How to Clean Money That Smells

Christina Schnell

Paper money is valuable, but dirties quickly due to the frequent changing of holders. Prior to World War II, paper notes were made from silk fibers. Today, in 2011, mints manufacture paper money using a combination of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen.

Make your money look and smell like new with a basic washing.

These natural fibers allow paper money to endure the crumpling, folding and shoving. Unfortunately, this cloth composition also makes it susceptible to dirt and odors just like a piece of clothing.

  1. Dispense one pump worth of scented hand soap into the bowl of warm water and mix with your fingers.

  2. Submerge your odorous money bill in the bowl of soapy warm water and lay it flat on the paper towel.

  3. Secure the bill flat with your fingers. Start in the middle of the bill and gently brush the surface using a soft bristle toothbrush. Use short, firm strokes and avoid scrubbing, which could damage the ink.

  4. Continue brushing the bill with firm, controlled strokes while working your way toward the edges from the middle. Brushing the edges from the center minimizes strain and tearing.

  5. Flip the bill over and repeat steps three through four on the opposite side.

  6. Rinse your money bill briefly in a bowl of clean warm water and lay flat on a paper towel to dry.

  7. Tip

    Get crisp, clean money, by pining your bills taunt with clothes pins on each end. Money that retains a strong odor after cleaning, such as cigarette smoke, may warrant a bill exchange at the local bank.


    Do not run your paper money through the washing machine. You'll remove the odor, but machine washing can prematurely deteriorate the thread, causing bleeding and discoloration. Washing your money by hand lets you control the intensity of cleaning.