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How To Clean Sports Cards Properly to Avoid Damage

Learn What It Takes to Clean Sports Cards for Grading.

It doesn’t require a lot of effort to clean trading cards, especially sports cards. As you know, sports cards are often passed down from generation to generation. However, over time, these cards can become dirty and damaged, decreasing their value and making them less appealing to collectors. 

Learn what it takes to clean sports cards avoiding damage from dust and air particles. Also, learn how to prevent damaging your cards and submit them for grading when suitable. 

Our article goes in-depth on how to avoid damaging your cards, what to use to clean your cards, and how to clean your sports cards step by step. Learn how to clean cards so you do not scratch them or put them in worse condition. 

A card in mint condition can be worth thousands of dollars; a simple ding to the corner of the card could lose you hundreds of dollars. That’s why knowing how to clean sports cards safely without damaging them is essential.

Why You Should Clean Sports Cards (Especially Before PSA Submission)

Cleaning sports cards is about more than just making them look better. It’s also about preserving their value and preventing damage. Dirt and grime can cause the card to deteriorate over time, and improper cleaning methods can cause even more damage. 

By cleaning your sports cards regularly, you can help ensure they remain in good condition for years. Please get rid of any dust, as over time, this builds up and can stain the cards, making them undesirable. Also, cards can bend if kept in a binder for many years, so avoid that as much as possible. 

What Makes Cleaning Sports Cards a Necessity

Sports cards are made of paper and susceptible to damage from various sources. Dirt and grime can cause the card to become discolored and brittle, and exposure to moisture can cause the card to warp or even mold. 

Additionally, using the correct cleaning methods can prevent the card from becoming damaged beyond repair. That’s why knowing how to clean sports cards safely and effectively is essential.

3 Tools for Cleaning Trading Cards Safely

Each of these tools helps protect yourself from damaging your cards. 

  1. Microfiber Cloth: A small, thin microfiber cloth will help remove minor dirt and debris without harming the surface. The best part is how it leaves no lint or streaks on trading cards once you wipe them using this material. In addition, it’s excellent at removing smudges, dust, and fingerprints while absorbing oil and moisture.
  2. Magnifying Lamp: Cleaning the card using a magnifying lamp lights up areas of the card the human eye wouldn’t naturally pick up, allowing you to see any surface debris or smudges more clearly.
  3. Disposable gloves: Avoid touching raw cards using your fingers because of the natural sweat and grease on them.

Instead, use disposable gloves to keep the cards in mint condition when cleaning and not add more damage to the surface.

How to Clean a Trading Card Without Damaging It

There are several methods for cleaning sports cards, but only some are safe for some cards. Here are some safe and effective methods for cleaning your sports cards:

1. Using a Soft Cloth

A soft cloth is one of the easiest and safest ways to clean a sports card. Take a clean, dry cloth and gently wipe the card in a circular motion. Be sure to avoid pressing too hard, as this can cause the card to become damaged.

2. Soaking the Card in Water

If your sports card is foul, you may need to soak it in water to remove the dirt and grime. To do this, fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add a few drops of mild detergent. 

Place the card in the bowl and let it soak for a few minutes. Then, gently rub the card with your fingers to remove any remaining dirt. Finally, rinse the card with clean water and pat it dry with a soft cloth.

3. Using Corn Flour or Baby Powder

Corn flour or baby powder is another safe and effective way to clean sports cards. Sprinkle a small amount of powder onto the card and rub it gently with a soft cloth. 

The powder will absorb any dirt or grime on the card’s surface. Afterward, use a soft brush to remove the excess powder.

Pros and Cons of Cleaning Methods

Each cleaning method on how to clean trading cards for grading has its pros and cons. We will go through what to avoid and which makes it easy to get your cards ready for grading. 

  1. A soft cloth is gentle and easy but may not be effective for stubborn stains.
  2. Corn flour or baby powder is convenient but may only be suitable for some card finishes.


  • Using a soft cloth can help get rid of any dust that isn’t easy to see with your eyes. 
  • The baby powder acts as a trading card cleaner. However, putting it on the card’s surface is risky.


  • However, an old soft cloth may cause scratches. Only a magnifying lamp will pick up and notice. Always apply slow pressure when cleaning. 

Best Way to Clean Sports Cards Before PSA Submission

Use a soft cloth (nothing abrasive) and gently wipe off fingerprints or dirt. If something is challenging and not coming off, gently exhale hot air on the card to fog it up and try cleaning again.

Please do not use water or other liquids which could damage the card. Consider if the card is worth submission in the first place since it’s become dirty or dusty. 

Ideally, you should submit cards with the highest chance of getting a grade of 9 or 10 since the value can decrease if graded as a 4 or 5. 

Use the following steps to avoid making a mistake: 

  • Examine the card surface with a magnifying glass for dust or tiny printings.
  • Remove cards from card sleeves while wearing latex gloves or cleansing your hands before touching them. 
  • Gently massage the whole surface of the card on both sides with your microfiber cloth.

What to Avoid When Cleaning Sports Cards

While cleaning sports cards is essential, there are certain things you should avoid to prevent damage. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that scratch or damage the card. 

Additionally, avoid excessive moisture, as it can cause the card to warp or develop mold.

How to Prevent Damaging Cards When Cleaning

The better condition card it’s in, the higher the grade it will receive, making it go up in value when looking to sell it.

Taking the time to clean these cards before submitting them will ensure you the best opportunity to get the highest grade.

Knowing what graders look for will help you know what you should or shouldn’t do when cleaning.

For example, you need to avoid touching the corners of the card while cleaning the card. Since PSA graders specifically look for how ‘sharp’ the corner is, and if they see that a card has round corners, it receives a lower grade. 

Here’s a list of what graders look for and will explain how you can avoid these submitting cards with these errors. But, again, it’s all about your preparation and technique. 

1. Corners: How sharp are they? 

You shouldn’t submit a card that’s dropped on its corner. When holding those cards while cleaning, do not accidentally lay them on their corners or bump the corners into the table. 

2. Centering: Is the image centered in the middle of the card? Do the borders line up? 

The cards have already been printed this way for centering, so you’ll want to exclude this card from submission when you see it’s not centered. A card that’s not centered will receive a lower grade than those that are centered. 

3. Scratches: Do you see dents, scruffs, or scratches when shining a light on it?

Typically, using your eyes you can see scratches on the surface of a card. However, there are moments when your eyes won’t work. You need a magnifying glass to look deeper at the card and identify the problems.

4. Chipped Edges: Does the edge show whiteness? Has the card been sided to look white?

Look for white lines and dots along the edges. It’s especially true for Pokémon cards as the back of the card is blue so the white is easy to identify without a magnifying glass. However, it still applies to sports cards.

How to Prevent Damaging Cards After Cleaning

Always put the card directly back into a protector. There are many forms and ways to protect cards; however, these are the most effective: 

  • Penny Sleeves: Each sleeve provides a thin layer of protection against natural finger oil.
  • Top Loaders: These prevent physical damage to the corners or bending of the cards. 
  • Team Bags: Per the bag size, it prevents movement and seals the top loader opening. 
  • Painters Tape: Use tape to seal the card within the team bags to prevent dust.

Each does not cost much, and they can save you from ruining a trading sports card with tremendous value.

Why Clean Sports Trading Cards Before PSA Grading

Cleaning sports cards is essential for preserving their value and appearance. You can ensure that your sports cards remain in good condition by using safe and effective cleaning methods, such as using a soft cloth, soaking the card in water, or using corn flour or baby powder. Remember to avoid harmful materials and handle the cards with care. 

By taking proper care of your sports cards, you can preserve their value and enjoy them for years.

Giving the grader a great first impression of the card and its condition is essential. A high grade on a score increases the value and attracts new buyers. We hope you find these simple actions and processes helpful. 

Mainly to ensure the surfaces on both sides of each card are clean and free of dust, smudges, and fingerprints. Also, these tools, like a magnifying glass, can make a difference when looking for dust or microscopic printings on the card’s surface.

They are taking the time to analyze these cards before a purchase can save you a lot of headaches and pain upon receiving them. And it’s even better when they are in mint condition, and you can send them off to get a professional grade. 

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