Cleaning copper at home is straightforward and inexpensive using everyday household items. Here’s how I keep my copper items looking their best:
- I create a homemade paste with equal parts salt, flour, and vinegar.
- For tough corrosion, I use a halved lemon dipped in salt.
- Surprisingly, ketchup works wonders for removing tarnish.
- Boiling the copper in a mixture of water, vinegar, and salt helps with stubborn stains.
- I use a mix of lemon juice and baking soda for general cleaning and polishing.
To begin with the vinegar paste, I mix equal parts of salt and flour, gradually adding vinegar until the mixture becomes a thick paste. I then apply this paste to my copper items with a soft cloth, rubbing gently to remove tarnish. After cleaning, I rinse the items with warm water and dry them thoroughly to restore their shine.
When I encounter corrosion, the lemon and salt method works like magic. I simply sprinkle salt on the cut side of the lemon and use it to scrub the copper. If needed, I make a paste using lemon juice and cream of tartar, apply it to the problem areas, and let it sit before wiping it clean.
For a quick fix, ketchup proves to be an effective cleaner. I apply a small amount onto the copper, let it sit to break down the grime, and then rinse and dry it for a polished finish.
Boiling the copper comes in handy for those challenging stains. In a pot, I mix water, vinegar, and salt and then let the copper item boil until the tarnish lifts off. I make sure to handle the copper carefully when it’s hot and buff it to shine once it cools down.
Lastly, for a regular clean, I make a sudsy solution with lemon juice and baking soda to apply to the copper. After cleaning off the grime, I rinse the item well and give it a final polish for that perfect gleam.
Copper, whether it’s in the form of jewelry, sinks, pots, pans, or other household items, adds beauty to your home or your appearance. The downfall to copper, like many other metals, is an unsightly tarnish that appears over time and with repeated use. To keep your copper looking shiny and new requires you to learn how to clean copper at home.
Black and a greenish-blue color are two of the most common issues you see with copper. The black occurs when exposing copper to air for long periods. The only way to prevent black tarnish is by regularly cleaning copper items sitting around your home.
The greenish-blue tarnish is from exposure to water again, not something preventable, especially with copper cookware. Using commercial cleaners, such as Barkeepers’ Friend or Brasso, is one of the easiest ways to clean copper, but there are other approaches just as easy and quick as commercial cleaners.
- Cleaning Copper the Easy Way
Cleaning Copper the Easy Way
Commercial cleaners are quick and easy to use but are full of harsh chemicals. Learn how to polish a bronze sink and clean the surface of copper hardware using natural cleaners made from ingredients sitting around your house instead. These natural cleaning products are safe and effective for copper and stainless steel and are more affordable than commercial cleaning solutions.
Vinegar Cleans Copper
Vinegar is perhaps the most versatile ingredient inside your kitchen, as it is widely used for both cooking and cleaning. Vinegar alone is not strong enough to clean tarnished copper pots, but combine it with a few other kitchen staples to create one of the most powerful cleaning methods.
In a small bowl, add the salt and flour and stir quickly to combine. Slowly pour in small amounts of vinegar, stirring between each pour. Stop adding vinegar once the mixture forms a thick paste.
Use a clean, soft cloth to rub the vinegar-based paste directly onto the copper. Grab a second towel and polish copper until it’s shiny. Rinse with warm water and dry with a third towel.
Vinegar is an extremely versatile household component. Not only can you clean copper, but you can make a salad dressing, make pickles, and take care of aging brass with the inexpensive liquid.
Remove Corrosion with Lemons
One of the best processes to remove corrosion from a copper pan is with lemons and salt. Lemons and salt work on the worst oxidation, so many use it as a last resort after all other options fail. Not only can you clean your copper pans with lemon and salt, but it’s also one of the best ways to clean copper pennies and coins to get rid of stuck-on dirt and remove staining.
Cut the lemon in half and sprinkle it with salt. Table salt works fine and offers just the right amount of abrasiveness. Use the halved lemon like a scrub brush and scrub the corroded copper surface.
Continue rubbing until all corrosion is gone, and the surface’s original luster shines through. If, after repeated scrubbing, there are still corroded spots, use the other half of the lemon to make other copper cleaners. Squeeze the juice from the second half into a bowl and mix in a few teaspoons of cream of tartar.
Only use enough cream of tartar to create a paste. Using your fingertips or a sponge, cover the corroded areas, and allow it to sit for two hours. Wipe the paste away with a dry cloth and buff until shiny.
Cleaning with Ketchup
Ketchup is the most popular condiment in America. What you don’t know about this red, delicious sauce is that it is also a great way to clean dirty coins and other items. Ketchup cleans copper, too, thanks to the acidity levels of tomatoes, plus it contains salt and vinegar.
The power of these three ingredients is enough to remove the toughest grime. To clean copper items with ketchup, squirt a small amount onto an old rag and rub across the entire surface. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then buff it clean with a damp cloth.
Once oxidation disappears, rinse thoroughly in warm water and dry immediately to prevent new corrosion from forming. Mustard makes an excellent home made brass cleaner, but it also works to remove oxidation from copper.
Apply it the same way you apply the ketchup, but only leave on for ten minutes at a time. The vinegar inside the mustard breaks down any oxidation for a beautiful and shiny result.
Boiling Copper Cleans It
Sometimes the corrosion or burnt-on food is so bad you can’t get rid of it no matter how hard you scrub. If all other natural cleaners fail, try boiling the copper piece in a large pot as the best way to clean copper with stubborn stains. To boil your copper, pour in three cups of water, one cup of vinegar, and one tablespoon of salt into a stockpot.
Place the copper piece directly into the water, turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Allow it to boil until the tarnish disappears. Once the tarnish is gone, remove the piece from water carefully, let it cool, and buff to a shine.
Baking Soda and Lemon Juice Solution
Create a sudsy mix of lemon juice and baking soda to clean your copper. Use a clean rag dipped in the sudsy solution to apply it to the copper piece. Afterward, use a soft microfiber cloth to buff it clean.
Rinse it thoroughly with warm water and then dry it completely to prevent new tarnish from forming. Lemon juice works to clean the copper as it strips the patina from the copper, while the baking soda scrubs away tough dirt and grime. You can substitute lime juice or vinegar for the lemon juice, if necessary.
Cleaning Lacquered Copper
Any copper that keeps a lovely shine or gloss despite being washed and used repeatedly features a protective finish. Tarnished spots on these types of pieces indicate the lacquered finish is damaged. As it’s nearly impossible to clean just the stained spots, it’s best to strip it before you wash it.
To remove the lacquered finish, add one teaspoon of washing soda for each cup of boiling water. Fully submerge the item inside the boiling water and leave it to boil for 20 minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, remove it from the water and use a rough dishcloth to scrub the softened finish.
For the hard to reach crevices or more stubborn areas, scrub clean with an old toothbrush. Wash it in hot, soapy water by hand, not the dishwasher, and then dry. Buff the copper in circular motions with a clean cloth.
Make your own copper cleaner using one of our preferred techniques to clean the tarnished spots. Once clean, you can continue using the item as is with regular cleaning and polishing. Or, apply a new protective clear coat to protect the copper.
Can I Use Baking Soda?
It is possible to clean vintage copper with only baking soda, but it requires a lot more elbow grease than other methods. Baking soda is an excellent cleaner as it’s mildly abrasive, but not rough enough to scratch the surface. To clean using baking soda, sprinkle some on a rag or directly onto the dirty dish.
Use a clean cloth to scrub the tarnish off. Once it’s gone, rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove the baking soda residue. Immediately dry the copper with a soft towel and then buff to a shine with a second towel.
Other Kitchen Staples You Can Use
Ketchup is not the only condiment to use when cleaning copper, Worcestershire sauce, and A1 Steak Sauce also work. Worcestershire sauce works best on smaller pieces, such as utensils, as you simply dab on a small amount and wipe down the dull surface.
Rinse it away with warm water to reveal the sought after shine. A1 Steak Sauce works similarly, but it is the tomato puree paired with the vinegar in the mixture that restores copper’s brilliant shine. Rub on with a soft rag and then rinse and dry.
Use Kool-Aid to Remove Tarnish
When using Kool-Aid to remove tarnish, there is no secret flavor that works the best; use whatever is in the house. Never mix the packet inside your sink, since it stains the sink. Instead, mix one package inside a bucket with two quarts of water.
Submerge your item for ten minutes and watch as the citric acid inside the Kool-Aid mix eats away the tarnish. Rinse and dry thoroughly before putting away. Dispose of used Kool-Aid immediately to prevent accidental ingestion.
Tips for Keeping Your Copper Shiny
Now that your copper is clean and new looking, you want it to stay that way. There are several tactics to use to keep your copper tarnish-free. Once cleaned, apply a thin coat of linseed oil, mineral oil, or baby oil to your copper. This forms a protective layer to slow down tarnishing.
Spritzing V05 hairspray on copper prevents oxidation from forming as the spray forms a protective coating on the objects. A used, clean dryer sheet wipes away tarnish and prevents new stains thanks to its anti-static properties.
Thank you for reading our different ideas on the best ways to clean copper. If you found any of our tips on cleaning copper useful, please share these copper cleaning solutions on Facebook and Pinterest so others can learn how to clean copper at home.