How To Clean Copper The Right Way

Copper objects take you back to another era. We were used to seeing copper pots at our grandmother’s house. But now copper items are part of modern houses’ decoration, adding a warmer, richer and more elegant touch around the house.

copper pans hanging on a wall in a kitchen

There aren’t only copper household items. Most of you should probably have a piece of vintage jewellery made of copper, like a ring or a pair of earrings, a gift from a beloved family member! Their main disadvantage is that the inevitable air exposure causes copper objects to lose their lustre and develop a black patina, making them look stained.

Hopefully, there’s a way to bring back their lost lacquer finish. No! You don’t have to spend a fortune buying special copper cleaners and cleaning products containing harsh chemicals. You can make your cleaning solution with natural ingredients found in every cabinet, like vinegar, lemon or bicarbonate of soda. Are you ready to find out how to clean copper?

How to clean copper

However, before explaining the DIY cleaning methods, we should give you some extra tips for proper cleaning.

  • Copper objects may have a finish. You should check if it is lacquered. That means that the copper is covered with a coating to protect it from tarnish and corrosion. If your copper is lacquered, then just:
  1. Clean it with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water to remove dust and grime.
  2. Then rinse the dish soap off the object with a damp cloth
  3. Finally, dry it very well.
  • For unfinished copper: If a copper item doesn’t have a finish, follow the below methods to achieve the copper polish you wish. 

Method 1: Ketchup 

Yeap! This yummy sauce isn’t only for French fries! It can remove rust from metal, clean brass and your old coin collection. It can also remove tarnish from your copper objects and, along with some elbow grease from your side, will bring back their lustre due to their acidic properties.

a cup of ketchup and a teaspoon on a black surface 

Needed materials:

  • Ketchup
  • Clean cloths/ paper towels

Steps to follow: 

  1. Squeeze a small amount of ketchup on the cloth.
  2. Scrub in circular motions the item with the cloth, applying a thin layer of  tomato sauce onto the copper 
  3. Then rinse very well and dry it with paper towels or a dry cloth.

Extra tip: Add some salt on top of ketchup if you want a more effective result.  

Method 2: Vinegar and Salt

It is well known that vinegar has incredible cleansing and sanitising properties. If you combine it with different ingredients, you’ll achieve the ultra best result. We’ll combine white vinegar with table salt to properly clean tarnished copper. There are two different ways to do so using vinegar and salt. Let’s see what you have to do in both:

A jar of salt toppled over in a wooden surface

1st way 

For this method, you’ll have to mix the two ingredients.

Needed ingredients:
  • A bowl
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Clean rags
  • A toothbrush
  • Warm running water
Steps to follow:
  1. Mix equal parts of vinegar and salt in the bowl to create a paste
  2. Dip the rag into the paste and scrub the copper piece. Focus on the darkest stains. Keep dipping the towel into the paste to get more for your piece.  
  3. Use the toothbrush to reach hard and narrow areas
  4. Rinse with warm running water once you’ve finished scrubbing the entire copper surface
  5. Finally, use a clean, dry towel to dry your copper. 

2nd way

This way is more time-consuming but pretty handy if you want to clean off stains and black patina in more than one piece. 

Needed materials:
  • A large pot
  • A cup of white vinegar
  • A tablespoon of salt
  • 3 cups of lukewarm water
  • A dry towel
Steps to follow:
  1. Add 3 cups of lukewarm water, a cup of vinegar, a tablespoon of salt in a large pot and stir them very well. 
  2. Place the copper pieces in the pot and bring the vinegar solution to a boil. Make sure that all pieces are covered with the solution. 
  3. Let the solution boil for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool down for almost an hour.
  5. After they’ve cooled, dry the copper items with a clean towel and buff them to shine. 

Extra tip: For large items, use a large pot and double the ingredients. 

Method 3: Lemon 

Lemon is a grease remover, antibacterial, antiseptic and natural bleach. You can use it to clean your stainless steel heated towel rails, sink and cutlery or your silvers. It’s very useful also in cleaning the copper objects you have in the house, especially those that are less fragile, like pots and pans.

some lemons and a glass of lemon juice on a table

There are a few ways to clean with lemon. They might share a lot of similarities, they differ, though, in small details.  

1st way

Needed materials:
  • A lemon
  • Salt
Steps to follow:
  1. Cut the lemon in half and add salt to the half side.
  2. Rub the lemon on the object. 
  3. Rinse with lukewarm water and wipe the piece with a soft dry cloth.

2nd way

Need materials:
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Baking soda/ cornstarch
Steps to follow:
  1. Create a paste with lemon juice and equal amounts of salt and soda/cornstarch.
  2. Apply the paste on the copper and scrub gently with a soft clean cloth
  3. Rinse and dry very well.

Method 4: Baking soda

Baking or bicarbonate od soda is among the top natural cleaning ingredients. It can remove grease and dried stains from everything: from dishes to appliances. It’s also great for cleaning copper.

Baking soda isolated on gray background

Needed materials:

  • Baking soda
  • Warm water
  • A cloth/sponge

Steps to follow:

  1. Sprinkle some soda on the troubled area. 
  2. Next, dampen a cloth/ a sponge in warm water and buff the stain

Extra tip: Don’t apply too much pressure as you can scratch copper. 

Note: Baking soda is efficient enough for tough stains, like the ones you can find at the bottom of copper cookware

How to prevent copper from tarnishing?

Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent your copper pots(and not only) from tarnishing. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive, and I bet you all have that product in your place; Baby oil or mineral oil.

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your copper piece, apply a light coat of baby or mineral oil. The oil acts as a protective cover on the copper, protecting it from the air and slowing down oxidation

How Often Should You Clean and Polish Copper?

There isn’t a general rule about the frequency of cleaning and polishing your coppers. It’s literally up to you. Once you’ve seen that tarnish appears, you can clean it. Keep in mind that the baby oil will slow down tarnishing

Tips on how to maintain copper products clean?

  • Dust them regular. Just make sure to use a soft cloth to remove dust to avoid extra scratches. 
  • Avoid touching your brass as much as possible. Hand skin oils affect the copper and make it tarnish.
  • Before polishing your coopers, always wash them with dish soap and lukewarm water.
  • Polish your copper cookware regularly to prevent tarnishing.
  • Rinse and dry them very well after cleaning. Any acid, water, or other substance left on their surface will create extra marks.
  • Never wash them in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t heat an empty, dry copper pot/pan.
  • Repair any damaged spots as soon as you notice them.

some copper items on a wooden surface.

You always have the choice to clean and polish your copper cookware, jewellery and decoration items with commercial products. If you opt for this method, make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them. 

Either way, you choose, make smooth moves as this type of metal is very delicate and fragile. Hence, to keep them for a long time, be gentle with them and treat them with care and the respect they deserve! After all, they have lasted so long! It would be such a pity to damage them while trying to maintain their sparkle.

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