Are you or your spouse a fan of microfiber cloths for cleaning? According to one ad I saw online, such cloths are the “ultimate cleaning tool.” In fact, the advertiser writes, “Since I discovered the magical cleaning abilities of microfiber cloths several years ago, they’ve been one of the most indispensable items in my cleaning toolkit. They’re such a staple for me that I assumed everyone knew about microfiber cloths and loved them as much as I do, but I recently learned that’s not actually the case!”
I confess that I was one of the ignorant persons the advertiser refers to. My wife, on the other hand, revealed that she’s known about them for years. So, what are microfiber cloths, and might they be good for safely wiping/cleaning coins?
This is one description that I found: “Microfiber is a synthetic fiber that consists of polyester and polyamide. Polyester is basically a kind of plastic, and polyamide is a fancy name for nylon. The fibers have been split into very fine strands that are porous and dry quickly. The polyester provides the structure of a towel, while the polyamide adds density and absorption. Microfiber is a material that is durable, soft, and absorbent, making it perfect for a variety of uses. Because of the way it is made, microfiber is excellent for cleaning apparel, furniture, and even sports gear.”
But is it any good for cleaning coins? This was the question I found discussed at length on CoinTalk (CT). Or will it produce detectable “microscratches” if used to wipe either a coin made for circulation or a proof?
The original poster (OP) noted the ability of microfiber cloths “. . . to remove smudges and other superficial blemishes on glass, polished stainless steel, glazed ceramic and other common surfaces . . . seems nearly magical. I understand that Silver, Copper, Bronze & CuNi [copper nickel] are softer than the surfaces listed above, and therefore potentially more vulnerable to anything hard enough to cause visible damage (scratches, even very fine scratches). Has anyone used microfiber fabric on coins to successfully remove fingerprints and other similarly superficial blemishes[,] without damaging their surfaces?”
The response to this query came quickly and was primarily negative. One CT member wrote, “No sir. Wiping is an intolerable sin. . . Any abrasion (and microfiber fits that description) is a negative mark to our coins.”
The next responder was, if possible, even more adamant: “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can wipe a coin with that will NOT leave traces of it having been wiped! Over the years everything imaginable, including microfiber cloths, has been tried and every single one of them failed [-] and failed miserably.”
To this second responder, the OP responded, “I accept your judgement, . . . with humility. I’ll keep microfiber away from my coins, period.”
You would think that would be the end of the discussion, but you would be wrong. Responder two launched into much more detail about the problems with microfiber cloth, pointing out that it is actually plastic. “They’re very good for polishing things, and for cleaning as well because dirt gets stuck in the tiny fibers. But it is their ability to polish that also makes them harmful to coins, for anything that polishes well is going to be harmful to coins.”
Another poster wrote, “. . . wiping always leaves traces behind. It is like a crime, it always leaves traces behind that damage the reputation of that coin, or in real life, of that person.”
A new member of CT described how careful he was in removing blemishes with an eyeglass cleaning cloth that was either “. . . brand new and/or hand washed with a tiny amount of dish soap and dried then handled with gloves. . . . I THOUGHT I WAS SAFE. . . Turns out microfiber secretly means ‘microscaryscratchydeathfibers.’” Although long, this term strikes me as particularly apt.
Another poster pointed out that the new member may be okay if the coins he’s wiped are circulated. “If they’re proofs, that’s a whole other ball game.”
Echoing this sentiment about wiping circulated coins, yet another poster wrote, “My opinion, it’s fine to wipe a coin that’s circulated, I mean it can’t be any worse than peoples’ hands and pockets, right? I’m sure [the microfiber cloth] does something, but it’s a lot less than the friction of circulation.” After noting that friction is abrasive, he admitted that “. . . even an eye glass wipe is abrasive, because friction is abrasive.”
Another poster who joined the chain of responses late, wrote that when he was cleaning his glasses with a microfiber cloth he had received with his glasses, he was thinking that it might be okay to polish coins with such a cloth. But then he encountered this discussion on CT. “Thankfully, I read this blog before I did any damage. . . .”
As for eyeglass cleaning cloths being abrasive, I have only to look at my own glasses. Even though they’re supposed to be scratch resistant, my left lens looks like I’ve been wiping it with steel wool! My wife tells me I need to get a new pair, and I fear she’s right.
After all this discussion of microfiber cloth and why you shouldn’t use it, along comes a poster who suggests a new cleaning tool, toilet paper! He wrote, “I have many a coin in straight-graded PCGS slabs that have been gently-to-moderately wiped with soft, unscented/untreated toilet tissue to bring out some brilliance and/or to smooth off some smudges.” He says he tried it as an experiment with one coin, and he couldn’t tell it had been wiped and neither could the experts at PCGS. “. . . I kept it up and have never had a ‘Details’/no grade come back from any of those submitted.”
I finally decided to step in and asked: “Any particular brand?” A final poster wrote the following: “That’s a great question as some are rougher than others.”
And now you know why I buy my coins already in slabs, so that I won’t be tempted to try either microfiber cloths or toilet paper on them.