How to Clean Vintage Sports Cards

how to clean vintage sports cards

Grading your cards comes with a lot of pressure. You have to make sure that your cards are in the best shape possible and store them correctly for submission. Once in the hands of the judges, they will poke and prod at your cards and give you a final grade. While you can’t help minor damages, you can clean up your cards and have them shining like brand new.

There are several ways to clean your vintage sports cards, some of which are more effective than others. One effective method uses pantyhose and a bit of pledge. This will gently remove any wax or buildup on your cards and give them a beautiful like-new shine. This is not the only way through, with collectors everywhere choosing their preference.

Below, we’ll share some tips, tricks, and alternative methods to cleaning your cards. Plus, we’ll hit on pesky stains and the best way to get rid of them so you can get the best grade possible. Grading can be the make or break of your card’s value, so make sure to clean them up before.

How Do You Clean Old Sports Cards?

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When it comes to cleaning old and potential high-value sports cards, you need to take care throughout each step. For instance, you don’t want to clean with just anything. In most cases, you should use some type of old cloth, making sure that it’s soft to the touch as to not scratch the surface of your card. Try out things like:

  • Old t-shirts
  • Pantyhose
  • Microfiber towels
  • Sheets

Expert Tip: Use an old card as a tester before doing anything to your most valuable cards. Find a cheap one or buy a pack with the same material and thickness as your card and give it a rub to make sure there are no scratches, scrapes, or bends.

What to Use to Clean Sports Cards?

Each pro collector has a method of cleaning their cards that they swear by. We talked, listened, and gathered up a few methods that you might not have ever heard of and listed them below.

Pledge or Windex

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Household products get a bad rep when it comes to cleaning very delicate things. Though their formula is strong, if you use micro amounts, you can clean anything off of anywhere. Two of the best for old sports cards are Pledge and Windex.

To Use: Take your preferred cloth, spray a bit and let it evaporate. After a few seconds, apply it in circular motions around your card to remove fingerprints, dust, and debris.

To check the current price and availability of Pledge, click here to view it on Amazon.

Corn Flour

Flour is a great product that soaks up oils and moisture. It is for that reason that it’s perfect for getting off fingerprints, oils, and other waxes, keeping your cards in the best shape possible. You can use corn flour, baby powder, or any other kind of flour to clean your cards and we’ll tell you how below.

To Use: Grab a paper bag and add about a cup of flour. Add your card inside and shake, making sure that it’s completely submerged. Remove and wipe off and voila! You have a clean and brand-new-looking card.


If you have damages to your old sports cards that seep in pretty deep, you can use something more powerful like vodka. It’s strong, gentle, and dries fast, making it the perfect product to use for cleaning damaged cards.

To Use: Grab a cotton ball and add some vodka. Give it a few seconds to stand and then start wiping in circular motions. Doing this, you’ll notice a beautiful shine and watch as stains disappear.

To check out the current market prices for sports card blaster boxes, click here to view them on Amazon.

How Do You Get Stains Out of Baseball Cards?

If you have a stain on your card that you can’t just seem to get out, you have a few options. One is to repeat the cleaning process mentioned above. A few others consist of more controversial methods like soaking. Soaking is permitted by PSA and SGA, though you have to be careful of the outcome. To soak your card, follow three easy steps.

1. Setup a Bowl for Soaking

To set up a bowl for soaking, add distilled water to a bowl that’s larger than your card. You want to be able to cover it completely, so keep that in mind.

2. Submerge your Card

Don’t go slow. Dunk your card directly into the water and go down to the bottom. For thinner cards, do this for just a few minutes. If you have thicker cards, you can leave them soaking overnight.

3. Pressing

Because your card is a bit flimsier now, you can flatten wrinkles, straighten corners, and even clean off stains. Do this and then press the card between two paper towels to dry.

Should You Clean Your Sports Cards Before Grading?

If you’ve never gotten your cards graded before, you might be feeling a ton of pressure. That pressure will make you look at every small detail before grading and drive you crazy.

However, don’t sweat it. While you should clean your card, don’t worry about the rest. Take the grade into consideration and, if needed, you can always clean it up for the next round and see what you score.

Final Thoughts

Just like many of the top collectors out there, you’ll need to find a method of cleaning your cards that works for you. The more that you clean your cards, the more sued to it you will get, adopting your practices and preferences.

Remember, don’t use anything that could damage your card and, as a precaution, find some cheap cards to practice with. The last thing you want to do is try something new that ends up damaging your cards. If you have pesky stains, you can try soaking but, try it out with an old card first.

There are professional cleaning services out there if you need to use them so, don’t fret too much if you’re trying to clean your cards for grading. Take the grade you get and learn from it, improving your technique as you go.

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