How to Clean Copper

Exposure to water and even air can discolor copper or cause it to tarnish. Here are some tips on how to clean copper safely using ingredients commonly found in your kitchen.

January 07, 2021

Copper pans, sinks and accessories add beauty to your home. But like all metals, copper tarnishes over time and with use. You can get your copper items shiny again with our tips on how to clean copper, how to clean a copper sink and how to clean copper-bottom pots and pans.

Learn how to clean copper pots

How to Clean Copper

Cleaning copper is as easy as using a few readily-available kitchen staples.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Fabrika Simf

Shutterstock/Fabrika Simf

Exposing copper to air turns it black, and exposing it to water turns the surface greenish-blue. Commercial copper cleaners like Brasso and Barkeeper’s Friend are available, but you can make natural cleaners from ingredients in your kitchen that are safe, effective and more affordable.

Cleaning Copper Pots With Vinegar

Here's how to clean copper with an old standby: vinegar.

  • Mix 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup flour and enough vinegar to make a thick paste.
  • Use a soft cloth to rub the paste on the surface of the copper.
  • Buff the copper item until it shines.
  • Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly.

How to Use Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

You can make another natural cleaner by mixing lemon juice (or vinegar) and baking soda into a sudsy mixture. Apply to the copper and buff with a soft cloth. Rinse with water and dry. These mixtures work because the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice strips the oxidized patina from the copper and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to remove the grime. You can also use lime juice instead of lemon.

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Ketchup Works, Too

Grab a bottle of ketchup for a third natural-cleaning idea. Yes, ketchup. You can clean copper with a condiment. The acid in the tomatoes cleans grime off copper. Rub a thin layer of ketchup on your copper item and buff until it shines. Rinse and dry.

Use a Combo of Vinegar and Salt

  • Dissolve salt in vinegar.
  • Use a soft cloth to apply the liquid solution to the item.
  • Buff item until the copper gleams.
  • Rinse and dry.
  • If dents in the copper are holding any grime, use a soft toothbrush to scrub the copper.

Or Boil It

If none of the above cleaners work:

  • Put 1 cup of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of salt and 3 or 4 cups of water into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  • Put your item in the pot and boil it until the tarnish falls off the item.
  • It may need more scrubbing when you pull it out of the pot, but you’ll need less elbow grease to get the shine back.

Once your copper is shiny again, keep it cleaner, longer, by wiping a thin layer of mineral or linseed oil on it. Knowing how to clean copper, how to clean a copper sink and how to clean copper-bottom pans will keep these items beautiful.

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