Clean Metal Detector: The Ultimate Procedure and Best Practices

  • By: Chris
  • Last updated on December 20, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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In our final article of the cleaning series, we take a look at cleaning as the most important part of your hunting adventures.

Your metal detector.

A clean metal detector lets you feel secure that you are getting the most powerful and accurate readings from your device. While most people neglect this simple yet important task of regularly cleaning their metal detector, you shouldn’t be sucked into that trap.

To learn how to take care of and clean your metal detector, keep reading for the best cleaning procedure and some excellent habits to start today.

How Do You Clean a Metal Detector?

To clean a metal detector, you only need a soft rag, dish soap, warm water, a soft-bristled brush, and a can of WD40.

How Do You Clean a Metal Detector
Cleaning a metal detector only requires some warm water and dish soap.

The first step of your metal detector cleaning procedure is to remove the batteries from your device and start to disassemble it. Remove the coil from the shaft and unscrew the control box from the stem.

You’ll need to disconnect any bolts or screws holding the different parts in place so that you can clean each piece individually.

Furthermore, don’t forget to unplug any cable connections, like the one in charge of sending signals from the search coil to the control box.

Finally, remove any covers, whether it’s for the control box or the search coil.

remove covers from metal detector
Be sure to remove the coil cover and any cover protecting your equipment.

** We’ll go into more detail on cleaning the search coil later.

Once your metal detector is in pieces, it’s time to start cleaning each component. Let’s take a look at each piece as not all of them are cleaned the same way.

Clean a Metal Detector Control Box

The control box of your metal detector is the brains of the operation. It’s in charge of analyzing and processing the signals coming from the search coil.

Depending on the metal detector brand of your control box, the technology inside may be more advanced than others. This means, that caution is needed more than ever in cleaning this part of your detector.

To clean the control box of your metal detector, avoid getting an excessive amount of water on it and use a (lightly) damp rag with warm and soapy water to remove any dirt or debris built up on the buttons, housing, and display screen.

Clean a Metal Detector Control Box
Be careful when cleaning the control box so you don’t get the circuitry wet.

Make sure that you wring out your wet rag as much as possible. If you get the display screen too wet or accidentally let any excess water get inside the box to the circuitry, you could seriously damage your metal detector.

As far as the soap goes, use any old kitchen dish soap but you only need a few drops at most. The warm water will do most of the work, but if you have more than just some minimal bubbles at the surface, you’ve used too much soap.

An alternative method would be to use a can of compressed air to remove any dust or loose dirt. Then, instead of the rag, you could use some cotton swabs. This would be if you were worried that the rag would have too much water on it.

use cotton swabs instead of rags
While it may take you longer to clean, cotton swabs are a good alternative to a damp rag.

Honestly though, as long as you wring out the rag to the point that it is a struggle to get a drop of water out, you’ve done enough.

Once you have cleaned the metal detector control box, let it dry if it needs to, and move on to the next part of your detector.

Clean a Metal Detector Coil

While the brain of the operation is the control box, the coil is the most important part of your metal detector as it’s responsible for sending out signals and receiving them back. It’s basically what allows you to detect metals in the first place.

It also helps you discriminate between the more valuable metals like gold and silver, from the junk, like aluminum foil and rusty nails.

Clean a Metal Detector Coil
To clean the coil of a metal detector, remove the cover and use some soapy water and a brush.

To clean a metal detector coil, you’ll need to remove the coil cover and use a soft brush (like a toothbrush or any dollar store cleaning brush) to remove any dirt or debris that might have built up on the coil and the cover.

Once you’ve removed as much dirt as you can without applying more pressure against the coil, you can replace the brush with a soft rag and soapy water.

Use the same process as with the control box. Wring out your rag as much as possible and avoid getting any water on the inner workings of your coil by staying clear of any open connectors or loose seals.

After you’re done, let it dry off before moving on to the next part of the procedure.

let the coil dry
It is important to let everything dry before trying to reassemble and trap in any moisture.

Some food for thought on the cleaning the metal detector coil:

  • If you find that your cover is cracked even in the slightest, now would be a good time to replace it.
  • Don’t use an abrasive tool to force the coil open. Simply hold it between your body and arm, and use your fingers to gently pull at several different areas around the heel until it loosens and pops off.
  • Sometimes the coil is held together by securement tabs. If so, just unlatch the tabs to easily remove the cover for cleaning.
  • Don’t just clean the surface of your coil cover. You’d be amazed at how much debris and moisture gets built up under the housing cover over a short period of time.

Clean Metal Detector Cable Connectors

Clean Metal Detector Cable Connectors
The cable connectors are delicate, so take caution when cleaning them.

The next thing you’ll want to clean on your metal detector is the cable connectors. These can be easily forgotten but if they’re not cleaned, they can corrode or just lose strength in the connective output.

These cable connectors can be made of different materials, depending on the model or brand. But if you have a reasonably high-end metal detector, chances are that the connectors are made of gold.

Gold is a very conductive metal and allows the transfer of signal from the coil to the control box to work without interruption.

The problem with this is that gold is also a very soft metal. So if you don’t clean the gold connectors carefully, you can easily damage them. Even just forcing the two connector ends together will most likely lead to a bent or broken connector.

use wd40 to clean cable connectors
WD40 is a great product to get any tough dirt out of your connections.

The best way to clean metal detector cable connectors is to use a can of WD40. Start by holding the connect port upside down and spraying some of the WD40 in it.

Because you are holding the connector upside down, the mixture of dirt and WD40 will naturally flow down and out.

Feel free to do this 1 or 2 times to get the best results. After you’re done, take a rag and wipe away any leftover dirt or WD40. Let the connector dry out. You don’t want to try and reconnect the cable when there is even a drop of moisture still in the port.

If you find that there is some mud or dirt really caked onto the connector, you can use a toothbrush to try and loosen it before trying the WD40 again.

Clean the Metal Detector Frame

Clean the Metal Detector Frame
The frame includes the armrest, the shaft, and any other non-electronic piece of the metal detector.

Now that you’ve clean all the sensitive pieces of your metal detector, it’s now time to clean up everything else. This includes the shaft, the armrest, the nuts and bolts, and anything else you haven’t gotten to.

To clean the metal detector frame you will only have to use warm soapy water and a rag. Just get the rag damp, wring it out, and wipe off any dust, dirt, mud, or debris that has built up on the frame of your metal detector.

Luckily, you won’t have to be as cautious with this part as there shouldn’t be any open sockets or exposed electronics. So feel free to really scrub hard if you have to.

If you find that your nuts and bolts have rusted over or cracked, it may be time to buy some new ones.

rusted or cracked nuts and bolts
Your nuts and bolts may have seen enough terrain to require some deep cleaning or replacement.

Or, you could try your hand at some cleaning with electrolysis!

If you’ve worn out your armrest from years of hard use, you can easily find a replacement. Just make sure you know which one you need. An armrest for a Garrett metal detector may not be the same as an armrest for a Minelab device.

Once you’ve finished cleaning up your frame, just let the pieces sit and dry until all the moisture is gone.

When you’re satisfied with the look of your broken-down metal detector pieces, you can begin to reassemble everything.

reassemble metal detector
Once everything is dry, you can reassemble your metal detector and test that it works as expected.

Start with your armrest and control box, then attach the pieces of your shaft. Finally, secure your metal detector coil and connect all wires and cables to their appropriate ports.

Put the batteries back into your metal detector and power it on. You want to make sure everything is working and not have to find out it isn’t when you’re out on a hunt.

FAQs on Cleaning a Metal Detector

Cleaning a metal detector is a pretty straightforward procedure. But sometimes you might run into a scenario that requires a question or two about your method.

Hopefully, we can fill in the gaps for you!

What Do I Do with My Metal Detector when Not in Use?

What Do I Do with My Metal Detector when Not in Use
Store your metal detector when it’s not being used in a cool and dry space.

When you’re not actively using your metal detector, it’s best to keep it stored away in a clean, cool, and dry place.

This could be a closet, the basement, or even under your bed. Wherever you choose to store it just make sure that it won’t get wet or dirty while it’s not in use.

Furthermore, I wouldn’t expose it to a storage area that is prone to experiencing extreme temperatures. For instance, keeping it in your garage during the summer months may not be the best place to keep it.

Additionally, make sure you take out the batteries when you aren’t using your metal detector. Batteries can leak and cause damage to your device, even brand new batteries have been known to leak.

How Often Should I Clean My Metal Detector?

How Often Should I Clean My Metal Detector
If you are an avid hobbyist, you should be cleaning your metal detector often.

This really depends on how often you use your metal detector.

You may feel that you bought a cheap metal detector for a passing interest at best.

If you only use it a few times a year, then you probably don’t need to clean it more than once or twice a year.

But, if you are a regular detectorist, you should be cleaning your metal detector after every 3 or 4 hunts. And you should always clean your metal detector as soon as possible if it was submerged in salt water or exposed to heavily mineralized areas.

The more dirt and minerals that build up on your metal detector, the more likely you will experience inconsistencies with your readings.

Can I Use Chemicals to Clean My Metal Detector?

Can I Use Chemicals to Clean My Metal Detector
Harsher chemical solutions are not good for cleaning metal detectors and pose too much risk.

No, I would not use chemicals to clean a metal detector.

Harsh cleaning chemicals increase the chances of damaging the electronics of your metal detector or even discoloring the surface material.

It’s best to just use warm water and soap. It’s easily available, safer, and doesn’t cost much at all.

Why Is There an Odor Coming from My Coil?

If you’ve already cleaned your metal detector coil with soap and water but you still get a whiff of something…off, there is an explanation.

Why Is There an Odor Coming from My Coil
Exposure to salt water can definitely leave your coil smelling foul.

In most cases, an odor coming from your coil is caused by a recent detecting expedition in saltwater.

The salt can seep into the inner workings of your coil and cause corrosion. If you live near the coast, this is something you’ll have to clean on a regular basis.

The best way to get rid of the odor in your metal detector coil is to use a little baking soda when cleaning it with your water solution.

Baking soda is excellent at canceling out any odors caused by acidic or alkaline molecules.

Just make sure you rinse the baking soda off completely when you’re finished.

Why Do I Need to Clean My Metal Detector?

Why Do I Need to Clean My Metal Detector
Do you keep all your possessions dirty? Cleaning a metal detector has many advantages.

Cleaning your metal detector is important for several reasons.

The most obvious reason is that it will help your device last longer. By taking care of your metal detector and cleaning it regularly, you increase its lifespan.

Another reason to clean your metal detector is to ensure accuracy.

If there is build-up on any of the parts of your metal detector, it can cause false readings. This is not only frustrating but can also lead you to miss out on potential finds.

Lastly, keeping your metal detector clean just makes good sense!

You wouldn’t leave your car dirty and expect it to work properly, would you? The same goes for a metal detector.

clean a dirty car
Just like your car, you should keep up with regular maintenance of your metal detector.

If you ever have any plans of reselling your device, keeping it clean is just good business.


I hope this article helped you understand the importance of cleaning metal detectors as well as the best ways to clean them.

For most situations, all you will need is some warm soapy water and a rag to wipe your metal detector down with.

Take care when cleaning any electrical areas and connection ports. Even just a little water in these areas will cause you a headache for sure.

And when it comes to cleaning your coil, just practice patience when removing the cover. If you get frustrated, brute force will often lead to a broken coil cover and a search for its replacement.

Finally, thanks for following along our cleaning series with us. We’re always looking for better ways to get the most out of our finds, as I’m sure you are.

Until next time…

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