So you’ve recently taken up metal detecting as a hobby and have uncovered some fascinating relics buried beneath the earth’s surface. Congratulations! But now comes the important part: how do you clean and restore these treasures to their former glory? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps and techniques for cleaning relics found through metal detecting. From removing rust and dirt to preserving delicate details, you’ll learn everything you need to know to bring these historical artifacts back to life. Get ready to unlock the secrets of relic restoration and embark on a journey of discovery unlike any other.


Metal detecting enthusiasts understand the excitement of unearthing relics from the past, whether it’s ancient coins, jewelry, or historic artifacts. However, before you jump into cleaning your newfound treasures, it’s essential to gather the necessary supplies and set up a proper cleaning station.

Gathering the Necessary Supplies

To effectively clean relics found through metal detecting, you’ll need a few basic supplies. Start by gathering soft-bristled brushes in various sizes to delicately remove dirt and debris. A set of tweezers or dental picks can come in handy for removing stubborn grime. Additionally, have cotton swabs and cloths available for more delicate cleaning tasks. Finally, make sure to have a non-abrasive, mild detergent and rust dissolvers on hand, as well as protective coatings for preservation.

Setting up a Cleaning Station

Creating a designated cleaning station ensures efficiency and prevents any damage to your relics. Find a clean, well-lit area with a stable table or countertop. Make sure the workspace is clear of any clutter or potentially damaging objects. Lay down a soft cloth or non-slip mat to cushion any delicate relics during the cleaning process. It’s also a good idea to have a bowl or basin filled with clean water nearby for wet cleaning methods.

Identifying the Relics

Before you dive into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to understand the different types of relics you may come across during your metal detecting adventures. Identifying the relics will help you determine the best cleaning techniques to use without causing any harm.

Understanding Different Types of Relics

Relics found through metal detecting can vary widely in terms of their age, material, and condition. It’s essential to become familiar with the common types of relics you may encounter, such as coins, buttons, jewelry, or military artifacts. Proper identification allows you to research the best cleaning methods specifically tailored to each relic type, ensuring you preserve their value and integrity.

Seeking Professional Advice

If you come across a relic that appears to hold historical or significant value, it’s wise to seek professional advice before attempting to clean it yourself. Local historical societies or archaeologists can provide valuable insights into cleaning techniques and conservation practices. Their expertise can help prevent unintentional damage or irreversible alterations to the relic during the cleaning process.

Safety Measures

When handling relics found through metal detecting, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Taking appropriate precautions ensures both your well-being and the preservation of the artifacts.

Protective Gear and Clothing

Before you begin cleaning, protect yourself by wearing suitable gear. This includes gloves to prevent direct contact with chemicals, pollutants, or potentially hazardous substances. Safety goggles or glasses provide eye protection from splashes or debris. Additionally, consider wearing a disposable coverall or apron to shield your clothes from potential stains or damage.

Handling Potentially Hazardous Relics

Some relics, particularly those made from lead or other toxic materials, may pose risks to your health. In these cases, exercise extreme caution when handling them. Avoid touching your face or eating while cleaning, and wash your hands thoroughly after working with potentially harmful relics. If you’re uncertain about the safety risks associated with a particular relic, consult professionals or experts to ensure proper handling and minimize any potential dangers.

Dry Cleaning Methods

Dry cleaning techniques are generally the first step in the cleaning process. They involve removing loose dirt and debris without the use of water or chemicals.

Brushing and Dusting

One of the simplest ways to clean relics is by brushing and dusting. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove dirt or loose particles from the surface. Start with a larger brush to remove larger debris, then move on to smaller brushes for delicate areas. Brush in the direction of any engravings or patterns to avoid damage. Once you’ve finished brushing, use a dry cloth or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove any leftover particles.

Using Compressed Air

Compressed air is an effective cleaning method for removing dust and debris from hard-to-reach areas or intricate designs. With the help of a can of compressed air, carefully blow air onto the relic, focusing on crevices or tiny gaps. This technique dislodges loose particles without causing any physical contact or potential damage.

Wet Cleaning Methods

While dry cleaning is suitable for surface-level dirt, wet cleaning methods are necessary for more thorough cleaning. However, wet cleaning should be approached with caution to prevent any damage to relics.

Soaking in Water

Submerging relics in water can be an effective method for loosening built-up dirt and grime. However, it’s essential to determine if the relic is water-safe before attempting this technique. Relics made from materials prone to rust or corrosion, such as iron or copper, should not be soaked in water. For water-safe relics, fill a basin or container with clean water and allow the relic to soak for a short period. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently remove any remaining debris after soaking, taking care not to scrub too vigorously.

Using Mild Detergents

In cases where soaking the relic is not recommended or necessary, using mild detergents can be an alternative wet cleaning method. Dilute a non-abrasive, mild detergent in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Gently apply the diluted solution to the relic’s surface using a soft brush or cloth. Be cautious not to scrub too forcefully, as this may cause damage. After cleaning, rinse the relic thoroughly with clean water, ensuring no detergent residues remain. Pat the relic dry using a soft cloth.

Mechanical Cleaning Techniques

For more heavily soiled relics or those with stubborn dirt and corrosion, mechanical cleaning techniques provide a deeper level of cleaning. These methods require the use of specialized equipment or tools.

Using a Vibrating Tumbler

A vibrating tumbler is a useful tool for cleaning relics with intricate details or hard-to-reach areas. This mechanical cleaning technique involves placing the relic in a vibrating tumbler, along with a mixture of abrasive media and water or cleaning solution. The vibration and movement help dislodge dirt and corrosion from the relic’s surface. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using a vibrating tumbler to avoid potential damage.

Electrolysis Technique

The electrolysis technique is an advanced method for removing rust and corrosion from relics made of iron or other metals susceptible to oxidation. This technique involves creating an electrolyte solution and passing an electric current through it. As the process progresses, the rust and corrosion transfer from the relic to a sacrificial object in the solution. Electrolysis should only be attempted by experienced individuals, as it requires careful control of the electric current and constant monitoring to avoid any damage to the relic.

Removing Rust and Corrosion

Rust and corrosion are common enemies of metal relics found through metal detecting. Fortunately, there are effective methods for safely removing and preventing further damage.

Applying Rust Dissolvers

For relics with significant rust or corrosion build-up, rust dissolvers can be instrumental in restoring their appearance. These products are specifically designed to break down rust, making it easier to remove. Apply the rust dissolver to the affected areas using a soft brush or cloth, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the product to sit for the recommended duration, and then gently remove the loosened rust using a soft brush or cloth. Rinse the relic thoroughly with clean water after removing the rust dissolver.

Using Non-destructive Methods

In some cases, using non-destructive methods to remove rust and corrosion may be preferable to preserve the relic’s integrity. Non-destructive methods include gentle rubbing with a soft cloth or applying a mixture of baking soda and water to the affected areas. These techniques help remove light rust or corrosion without causing any harm to the relic. It’s crucial to be patient and avoid using harsh abrasives or scrubbing vigorously, as these can cause irreversible damage.

Preserving Fragile Relics

Some relics may be fragile or susceptible to deterioration due to age and environmental factors. Proper preservation techniques are necessary to prolong their lifespan and maintain their original appearance.

Consolidating Fragile Materials

Relics made from fragile materials such as ceramics or bone may require consolidation to prevent further deterioration. Consolidating involves applying a consolidant, typically a specialized adhesive, to reinforce weak areas and stabilize fragile materials. It’s vital to consult professionals or experts experienced in consolidating fragile relics to ensure proper application techniques and long-term preservation.

Applying Protective Coatings

Protective coatings can be beneficial for preserving metal or non-porous relics, such as coins or jewelry. These coatings act as a barrier, protecting the relic from air, moisture, and other environmental factors that can lead to deterioration or damage. Non-abrasive waxes or specialized protective coatings designed for relic preservation can be carefully applied using a soft cloth or brush. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for the specific coating product you choose.

Storing and Displaying

Once your relics are cleaned and preserved, it’s important to store and display them properly to maintain their condition and showcase their beauty.

Choosing Suitable Storage Containers

Selecting appropriate storage containers is crucial to prevent damage to your relics over time. Use acid-free materials such as archival boxes, folders, or sleeves to prevent environmental factors from degrading your relics. Acid-free tissue paper can be used to wrap fragile items individually. Avoid storing relics in areas with extreme temperature or humidity fluctuations, as these conditions can accelerate deterioration.

Creating a Display Setup

If you want to showcase your cleaned relics, creating a proper display setup is key. Consider purchasing display cases or shadow boxes with UV-protective glass to prevent damage from sunlight. Use acid-free mounting materials to secure your relics in place without causing any harm. Arrange your relics in a visually appealing manner, taking care to not overcrowd the display and give each item sufficient space to be admired.

Final Remarks

Cleaning relics found through metal detecting can be a rewarding process that allows you to appreciate and showcase objects from the past. However, ongoing care and maintenance are necessary to ensure the longevity of your artifacts.

Appreciating the Process

Cleaning relics requires patience, attention to detail, and a deep respect for the history and craftsmanship behind each item. Embrace the process and take the time to research the best cleaning methods for each relic type. By doing so, you’ll develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the relics you’ve uncovered.

Ongoing Care and Maintenance

Remember, the cleaning process is just the beginning of your caretaking journey. Regularly inspect your relics for signs of deterioration, dirt buildup, or other issues. Conduct routine cleaning and preservation interventions as necessary, maintaining a delicate balance between preserving the relic’s integrity and showcasing its beauty.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure that your relic collection remains a source of pride, fascination, and historical significance for years to come. Happy relic cleaning!