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Cleaning Gold - The Methods You Can Use

Cleaning gold is important to you in more ways than one, not only to ensure you have a wonderful bright clean gold nugget but also because it can add significant value and desirability to your piece.

Its also a matter of choice, I prefer to do a minor clean of my nuggets and keep them as natural as possible, whereas Udo (who has a Hydrofluoric Acid handling Permit) likes to remove all the dirty bits of ironstone and dirty quartz from his nuggets.

Sometimes when the Quartz is clean it is better to keep the gold in quartz as a specimen. These specimens are quite beautiful and sometimes sought after as jewellery or specimen pieces by collectors.

Gold Specimens - Is it REALLY necessary to Remove all the Ironstone and Quartz?

If you still want to turn your gold nugget into a bright shiny piece here are some methods you can use;

Methods You Can Use to Clean Your Precious Gold

Starting from the most safe ranging through to using materials that are quite dangerous and demand significant safety precautions.

(1) Clean Your Gold With Detergent and a Toothbrush.

In fact you can start the process of cleaning gold by putting a teaspoon full of detergent in your specimen container before you go prospecting.

The action of friction and rubbing on your gold nuggets and the detergent will start the cleaning job for you while you are metal detecting. You only have to clean up with a toothbrush when you get home.

(2) Clean Gold by Soaking in White Vinegar and Salt

Soak in white vinegar and salt overnight then give it a scrub up with toothbrush and toothpaste the next day which will help the shine - make sure you thoroughly wash off the toothpaste to stop a coat of dried white residue on the nugget

(3) Use an Off The Shelf Product Like "Easy off Bam"

You can buy a cleaning product called "Easy Off Bam" at the supermarket which helps clean off the basic dirt, red dust and grime.

Get the product that has the orange top that is used for removing "Limescale and soap scum"

(4) Cleaning Gold with Alibrite

Buy some Alibrite from Supercheap Auto spares shops and soak it until the ironstone residue softens - if there is too much ironstone then it may not remove all of it (Depends on how long you want to leave it in the Mix) but it will clean up the gold.

This has less than 1% of Hydrofluoric acid as part of its ingredients, nevertheless use all safety precautions when you use it particularly the use of rubber gloves, safety glasses and protective clothing.

This can cause "severe burns which are not likely to be immediately painful or visible" according to the manufacturer so use it with care!

Always read the manufacturers Safety Notes, Warnings, Cautions and Directions for use.

Cleaning Gold With Alibrite - Before and After Pictures

Clean gold Using Alibrite Alibrite poisons warning

Results Before and After Cleaning Gold

Dirty Gold nuggets Before Cleaning Cleaned Gold Nuggets
Picture of Gold Soaked in Alibrite for a few hours - on the left is the original gold colour and the right shows the cleaned gold after a few hours in alibrite.

Alternatively you could try a cleaner that has hydrofluoric acid in in like Meguairs Hot Rims Chrome Wheel cleaner available from Autoone carparts shops.

We haven't testing using this product yet so are not sure whether it is effective or not.

(5) Hydrochloric Acid

Use Acid such as Hydrochloric Acid but with great care as it is dangerous and can cause serious injuries if all safety precautions are not used.

The basic method is to soak your nugget in Hydrochloric acid in a plastic or glass jar with a plastic lid or glass lid stopper.

Each day remove it and scrub the gold with a toothbrush and plenty of water - WARNING - Use your safety equipment, this stuff burns!.

Continue to soak and scrub the gold until the ironstone or other material has dissolved.

Use all safety precautions including safety glasses, rubber gloves, acid resistant clothing and shoes.


6. Hydrofluoric acid is the Strongest Acid for Dissolving Ironstone and Quartz in Gold.

You need a poisons permit to buy and use it and it is deadly, not recommended, unless you have the permit and have full safety training in its use.

A poisons permit for this is available from the Department of Health see the Hydroflouric Acid Questionnaire here.

Hydrofluoric Acid Safe Handling

There is anecdotal evidence that some people are storing Hydrodfluoric Acid and have done so and used it since before the poisons handling permit came into being.

That is a very dangerous practise particularly due to decomposition of storage containers in storage. Do NOT use glass containers to store it for example it will attack and destroy the glass making the acid subject to spillage.

If you are using hydrofluoric acid make sure you are familiar with the following rules at the link outlined below;

Working with Hydrofluoric Acid

It is extremely expensive around $130 per half litre and very dangerous.

Udo has a permit to use this acid and he does to clean his gold but we do NOT recommend its use for untrained people. Remember too that you cannot purchase it without a permit.

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