How to Clean Tarnished Medals: A Comprehensive Guide


Medals are not just symbols of achievement or recognition, but they also hold sentimental value for many people. 

Whether it’s a medal you earned yourself, a family heirloom, or a treasured gift, keeping it clean and shiny is important to maintain its beauty and significance.

However, over time, medals can become tarnished, losing their luster and shine. 

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of how to clean tarnished medals, so you can restore their original shine and beauty.

Let’s begin.

Understanding Tarnish

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand what tarnish is and why it forms on medals. Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that forms on the surface of metal objects, typically composed of metal sulfides, oxides, or chlorides. 

It’s caused by a reaction between the metal and certain environmental factors, such as moisture, air, or chemicals. Tarnish can give metal objects a dull or discolored appearance, and if left unchecked, it can cause permanent damage to the metal surface.

Identifying Tarnished Medals

The first step in cleaning tarnished medals is to identify the type of metal and the extent of the tarnish. Different metals have different properties and require different cleaning methods. 

Some common metals used in medals include gold, silver, bronze, and brass. You can identify the type of metal by looking for markings or stamps on the medal itself. Once you have identified the metal, inspect the medal for any signs of tarnish, such as discoloration, dullness, or a powdery or fuzzy appearance.

Cleaning Tarnished Medals: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have identified the type of metal and the extent of the tarnish, it’s time to clean the medal. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning tarnished medals:

Step 1: Prepare the Cleaning Solution

The first step in cleaning tarnished medals is to prepare a cleaning solution. The type of solution you use will depend on the type of metal and the degree of tarnish. Some common cleaning solutions for medals include dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, or specialized metal cleaners. Mix the solution according to the instructions on the package or in a bowl with warm water.

Step 2: Soak the Medal

Once you have prepared the cleaning solution, it’s time to soak the medal. Place the medal in the solution and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes. If the tarnish is extensive, you may need to let it soak for longer.

Step 3: Gently Scrub the Medal

After soaking, remove the medal from the solution and gently scrub it with a soft-bristled brush or cloth. Be gentle to avoid damaging the metal surface. Pay special attention to the areas with the most tarnish.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry the Medal

Once you have finished scrubbing, rinse the medal under warm running water to remove any residual cleaning solution. Dry the medal thoroughly with a soft cloth or towel, making sure to remove any moisture.

Tips for Cleaning Specific Metals

Different metals require different cleaning methods and precautions. 

Here are some tips for cleaning specific types of metals:

Gold Medals

Gold is a relatively soft metal and can be easily scratched or damaged if not cleaned properly. To clean gold medals, use a mild soap solution or specialized gold cleaner, and avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals.

Silver Medals

Silver is a delicate metal that can tarnish quickly, especially in humid or acidic environments. To clean silver medals, use a specialized silver cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water. Avoid using chlorine or bleach, as they can damage the silver surface.

Bronze and Brass Medals

Bronze and brass medals are prone to tarnishing and can develop a green or brown patina over time. To clean bronze and brass medals, use a mixture of lemon juice and salt, or a specialized metal cleaner. Be sure to rinse and dry the medal thoroughly to avoid any residue buildup.

Preventing Tarnish in the Future

Once you have cleaned your tarnished medal, you may want to take steps to prevent it from tarnishing in the future. Here are some tips to keep your medals looking their best:

  • Store your medals in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight and moisture.
  • Use anti-tarnish strips or bags to absorb moisture and prevent tarnish buildup.
  • Avoid wearing your medals during activities that may expose them to chemicals or harsh environments.
  • Clean your medals regularly to remove any buildup and prevent tarnish from forming.


Cleaning tarnished medals can be a straightforward process, as long as you take the time to identify the type of metal and choose the appropriate cleaning solution. 

By following our step-by-step guide and using the tips provided, you can restore your medals to their original shine and keep them looking their best for years to come.

Looking for more ways to clean your medals? Read our article on How to Clean Medals with Toothpaste.  


Can I use toothpaste to clean my tarnished medals?

While toothpaste may work in some cases, it’s not recommended as it can be abrasive and damage the metal surface.

Is it safe to use vinegar to clean my medals?

Yes, vinegar can be an effective cleaning solution for some metals, but be sure to rinse and dry the medal thoroughly to avoid any residue buildup.

Can I use a metal polish to clean my medals?

Yes, metal polishes can be effective for cleaning tarnished medals, but be sure to choose a product that is specifically formulated for your type of metal.

Can I use a toothbrush to scrub my medals?

Yes, a soft-bristled toothbrush can be effective for gentle scrubbing, but be sure to avoid using a stiff-bristled brush that could damage the metal surface.

How often should I clean my medals?

The frequency of cleaning will depend on the type of metal and the conditions in which the medal is stored or worn. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to clean your medals regularly to prevent tarnish buildup and keep them looking their best.

Thanks for reading.

-Baking Soda Guy

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels