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Shiny: How to keep your Disney pins sparkly

Firstly, if you now have Tamatoa’s song ‘Shiny’ stuck in your head, what can I say except you’re welcome 😄.  My work here is half done.

  • Do you display your pins in open air (e.g. on a cork board or in a frame not covered by glass)?
  • Have you ever purchased a pin from a thrift store/ charity shop, or even eBay that wasn’t in the best condition but you just couldn’t pass it up? 
  • Have you ever bought or traded for a pin that unexpectedly turned up in not-so-good condition? 
  • Perhaps you’ve purposely turned down buying or trading for a pin because it looked like it had seen better days?!

Well, if you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, below are some tips that may hopefully help you keep your pins looking like new, restore older pins to their former glory and stop you from missing out on some older hard/very hard to find (HTF/VHTF) pins just because they aren’t quite perfect.


Disclaimer: This is just my personal opinion based on a few methods that have worked for me. Please ensure that you test any methods on scrappers, lesser traders or other pins you don’t mind potentially ruining before using them on your prized pin collection.



General day-to-day dust, dirt and grime

If it’s purely simple maintenance you need, nothing beats running a soft dry cloth or duster over your pins on a regular basis to keep the dust and dirt from settling. You also want to remember to keep your pins out of direct sunlight since this can cause colours to fade and...well...sorry, I can’t help you if that happens.

If you have a little more than dust, rinsing your pins in warm soapy water should do the trick to remove anything that’s a little more caked on. Toothpaste is also helpful to remove stubborn dirt, but be sure to rinse thoroughly. Whenever you expose your pins to water, please be sure to dry them throughly so that rust doesn’t set in over time.

Light tarnishing

If you happen to notice slightly darker spots on the metal of your pins and they don’t go away with washing, this could be light tarnishing.  Light tarnishing can normally be removed with the use of a jewellery grade polishing cloth (a soft cloth used to clean sterling and/or fine silver jewellery). These cloths can be bought quite cheaply and often in bulk, are generally safe on the metal and the enamel, and can be reused maybe hundreds of times (depending on the size of the cloth) before you need a new one.

All you need to do is rub the cloth over the entire pin to bring up a good-as-new shine. You can adjust your pressure as needed for more stubborn tarnishing, but do not scrub the pin as you could potentially ruin both the cloth and your pin.

Before reading further, please note that you will need to exercise caution if you intend to use the following methods on pins with rhinestones, FREE-D or other delicate elements. The liquids mentioned are more abrasive and could cause damage to delicate, non-metal pieces/sections.

Moderate tarnishing

For slightly heavier tarnishing, a mix of water and distilled vinegar at a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 (depending on how heavy the tarnishing is) vinegar to water, should do the trick.

  • Pour your vinegar and water into a suitable container and give it little stir or swish around - I normally use an old plastic takeaway container and the handle of a spoon. Not sure why the handle...but hey.
  • Remove your pin back.
  • Submerge your pin in the solution for a couple minutes. 

I generally don’t leave my pin submerged for more than 2 minutes at a time and rinse thoroughly between dips.

If just dipping your pin in the mixture isn’t doing enough to clean it, you can give a gentle scrub with a soft to medium toothbrush or a cloth/flannel. Be gentle so that you don’t cause scratches or scrub away the metal plating.

For pins with FREE-D, screen printing or other delicate elements, don’t submerge the pin. It may be better if you dip a soft toothbrush or cloth in the mixture and carefully clean the metal around the element.

Once you have finished cleaning the pin, always be sure to rinse thoroughly in warm water and ensure the pin is completely dry before returning it to your board, bag or other storage.

This vinegar solution works for light tarnishing as well.

Before - 2:1 vinegar and water
Before - 2:1 vinegar and water

After - 2:1 vinegar and water
After - 2:1 vinegar and water


If you have some really stubborn, hard-to-shift tarnishing, silver or gold jewellery cleaner that you can get from your local jeweller is very helpful to remove this and restore shine to your pins. I have seen other pin collectors submerge their pins in the cleaners for about 30 seconds, with good results, but I’m too scared to do that! I recommend using the little brush that comes with the cleaner to give the exposed metal parts of your pin a gentle scrub. 

This cleaner is even more abrasive than vinegar, so once again, please be very careful with delicate pin elements and do not expose FREE-D elements to this solution as it could cause irreversible damage. 

I’ve also read suggestions for brass cleaner or silver polish as very effective in removing tarnish, but I haven’t tried this myself. If you try it or have tried it, please report back and let everyone know how it worked on your pins.


Storage tip

You know those little packets of beads that come in the box with your new shoes or bags? Those little silica packets are actually far more useful than you may have thought. 

If you store your pins in a bag or bin, putting some silica packets in with your pins can help slow the cause of tarnishing and prevent rust. 

And there you have it; my top tips for restoring the sparkle to your pins. I hope you found that helpful. 

Happy pinning, pin folk!


Written by Justapinute - Sunday 06 September 2020

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