How do you clean your finds?

What's the best way to clean your metal detecting finds?

This is probably the most commonly asked question for metal detectorists and mudlarkers alike, both new and old.  Nick Martin @alchemist161 has recently posted a two part guide on Instagram and with his kind permission he's allowed us to repost it here.

Remember this guide isn't set in stone and is just one method to use, and at all times please adhere to any safety advice provided by the manufacturers of any products mentioned in Nick article below (see foot note).

Step 1: Cleaning dirt and contaminants from your finds.

The goal of this step is to remove impurities, contaminants, and dirt from your finds, then seal them from the atmosphere and humidity so no future deterioration occurs.  Most people make the mistake of sealing their items with wax, hairspray or other sealers BEFORE removing contaminants.  This is bad practice as it actually seals them in and can speed up the deterioration process!

The next three images show a small selection of buckles that I plan to conserve using a great product by @arteseal.

The first image is the buckles before I start the process.

It's vital not to use tap water because it's simply not pure, so I use deionised car battery water which is distilled.  Mix this with sesquicarbonate of soda which is a super strength version of plain old bicarbonate of soda.

The second image shows the buckles laying in the water, and the water turning green. This means that the solution I've put in the bowl is doing its job and leeching out the chlorides in the buckles, which is exactly what I want!

After several changes of solution, and once the harmful chlorides are gone, the water should turn clear as shown in the next image.

Step 2: Creating a barrier to help prevent any further deterioration.

The next step uses a chemical called Benzotriazole which does come with certain safety recommendations, so please adhere to any manufacturers instructions.

Caution should be taken when using it and I'd advise wearing a face mask when dissolving the pellets as the fumes are known to be carcinogenic.

It's nothing to be scared of, you just need to ensure that you take sensible precautions and adhere to the manufactures guidance for use.

The pellets should be dissolved in methylated spirit and stirred until you're left with this clear purple liquid.

Benzotriazole acts as a barrier on the surface of the metal (in particular copper alloys) to prevent any future water or oxygen ingress.  I'd recommend that once your items have been rinsed following Step 1 that you leave them in this solution for at least a week.

Step 3: Coating with ArteSeal's new product.

The final step is sealing them with @arteseals Paraloid B72 mixture.

Paraloid B72 provides a hermetic seal when fully coated, and on top of that protects the object when handled and provides a nice soft gloss finish.

This method is used by professional conservators and will ensure your artefacts last a lifetime without fear of bronze disease or other conditions which may affect the metal.


At all times please ensure you apply to any safety guidance provided by the manufacturer when using any of the above chemicals.  ArteSeal and Nick Martin @alchemist161 accept no responsibility for any personal injury or damage to your property if you make the decision to follow this process.  Always adhere to the manufacturers guidance and any SDS information provided with the products.


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