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Old 07-08-2011, 12:22 PM   #1
Schmendr1ck
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Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

In "What's your scene like?" we started talking about the merits of cleaning and oiling used chips. I recently bought about 2000 used Paulsons from the Empress (now Hollywood) Casino in Joliet, IL, and I'm partway through the laborious task of cleaning and oiling them.

My process is gleaned from tons of reading over at ChipTalk plus some experimentation to get the method that works for me. Many of my Empress chips are really gross from 24/7 casino play, others are practically new, and a big fraction of the set is hotstamped. So I tried to come up with a method that would remove as much of the grime as possible while leaving the hotstamps intact.

Here's my cleaning process:
  1. Soak 100 chips in a mixture of 3 Tbsp Oxiclean and 1.5 quarts warm water for 15 minutes. (I just eyeball it, so my measurements are approximate.)
  2. Immediately rinse the chips thoroughly in clean, cold water.
  3. Scrub each chip on both sides with an electric toothbrush (medium head) under slow-running cold water until all visible dirt is gone. This usually only takes a few seconds per chip, but can be longer if the grime is bad.
  4. Lay the chips out on paper towels overnight to dry.

The end result is a set of very clean chips. You should expect some color fade, since the process removes most of the accumulated oils from the chips, and in some cases, you might even see a bit of the color itself wash out. This was the case with my dark blue Empress roulettes - there was definitely some blue in the water after soaking, but it didn't seem to have an effect on the end result.

I initially tried scrubbing with a Magic Eraser. This worked very well for the chip surface, but it didn't clean out the nooks and crannies of the chip (the edge ring, top hat & cane, etc.). I bought a $7 battery operated electric toothbrush with interchangeable heads, and while not quite as fast as the Magic Eraser, it does a much better job of getting all the dirt.

After the chips are thoroughly dry, you can oil. Typically I do this in front of the TV to alleviate some of the boredom:
  1. Lay 25-30 chips out on a paper towel.
  2. Take a round shoe polish applicator (the spongey kind with a plastic handle), soak up some mineral oil, and "stamp" each chip. NOTE: You don't need to thoroughly coat the chip - if you do, it's too much oil. Try to center the chip so that the applicator gets oil on the edges as well as the surface.
  3. Flip over your chips and stamp the opposite sides.
  4. Take a paper towel in each hand, using one to hold the chip and one to rub both sides of the chip. The goal here is to both spread the oil evenly and remove any excess. Stack the chips as you do this.
  5. When I have a stack of 10 chips, I pick them up and use the paper towels to wipe the edges. Again, the goal is to spread the oil and remove any extra. If you see dry spots, you can dab your fingertip in mineral oil and rub it on, then wipe with the paper towel. Rack the chips when you're done.
  6. Once I've finished a rack, I let them sit for 30-45 minutes to absorb some of the oil. I'm not sure if this is long enough or not TBH, but it seems to work.
  7. At this point, you'll notice that some chips may have a little extra oil on the sides and will stick together. I lay out a clean paper towel, pick up a barrel of chips from the rack, and rub both sides of each chip on the paper towel to get rid of this extra oil, then rack them back up.

Again, I saw some blue on the paper towels after oiling my dark blue roulettes, but it doesn't seem to have had a noticeable effect on the color of the chips. Using this process, so far I've done almost 500 chips, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:29 PM   #2
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

These are the chips I've cleaned and oiled so far:




Here you can see the chips as I received them (left) and after cleaning & oiling (right):



The difference before and after oiling was hard to capture with a camera. The oiled chips have deeper colors and shine a bit more. This is most obvious with the dark blue roulettes:



It's a little more subtle with the lighter chips but can still be seen, especially in the $1 edgespots. The cleaned chips are shown before oiling (left) and after oiling (right):

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Old 07-08-2011, 12:30 PM   #3
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

One more before and after:

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Old 07-08-2011, 12:54 PM   #4
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

I'm glad you started this thread. We were shanghaiing the other one. I may even move some of those posts over here.

The chips came out great. A lot of work, but the results are there, for sure.

I saw a video that I cannot find where someone oiled an entire hand towel, spread it out on a table, then put 20 or so chips over half of it, folded the other half over, then sort of kneaded them with his hands. It looked pretty quick vs doing them one by one.
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Old 07-08-2011, 02:32 PM   #5
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
The difference before and after oiling was hard to capture with a camera. The oiled chips have deeper colors and shine a bit more. This is most obvious with the dark blue roulettes:


Just to be clear, one side is the before and other is the after?

I'm curious if the color change really was that dramatic as the picture indicates or if they were different colors. I ask because I get complaints my Blues (more of an Indigo/Navy Blue) get confused with the Blacks. If the changes is that much, I will have to try this process just to lighten up the color of my Blues.
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Old 07-08-2011, 02:33 PM   #6
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by eneely View Post
I saw a video that I cannot find where someone oiled an entire hand towel, spread it out on a table, then put 20 or so chips over half of it, folded the other half over, then sort of kneaded them with his hands. It looked pretty quick vs doing them one by one.
That could work too, though an oiled towel sounds a little messy. Point me to that video if you find it, please.

I like stamping with the shoe polish applicator. It goes very quickly and gives you control over how much oil you put on each chip. I was laying it on way too thick at first, but quickly figured out the right amount.
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Old 07-08-2011, 03:58 PM   #7
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Nice work on the cleaning sir. They came out great! It's a lot of work but worth it in the end.

I'm not a huge fan of the Oxiclean. I think it kills the color a bit too much. Oiling helps but never really brings them back. Dish soap will dry them out too I guess. If you haven't done it before, I recommend trying out your cleaning method on one chip to start and see what happens.
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Old 07-08-2011, 04:29 PM   #8
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

OK, found it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO_GiWubjm4

This looks pretty fast to me.

But it appears he is oiling the china clays, which does not seem like a good idea to me. Are they even porous?
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:24 PM   #9
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Big K View Post
I will have to try this process just to lighten up the color of my Blues.
Pretty sure you have it reversed. The chips will get darker, not lighter, after you oil them.
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:27 PM   #10
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by palindrome View Post
Nice work on the cleaning sir. They came out great! It's a lot of work but worth it in the end.

I'm not a huge fan of the Oxiclean. I think it kills the color a bit too much. Oiling helps but never really brings them back. Dish soap will dry them out too I guess. If you haven't done it before, I recommend trying out your cleaning method on one chip to start and see what happens.
Thanks!

Yeah, you're not alone in disliking Oxiclean for poker chips. It does contain an oxidizer (duh!) and can leach the color out of your chips if you make the solution too strong and/or soak the chips too long. It can also destroy hotstamps.

I did some testing and found that a relatively weak solution and short soak time didn't have a visible effect on the color or the hotstamps. Obviously there was some fading, but I attribute that mainly to the loss of oils, since the color came back when I oiled the chips.

As a test, I sacrificed a really nasty $1 chip and soaked it for 40 minutes in a stronger solution. The edgespots bleached out a bit, and even after oiling there was a slight but visible loss of color. So your advice is sound; be careful and test out one chip before dunking them all in Oxiclean. If you just don't want to use it, The Chip Room sells a highly-regarded product called Diamond Chip Cleaner. I think it's about $20 a bottle.
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Old 07-08-2011, 06:19 PM   #11
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

I took a damp Magic Eraser and did a quick rub-a-dub on my whites. No soaking or cleaner of any kind. Just water. They cleaned up very nicely. Maybe this just shows how little grime was on them. Some of them looked like they were handled after reading the Sunday paper. But I'm glad it was so easy to get them like new. I wonder if doing this occasionally will mean that is all the cleaning they will ever need.
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Old 07-08-2011, 06:57 PM   #12
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

I stopped at spinettis a couple weeks ago. Place really is a chip museum, with price tags on the exhibits. I recommend only going if you are flat broke.

Discussed chip cleaning with the knowledgeable staff breifly. I told them of my experiment soaking a clay chip for a few days, which turned the water pink and the chip pastel, hinting to me that they dyes are water-soluble. He thought that might be true, but that the "clay" itself might also dissolve.

Now, you and I know there's not much or any actual clay in these chips, but he went on to explain that the rounded edges that you see on well-used casino chips come from the acids, oils, and moisture in your hands literally dissolving away the chip slowly. I had always assumed it came from simple nicks/chips/abrasion, but tbh, the wear does look much more like the effect he's describing. It's just so even and consistent. You'd expect nicks and dings to leave the chips looking beat-up, not so nicely weathered.

I have an ancient casino chip that I cleaned up using a dry toothbrush. I'm not sure getting it wet at all is necessary. I do like the electric toothbrush idea.
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Old 07-08-2011, 09:04 PM   #13
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

It might be worth consolidating some of the follow-up information into one FAQ-worthy post.

Thanks for the photos.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:44 PM   #14
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Big K View Post
Just to be clear, one side is the before and other is the after?

I'm curious if the color change really was that dramatic as the picture indicates or if they were different colors. I ask because I get complaints my Blues (more of an Indigo/Navy Blue) get confused with the Blacks. If the changes is that much, I will have to try this process just to lighten up the color of my Blues.
Somehow I missed this post earlier, sorry!

The lighter chips on the left are before cleaning & oiling, the darker ones on the right are after. All chips are the same Dark Blue Paulsons, and the color was uniform before cleaning & oiling.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:57 PM   #15
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by eneely View Post
OK, found it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO_GiWubjm4

This looks pretty fast to me.

But it appears he is oiling the china clays, which does not seem like a good idea to me. Are they even porous?
Thanks. I remember watching this video a while back from a link on CT and reading a couple of follow-up reports. The consensus seemed to be that oiling China clays did improve the color temporarily, but it didn't last very long. They just don't hold the oil well, apparently.

Disclaimer: I own two sets of CCs and have never tried to oil either, mainly based on the reports mentioned above.
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Old 07-09-2011, 09:53 AM   #16
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Yeah, I think I originally found the vid via CT. It stuck with me that I would try this technique if and when I oiled chips.

I've decided to play mine as they are now. If I ever need to clean them...or rather, when...and if they end up chalky or faded, I'll oil them at that time.

That the CCs would not retain oil is an indication of the difference in materials. I'm not sure that makes one material better than another. The porosity of Paulsons could be seen as a negative.

But they do that that nice, low clunk when you splash them...
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Old 07-09-2011, 10:29 AM   #17
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
Somehow I missed this post earlier, sorry!
No problem, your post after mine appeared seconds later so it was easy for you to miss.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
The lighter chips on the left are before cleaning & oiling, the darker ones on the right are after. All chips are the same Dark Blue Paulsons, and the color was uniform before cleaning & oiling.

I'm confused though that the darker ones on the right were the after. You said the process may leach the color out of the chips:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
The end result is a set of very clean chips. You should expect some color fade, since the process removes most of the accumulated oils from the chips, and in some cases, you might even see a bit of the color itself wash out. This was the case with my dark blue Empress roulettes - there was definitely some blue in the water after soaking, but it didn't seem to have an effect on the end result.
Darker means it gains gained color or is that the result of the oil somehow. I wouldn't think mineral oil would enhance the color so much.
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Old 07-09-2011, 11:35 AM   #18
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Big K View Post
I'm confused though that the darker ones on the right were the after. You said the process may leach the color out of the chips:



Darker means it gains gained color or is that the result of the oil somehow. I wouldn't think mineral oil would enhance the color so much.
Cleaning dirty chips will often cause the color to fade. This is because you are removing accumulated oils from the chip, and in some cases the act of cleaning can remove a bit of the pigment from the chips.

Oiling will enhance the color - bright colors get brighter and dark colors get darker. It also makes the chips shine, getting rid of the dry, chalky look that brand new or freshly cleaned chips can have.
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Old 07-09-2011, 12:27 PM   #19
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

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Darker means it gains gained color or is that the result of the oil somehow. I wouldn't think mineral oil would enhance the color so much.

It's the same reason a glossy photograph has darker blacks than a matte photo. A rough surface scatters light, which means that when you look at any point, you're seeing a fraction of all the light that falls on that point. A shiny surface reflects light like a mirror -- only in one direction. When you look at a point, you only see the light falling on that point from a particular direction. Most of the time, there is no light source in that direction, so the surface appears dark.

Think of a shiny black car, compared to a car spray-painted matte black. The matte-black car looks lighter (although the glossy car will have some very bright reflections in it). Get the matte car wet, and it suddenly looks a lot darker.
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Old 08-31-2012, 06:31 PM   #20
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Sorry to bump an old thread but... I'm facing the prospect of wanting to clean about 10,000 chips. Any advice on a way to clean that many chips that isn't going to take me half a lifetime to do? )
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Old 08-31-2012, 06:55 PM   #21
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Dishwasher?
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Old 08-31-2012, 07:35 PM   #22
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Day laborer?
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Old 08-31-2012, 07:37 PM   #23
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Seriously, there are commercial chip cleaning machines, but that's obviously not cost effective. I don't know any other shortcut to do this; you just gotta do the time.
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Old 08-31-2012, 07:45 PM   #24
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

Moki, I will be hoping for serious pictures. Ten thousand chips in one set would be insanely amazing. Could you give us a hint what chips you have?

Sadly I think you really can't short cut the cleaning process and get a nice result. What I do is wash chips while watching baseball or some other sport. You will knock out a lot of chips that way and not get too bored while not making it an all-day(s) project that wears you out.

If you are cleaning ceramic chips rather than paulsons, things can go a lot faster. I dump several hundred ceramics in a tub of dish water, let them soak and then rinse in a strainer. It is about 10x faster than cleaning paulsons (partly because the chips start cleaner).

Oh - and don't forget to start with before pictures so everyone can see how much hard work went into the project.

DrStrange

PS and your chips deserve their own thread too.
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Old 08-31-2012, 11:49 PM   #25
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Re: Cleaning and oiling used chips (w/pics)

I have some old ASM horseheads that are solid and hotstamped (wife nabbed them at an auction). They need a good cleaning and oiling. Will try some oxy solution and probably a dry toothbrush to start.

Oiled up some of my sample ASM FdL set. Also spent some time shuffling them and trying to get oils from hands to chips. Noticeable difference for sure.



Uploaded with ImageShack.us


dusty ones on left, then shuffle&oil, oil only, shuffle only.

oiled lightly

Last edited by BigBlue56; 08-31-2012 at 11:53 PM. Reason: added pic
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