How to Restore Paper Money

By Jericho McCune
Although paper money cannot be completely restored, basic cleaning is possible.

Completely restoring paper money is an impossible task, but you can clean it to remove stains, ink, fingerprints and other impurities that can devalue its collectible worth. Although it is called paper money, United States currency is actually printed on fabric composed of 75 percent linen and 25 percent cotton. Trying to clean the bills by washing, pressing or using strong chemical agents will degrade the notes. If the note isn't a collectible item, exchanging it at a bank for a newer, cleaner note is a more viable option.

Dry Rub Cleaning

Clean and dry a flat work surface.

Spread out a large sheet of clean, blank paper to catch the dirt and grime that comes off of the paper money. Paper with printing or dyes can transfer to the paper money, so use plain white paper sheets.

Put on rubber gloves to keep skin oil away from the paper money. Make short, soft strokes with the vulcanized rubber sponge until the color improves. Dirt should begin appearing on the clean paper.

Brush the dirt and grime off of the white paper every minute or two. When all of the marks on the money have disappeared or dirt no longer comes off, stop rubbing with the sponge. Working too much longer will begin to rub through the fabric of the money and cause irreparable damage.

Wet Cleaning

Brush the bill with a soft-bristled brush to remove all of the dirt and matter that is attached. Brush the bill lightly. Scrubbing can cause tears and other damage, even with a soft brush.

Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water and a small amount of soap. Dip the cloth in the water to get it moist, but not soaking wet.

Dab at the stained or excessively dirty parts of the paper money with the cloth. Do not scrub. Brush lightly.

Rinse out the bowl and refill with a mixture of water and a few drops of acetone if the bills are not coming clean with the soapy water. Dab at the bill with the new mixture on a fresh cloth.

Rinse the bill with clean water every two minutes and when the project is finished. Place the wet bill between the pages of a heavy book to dry.