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How to Properly Clean and Preserve Your Metal Detector Finds

detectorist showing his finds

So, you've just had a successful day out with your metal detector and you've come home with a pocket full of interesting finds. Now what? Cleaning and preserving your discoveries is a key step that many detectorists overlook. But don't worry, we’re here to walk you through the process. with the right techniques, you can ensure your treasures stay in great condition for years to come. Let’s take a closer look.

Common Types of Finds

Before we get into the specifics of cleaning, let's talk about what you might have found; coins are generally the most common finds, but jewelry, buttons, and various metal artifacts are also frequently unearthed. What’s key to note here is that each of these requires a slightly different approach, but there are some general rules that apply to all.

Initial Steps Upon Discovery

The moment you dig up an item is actually pretty important, as what you do in those first few minutes can make a big difference in how well the item is preserved:

Document the Find Spot

First things first, make a note of where you found the item. This might seem unnecessary, but it can be really valuable information, especially if you've found something of historical significance. A quick photo or GPS coordinate can do the trick.

Handle the Item with Care

It might be tempting to give that muddy coin a good rub right away, but resist the urge. The oils on your skin can actually damage some metals, especially if the item is old or made of precious metals. If you can, wear gloves. If not, just be gentle and try to handle the item as little as possible until you can clean it properly.

Initial Cleaning

When you're still in the field, a gentle brush off with a soft-bristled brush is usually enough. The goal here is just to remove loose dirt, not to get the item sparkling clean. Remember, some dirt can actually protect delicate surfaces during transport.

And if you're curious about how metal detectors operate, take a look at our blog for more guidance.

Protect and Store the Find

Once you've done a basic clean, store your find in a way that will protect it. A soft cloth or paper envelope works well for most items, and you’ll want to avoid plastic bags where possible, as these can trap moisture and potentially cause damage.

Assess the Item's Condition

When you get home, take a good look at your finds. Are they fragile? Heavily corroded? Understanding the condition of the item will help you decide how to proceed with cleaning.

Basic Cleaning Techniques

Now, let's get into the actual cleaning. Remember, the goal is to remove dirt and corrosion without damaging the item itself.

Cleaning Coins

For coins, start with a soak in distilled water, as this can help loosen dirt without risking damage. After soaking, you can gently brush the coin with a soft toothbrush. Be patient - it's better to clean gently over a longer period than to scrub hard and risk scratching the surface.

Cleaning Jewelry

Jewelry can be trickier, as different metals and stones require different care. Gold is pretty resilient and can usually handle soap and water, while silver might need a special silver cleaner. If there are stones, be extra careful - some can be damaged by certain cleaning methods.

Cleaning Relics

For older artifacts or relics, less is often more when it comes to cleaning; a gentle brush and some distilled water is usually enough. If you're dealing with something that seems particularly old or valuable, it might be best to consult an expert before attempting to clean it yourself.

Common Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

It's easy to get carried away when cleaning your finds, but there are some common mistakes you'll want to avoid:

Using Abrasive Tools

soft bristle brush

Wire brushes or other abrasive tools might seem like they'd be effective, but they can easily scratch and damage your discovered treasure. Stick to soft brushes and gentle cleaning methods.

Overcleaning Historical Items

When it comes to older items, a bit of patina isn't just okay - it's often desirable. Overcleaning can actually decrease the value of some historical artifacts, so get a valuation first if you think you’ve found something special.

Applying Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals might clean effectively, but they can also damage your finds. Stick to gentle cleaners unless you're sure about what you're doing.

Failing to Identify the Metal Type

Different metals react differently to various cleaning methods, so make sure you know what you're dealing with before you start cleaning.

Improper Rinsing and Drying

After cleaning, make sure to rinse your finds thoroughly and dry them completely. Leftover cleaning products or moisture can cause damage over time.

Preserving Your Metal Detector Finds

Don’t forget that cleaning is just the first step - proper preservation is key to maintaining your finds long-term, here’s how:

Importance of Preservation

Preservation isn't just about maintaining value - it's about preserving history. Many of the items we find have survived for decades or even centuries underground, so it's our responsibility to ensure they survive for many more years.

Proper Storage Methods

Store your cleaned and dried finds in a cool, dry place. Individually wrapping items can prevent them from scratching each other, and for particularly valuable items, consider using archival-quality storage materials.

Using Protective Coatings

For some items, a protective coating can help prevent future corrosion. This is particularly useful for iron objects, which are prone to rusting.

Dealing with Corrosion

If you're dealing with heavily corroded items, it might be best to seek professional help. Improper removal of corrosion can damage the underlying metal.

Seeking Professional Help

For particularly valuable or historically significant finds, don't hesitate to seek professional help - conservators have specialized knowledge and tools that can make a big difference in preserving important artifacts, as well as their potential auction value.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! While cleaning and preserving your metal detector finds might seem like a lot of work, it's an important part of the hobby, especially if you’re looking to make a little money with your finds! Not only does it help maintain the value of your discoveries, but it also ensures that these little pieces of history are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Remember, the goal isn't always to make your finds look brand new. Sometimes, the signs of age are part of what makes an item special.

And if you’re looking for a high quality gold detector, look no further than us at Detector Power. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned hobbyist, we’ve got all the detecting devices you need, from drones to underwater metal detectors.

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