looking like new. For this quarter, I decided to go for a gentler cleaning method.

I took a Q-tip, dipped it in acetone, and used gentle circular motions on the surface of the coin.


This worked effectively and quickly, removing dark spots in the corners of the coin. Here is the before and after comparison:

(Sorry! The before image is not very clear.)
Again, not very clear image. Sorry!

4.) 1995D Penny – Acetone ONLY

If I had to recommend a way to “clean” a coin, this would be it. Acetone, also known as propanone, only dissolves organic materials. It can help dissolve glue, wax, and plastic.

This penny looks to be experiencing copper rot, more formally known as bronze disease. This occurs when copper comes into contact with chloride. You can tell by the green and white spots on the surface of the coin.

(Coins can also be affected by verdigris which is very similar, but I suspect this is bronze disease because of the white spots along with the green.)

To use acetone and minimize damage to the coin, you need to use 100% pure acetone. Don’t use nail polish remover as it includes coloring and fragrances that could affect your coin.

Keep pour the acetone into a glass jar or bowl. Put the coin into the acetone and try to move the coin as little as possible. You do not want the coin to scratch across the glass.

Penny in acetone in a glass bowl.

I would lightly swish the acetone around, but not enough to move the coin. After about 5 minutes I flipped the coin over and let it soak for another 5 minutes.

When taking the coin out of the acetone make sure to let it AIR DRY. Do not pat the coin dry with any material as this can also cause small abrasions. Acetone dries very quickly.

Obverse before (left) and after (right).
Reverse before (left) and after (right).

The obverse of our 1995D penny actually looks slightly worse after the acetone bath. The acetone ate away organic material on the top layer of the coin to help reveal the zinc below.

Even acetone cannot save a damaged coin, but it doesn’t hurt the metal when done properly. (Some people claim that leaving copper in acetone for too long can damage the coin, I don’t recommend leaving a penny in acetone for longer than a half hour.)


I know that by showing coins going from dirty to clean it may look like I am promoting for people to clean their coins. On the contrary, I think it is important for collectors to know that a cleaner coin is not necessarily better.

If a coin looks suspiciously clean for its age, then look carefully! Check for small scratches on the surface that could indicate cleaning. Get a magnifying glass of some kind to check for tiny abrasions that follow similar circular patterns.

Look at all the small scratches on this quarter!

If you have a coin that is both dirty and valuable, you can submit it to a professional coin service like PCGS or NGC to have it professionally cleaned (also referred to as restoration or conservation).

Have you ever cleaned a coin? Vote in our poll or comment below!

(Interested in more polls? Check out our poll page!)

5 Hobbies That Go Great With Coin Collecting

What do coin collectors do when they aren’t looking at coins?

Coin collecting is a super fun hobby, but sometimes you lack motivation. Maybe you have just finished a type set, or spent lots of money on American Gold Eagles. It’s common to feel burnt out on a hobby every once in a while.

What should you do while you put coin collecting on the back burner?

Here is a list of 10 hobbies that don’t revolve around coins (but still feel similar.)

1.) Stamp Collecting

Stamps, courtesy of Mason B.

Part of the fun of coin collecting is that you get a new lens on US history. Stamp collecting is a great hobby for people who love coins for their history.

Stamps were first invented in 1837, so there are stamps that are over a century old. Plus, many stamps commemorate historical events. Just like coins, there are stamps for national parks, states, and historical figures. (Also lots and lots of Lady Liberty!)

There are stamp collecting albums for storage similar to coin albums as well as informational books.

2.) Metal Detecting

My Garret Ace 400

I got a metal detector to help me find old coins lost in the ground, but a metal detector can find much more than coins. I have also used my metal detector to find jewelry and help clean up trash. (You will find lots of trash metal detecting!)

Metal detecting gives you an excuse to walk along the beach or hike through the forest in search of treasures. It reminds me of coin roll hunting because there is a sense of searching for forgotten treasures.

I have a Garrett Ace 400 which is a great metal detector for finding coins. It even has a coin setting which helps you find coins faster.

3.) Woodworking

Woodworking Photo courtesy of Dominik Scythe

Any good coin collector eventually reaches the point where they have too many coins to fit in an old Altoid tin. You could move the coins to an old cigar box, but isn’t presentation almost as important as the coin itself?

Making your own coin box, or coin holders, is a super cool way to show off your coins. Plus, you could learn how to sell specialty coin boxes on Etsy! More money = more coins!

I love coin collecting, but often lament the fact that this hobby doesn’t give me the chance to create. By combining coin collecting with woodworking, you have a trove of woodworking ideas and the ability to create something.

4.) Photography

A camera wistfully pointed at the sky. Courtesy of Christian Wiediger.

Photographing coins is HARD. Since coins are so small and have a reflective surface, getting a clear picture is challenging.

I have little to no photography experience so learning to take pictures of coins has been an uphill battle. You need a good camera, natural lighting, and the perfect angle.

Even if you are not photographing coins, photography is a great reason to get outside and explore new places. You may learn about new animals and attractions in your area.

5.) Paper Money Collecting

A 2$ bill hanging in my room.

Collecting paper money is not as fun as collecting coins, (Sorry, paper fanatics!) but it is a good complimentary hobby.

You can look for misprints, mis-cut bills, star notes, and fancy serial numbers. Old paper money is often harder to find than old coins, as paper is less durable.

If you are looking to get started, buy some money holders to keep them safe and start looking through your wallet. You can even go to the bank and ask for a stack of bills to search through!

I’d recommend first searching for 2$ bills, silver certificates, foreign currency, and older bills.

Anything I missed? What complimentary hobbies do you have for coin collecting?

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