How to clean Pokémon cards

How Much Do Original Pokémon Cards Sell For?

This is the most proven method to clean your old Pokémon cards and restore them to their former glory.

If you’re like me, you were obsessed with Pokémon when you were younger. I remember spending hours flipping through my cards, trying to make the perfect deck. And if you’re just starting your Pokémon journey, you’ll want to know how to keep your cards in good condition. So here are some tips on how to clean Pokémon cards!

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Specks of dirt on a card under 1000Z zoom

Most collectors would argue that cards should probably not be cleaned by anyone other than a professional. If you decide to clean any of your cards yourself, please use caution and practice first on some cheap cards.

clean pokemon cards for grading
A grass type energy from Base set covered in specks of dirt

Reasons to clean your cards 

If you’ve just pulled a chase card fresh from a booster pack, there is no reason to clean it. Sleeve that sucker right away! But if you’re recovering cards from your childhood collection, well, chances are that they need quick cleaning. Small specs of dirt seem to accumulate on cards that received a lot of attention on the school playground. Now, it’s time for a little card restoration.

One common reason to clean a trading card is to send it off for grading. These services do not clean your cards for you. If you send in a card with a speck of dirt on it, it will remain there sealed in the slab, and with a harsh grade to boot. 

Perhaps you just want to clean up your cards. That’s fine too, but there is always a risk when cleaning cards, as scratches can occur on the holofoil or excess moisture being absorbed into the card. 

Cleaning your cards is effective if you have specs of dirt on the face or reverse of the card. You can also easily remove smudges from oily fingers. Unfortunately, you cannot remove whitening from Pokémon cards.

How to safely clean cards for grading 

To clean cards, we’ll be using a very small amount of water. Any harsh chemicals have a chance of running or bleeding the ink on the card. Alternatively, you may use Windex or soap and mix it 50/50 with water.

Step 1:

Select the card you want to clean and place it on a soft surface that will not scratch the card. I like to use a brand new microfiber cloth as padding.

how to clean pokemon cards

Step 2:

Find some cotton swabs or a brand new microfiber cloth. It is critical that these materials are non-abrasive and void of any dust, dirt, or debris. 

You can also use a cotton ball or something similar. Whatever you choose, it must be clean and soft to the touch.

Step 3:

Apply a very small amount of your solution to your cotton swab or microfiber, and very gently sweep the dirty section of the card. Be sure to switch to another swab or a new section of the microfiber often, to avoid rubbing any of the debris against the card. Apply very little pressure, and the dirt should soon lift off. The trick is patience, as it may take a long time. The specks of dirt came off this grass energy card after about 5 minutes of light pressure with a wet cotton swab.

clean pokemon cards

Note: If your card is dry, it may absorb moisture from the water used to clean it. When this happens, holofoil cards may warp slightly. This can be avoided by applying less water, cleaning slowly, and blowing on the card to evaporate the water quickly. However, the warping may be reversed. 

clean pokemon cards

What to do if the card warps

If you are curious about why cards warp and want to know more, click here

Once your card has absorbed moisture, it may warp. To reverse this, the moisture has to be removed from the card through evaporation. The methods are outlined in the article linked above, but the most common method is to apply very little heat with a blowdryer. Once again, this can damage your card if done incorrectly, so please use caution. 

If done correctly, the excess moisture will be evaporated from the card and the card will be almost flat again. After this, sleeve your card and place it into the pages of a large book for 48 hours or longer, to keep its shape.

Card cleaning mistakes to avoid

Many individuals believe that they can use all kinds of cleaning chemicals to clean their cards. Other tricks are rumored to work as well such as using bread to remove grease from the cards or using talcum powder. These are not good ideas if you plan on restoring the card.

Be sure to never use these methods:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Bread
  • Talcum powder or cornflour
  • Spirits
  • Solvents


No collector likes dirty cards, but we all have one or two from childhood that saw heavy use on the playground. If only we knew what we were doing! Now that you know how to clean Pokémon cards, you can possibly send some in for grading for a boost in value. Cleaning your cards can be a tedious and stressful process, so go carefully and with caution. It’s a good idea to dig up some old energy cards to practice on. Good luck and hopefully you took good care of that Charizard!