Chip Cleaning Tips

Contributed by Charles Kaplan

Read Me First

Casino chips are fairly sturdy and are made to take a fair amount of abuse, but they do get dirty and unattractive.  Cleaning a chip that is dirty, but is otherwise in good condition, can improve it's appearance.  However, there are exceptions.  Cleaning a chip can actually damage it or give it an unnatural appearance.  Certain types of chips are more delicate than others.  Not all dirty chips should be cleaned.

The recommendations below were compiled from the suggestions of many chippers, see the list of contributors at the bottom of the page.  If you have something you would like to add to this page, please send it to:  Charles Kaplan.

To Clean or Not to Clean

  • I like 'em dirty!  Adds character.
  • I clean my own chips in my collection as I see fit.  I don't clean traders.  I leave that decision for the new owner.
  • I don't clean my chips or my traders.
  • Don't clean worn chips.  Worn chips that are spotless look unnatural and unattractive.
  • Don't clean chips that you intend to trade or sell, let the new owner decide if they would like the chip to be cleaned.
  • I  don't clean used chips, other than to take off the big globs. For my collection, I currently live by the philosophy that I can always clean them later, but I can never put the history back on. I have lots of chips "awaiting a decision."
  • Not all chips are created equal.  Some old chips should be cleaned.  Can even remove light cigarette burns.

Chips that should NOT be Cleaned

  • Worn chips
  • Very old or expensive chips
  • Chips with paper inserts
  • Chips that are very dirty
  • Chips that are of a light or bright color, like sky blue or orange, show dirt more readily than darker colors.  Even if they are not very dirty, sometimes you cannot remove all the dirt from a light or bright colored chip and you are left with an odd looking chip.

How to Clean Chips

  • Use a very soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Let experts clean very old or expensive chips.
  • A pencil eraser is good for removing scuffs and crud from old chips.
  • These cleaners have been reported to have good results cleaning chips:  mild dishwashing detergent, Armor All Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Quick'n'Brite, Sterling Magic.
  • The trick seems to be to find something that will dissolve the greasy deposits that accumulate on well used chips, without removing any ink, or leeching moisture from the chip. Quick'n'Brite is a thick paste, and does not seem to encourage any moisture transfer, while doing an excellent job of breaking down the greasy gunk. I just stick the chip in the bucket edgewise, rotate it a few time to coat the chip thoroughly, wait about 15-30 seconds, then wipe the chip down with a washcloth. It's revolting how dirty that washcloth gets after only a few chips.
  • I use Sterling Magic full strength with a toothbrush. I use no water and just wipe clean with a cloth. It has never, never, ever dried the chip out or caused it to fade. If the chip has a hot stamp, I don't use the toothbrush on that part, I just dab a little on with my finger and gently wipe it off with the cloth.
  • I clean virtually all of my chips except those that come straight from the cage and have never seen play. I have also experienced no fading or drying out. The pink goop (Sterling Magic) is great stuff.
  • I've been using Armor All Multi-Purpose Cleaning with fantastic results for the past year, no damage to chip, luster and shine are still there...and it cleans the chip.  Don't use any other Armor All product i.e., tire cleaner, window, bug, etc.
  • Waterless hand cleaner, non abrasive, with lanolin and a bath of johnson baby oil will restore the luster. Give it a bath of oil, let soak for an hour or so on a bath towel turn once after a while wipe dry.  Regular mineral oil is too oily
  • I use a soft toothbrush & Fantastik. I spray both sides of the chip & clean the dirt off with the toothbrush & then rinse under warm water. I dry the chip with a paper towel. I then use a VERY small amount of mineral oil (which brings out the true colors of the chip which may have been lost over time or due to cleaning) rubbed between two fingers & work it into the chip. That entire process should not take more than a minute. I'll then let the chip dry for 24 hours on one side & turn it over & let dry for another 24 hours before storing the chip.
  • I used a soft children's tooth brush and window cleaner.  Hot stamps will turn from gold to silver, so they get covered with my thumb and I only clean the mold designs. Chipco, Paulson graphics BJ and others of like design are much more durable.
  •  I don't clean many of my chips, but when I do I use Amway's L.O.C. (Liquid Organic Cleaner and a baby's tooth brush (much softer than a regular soft toothbrush.)  I put a few drops of L.O.C. on the chip and brush very lightly. I so this to remove the surface dirt. If the chip is extremely dirty I generally leave it alone. It sometimes looks better dirty.
  • Try Johnson & Johnson baby gel instead of oils to restore the luster. I've been told this by a noted chip collector and restorer.
  • Crest and seals - Clean with a 3M scouring pad or wet/dry sandpaper. Then bring back coloring with Johnson & Johnson Baby Gel.  (Note: the 3M scouring pad is non-abrasive, it is sold for cleaning dishes.)

How NOT to Clean Chips

  • Don't clean the hot stamp with a toothbrush, only gently rub the cleaner in with your fingers.
  • Never use anything abrasive to clean your chips.
  • Don't use steam to clean clay chips, the steam will heat the chip until it softens and will warp.
  • I did ruin a batch of old clays once by putting them in the washing machine with bleach and Tide, it messed them up pretty bad and was very loud to boot.
  • I find tying them up in an old T-shirt and running them through the washing machine cycle usually does the trick. However, for that really tough grime that gets lodged down in the bottom of the cane in the hat&cane or the crevices in a small key mold, there's really nothing like a good stiff wire brush and some elbow grease.   A little vaseline to bring out the colors when you're done, and Viola! (This is meant as a joke.)
  • Do not clean a hot stamped chip with a toothbrush, instead gently rub with your fingers
  • I have had very good luck with Sterling's Magic cleaner. However, when I cleaned some old Mint roulettes (this is the series with the small crown mold and a round white inlay) I ended up removing a thin clear plastic cap that covers the inlay.
  • Once I was cleaning (I think a Diamond Jim) inlay chip with what I usually use -- dove hand soap bar, toothbrush pared down and warm water, and water got under and discolored the inlay.  I think it must have happened because the inlay was weak/lifting some/damaged.
  • Once I really screwed up.  I had a lot of dried out, faded embossed style poker chips (maybe the Golfer wearing knickers)  I often rub chips like these with sewing machine oil (or mineral oil, or Vitamin E liquid).  I'd apply the oil and rub it off right away with a paper towel.....But
    this time I left all the chips in a pot on mineral oil overnight, and in the morning a found them practically ruined.  As I remember, the main
    problem was that rings and crescents were left on the chips where one chip rested on another.

Chip Cleaning Horror Stories

  • I was using my soft toothbrush with Sterling's Magic to clean this Club Savoy chip ("Q" rated).  The sink in which I was doing the cleaning is made out of stainless steel. Because I didn't want to disturb the hot stamp, I put my thumb over the center of the chip.  I guess I put a little too much pressure.  That, combined with the fact that a stainless steel sink flexes, resulted in a "SNAP".  Moral of the story: clean chips on a hard surface, not one that will flex.  Don't clean the hot stamp with a toothbrush, only gently rub the cleaner in with your fingers.
  • I bought a $100 Silver Bird (coin inlay).  It so happened that there was a kind of glue or cement on one side of the chip.  I tried most everything.  Lacquer thinner seemed to work. It worked too slow for me.  I poured some Lacquer thinner in a small cup a dropped the chip in.  Unfortunately I lost track of time.  Attached is the results of "too long in the thinner".
  • Unfortunately there is no picture because I "sold" this chip at about $175 loss.  This was a $100 Dunes chip from the dig (I think this was a "Q").  I ebayed it for $7.  This chip was warped.  I put it in the micro at "5" setting for about 30 seconds.  I got about 90% of the warp out.  Was I satisfied? A big NO.  I put it back in for another 40 seconds.  The chip came out flat, BUT the black chip separated from the white and pink inserts.  The main black, in effect, shrunk away from the inset which did not shrink.
  • I got this California Bell Club 50c chip with a bunch of other chips.  I didn't need and wanted to use it as a trader, but it was dirty.  I thought that steam would do a good job cleaning it.  So I put some water in the tea kettle and waited for it to boil.  I couldn't hold the chip in my fingers, the steam was to hot, so I used a pair of needle nose pliers to hold the chip.  The chip started to get clean, but the clay softened from the heat and the pliers left a lasting impression.

Contributors to this page:

  • Scott Brodsky
  • George Conrad
  • Robert Eisenstadt
  • Rich Hanover
  • Larry Hollibaugh
  • Andy Hughes
  • Charles Kaplan
  • Tyrus Mulkey
  • Michael Par
  • Pete Porro
  • Jim Reilly
  • Greg Susong
  • Gene Trimble
  • Gary Tucker