How Do You Clean a Collectible Card for Grading: Expert Tips and Techniques

As a collector, I understand that card grading plays a crucial role in maintaining the value of our precious trading cards. With a growing number of submissions to grading companies, it’s essential to clean cards before submitting them for grading. This not only preserves their condition but also maximizes their potential grading score and value to other collectors.

Grading companies inspect cards in the submitted state, without cleaning them beforehand, so preparing cards for grading is a responsibility that lies in our hands. In this article, I will share my insights on the best way on how do you clean a collectible card for grading and prepare your trading cards, working toward the highest possible grading for your collection.

Key Takeaways

  • Cleaning cards is crucial before submitting them for grading
  • Card grading companies assess cards as submitted, without cleaning
  • Proper preparation maximizes a card’s potential value in the collecting market

Understanding the Importance of Card Grading

The Best Way To Clean and Prepare A Collectible Card For Grading

Step 1 – Get The Card And Equipment Ready

Before cleaning the trading card for grading, I make sure to have everything needed for the process. This includes gloves or clean hands to avoid leaving fingerprints on the card’s surface, a microfiber cloth for cleaning, a magnifying lamp to inspect the card, and new card sleeves and semi-rigid cardholders to protect the card after cleaning.

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Step 2 – Prep The Card For Cleaning

With all the equipment ready, I remove the card from its card sleeve, using gloves or clean hands. It’s essential to hold the card by its edges and avoid touching the surfaces as much as possible. I would set aside the old card sleeve and not reuse it for the card prepared for grading.

Step 3 – Use A Microfiber Cloth To Clean The Card

Next, I hold the card by its edges under the magnifying lamp and gently rub the full surface of the card with a microfiber cloth. Gentle, slow circular motions work best, applying enough pressure to remove fingerprints and any dust or residue. I also pause to inspect the card as I clean to ensure that no debris is left behind.

Step 4 – Inspect The Card

After the initial cleaning, I inspect the card under the magnifying lamp to confirm that all visible dust, fingerprints, or smudges are removed. If any imperfections are still present, I go back to step 3 and repeat the cleaning process.

Step 5 – Preserve The Cards Current Condition And Prepare For Shipping

Once satisfied with the card’s condition, I place the clean card into a new card sleeve, optionally applying a sticky index tag to the sleeve’s outside for easier removal by the grader. Then, the card is placed into a new semi-rigid cardholder to preserve its condition. Finally, it’s essential to package the card safely for shipping before submitting it for grading.

Grading standards for trading cards are critical for collectors, and understanding the grading standards used by major grading companies can help ensure cards are prepared properly for grading.

Kurt’s Card Care

Why I Use Kurt’s Card Care for Cleaning My Cards

As an avid collector, I’ve always sought the best way to maintain my cards, especially when preparing them for grading. That’s why I use Kurt’s Card Care. Their polish is fantastic for cards with shiny plastic fronts and backs, like ’90s Fleer Metal or a Luka Prizm Rookie, not only cleaning the surface but also giving it a lustrous shine. It’s important to note that while the polish isn’t a scratch remover, it effectively addresses many surface issues, often cleaning or reducing them.

Moreover, I use Kurt’s spray before the polish to remove stubborn ink spots, heavy fingerprints, and other residues, ensuring the card’s surface is restored to a factory-like state. It’s crucial to remember not to spray directly on the card or on autographs and serial numbers.

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Finally, their card tool is indispensable for correcting edges and corners, particularly effective when combined with humidity treatments. It’s designed to address indents like nail marks on the back of cards. However, I’m careful not to apply excessive force, especially on bent surfaces or corners of modern cards, as these are often permanent issues​

Does PSA Clean Cards Before Grading?

No, PSA and other grading companies like BGS and Beckett do not clean cards before grading. They grade cards as submitted, which means it’s crucial to send them in their best possible condition to achieve a high grade.

As a collector, I make sure to take the necessary steps to properly clean and prepare my cards for grading. Doing so can significantly impact the card’s value, with differences between one or two grade levels potentially translating into thousands of dollars.

Do Fingerprints Affect Card Grading?

Indeed, fingerprints can negatively impact a card’s grading. Since grading companies generally won’t clean submitted cards, removing fingerprints and minor surface smudges is crucial to achieve a higher grade. Furthermore, once a card is graded, it’s enclosed in a plastic casing, so a visible fingerprint could spoil the design. To clean it, one would need to crack open the casing and re-submit the card for grading. Here are some tips to avoid fingerprints:

  • Wear cotton gloves to prevent oils from your hands from transferring onto the cards.
  • Use a soft, lint-free cloth or towel to dry the cards without leaving fibers or lint behind.
  • Inspect the cards for any damage or imperfections before submission.

Can You Fix Damaged Cards?

I know that it’s possible to improve the appearance of a damaged card, but I should note that you can never fully fix a bent, creased, dented, or scratched card. Once the fibers are damaged, restoring the card back to its original mint or pristine condition is not achievable.

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To address issues such as creasing, heat pressing with a heat-safe cloth over the card can provide some improvement. However, here’s a list of possible card damage types and factors to consider:

  • Dings: Minor dents on corners or edges
  • Scratches: Visible marks on the surface
  • Fading and warping: Likely irreversible damage
  • Baby powder: Can be used to remove light stickiness from cards, but should be used with caution

I should emphasize that any card restoration process beyond cleaning may negatively impact the card’s perceived condition. Altered cards are unlikely to achieve a high-end grade.

Should I Wear Gloves When Handling A Trading Card?

In my experience, it is advisable to wear latex gloves when handling trading cards that aren’t in card sleeves to preserve their condition. A card’s surface can be easily scratched or damaged by sweat or residue from your hands. To prevent smudges or scratches, limit how often you handle valuable cards not enclosed in a casing.

When choosing gloves, consider the following options:

  • Latex gloves: Recommended as they provide sufficient grip and protection.
  • Cotton gloves: Less preferable as they might hold residue or dust.

Remember, using the right type of gloves can make a difference in preserving your trading cards.

Should I Clean My Cards Before Grading?

Yes, I recommend cleaning trading cards, especially sports cards, before grading to increase their value. Use a gentle approach to maintain their pristine condition. Remember to place the cleaned card in a card sleeve and a semi-rigid card holder to preserve its quality during submission for grading.