How to Clean Copper and Restore its Shine


Pots, pans and plumbing – you probably have lots of copperware just in your kitchen, don’t you? It’s also a popular metal found in art pieces, rare coins and rain chains. But keeping its burnished glow intact can sometimes be a harrowing task. Read on for some easy hacks for cleaning and removing tarnish from your copperware.

Copper is the oldest metal used by man and dates back almost 10,000 years. Everyday items like water vessels and hand mirrors were made from copper in ancient Egypt.

Cut to the present and copper still ranks number one, owing to its versatility. Its unique combination of properties makes it best for electrical wiring. Brass and bronze are just the two of the long list of alloys made from copper.

Chefs around the world highly regard copper cookware, as it has the highest heat transfer among cookware materials. It also offers uniform heating, which means it cooks food evenly. According to one study, copper is a proven antimicrobial material that kills germs on contact, making it an even better choice for cookware.

before after cleaning cookware

Cookware and ornaments made from copper exude quality, comfort and beauty, thus giving out an inviting vibe. Tarnished copperware not only appears dull but can also mar the charm of its surroundings.

Using natural cleaners to polish your cookware is healthier and more pleasant than using their chemical counterparts. A lovely bonus is that you don’t have to make any specific arrangements or purchase a special ingredient – everything you need is right there in your kitchen!

We tried varying combinations of vinegar, salt, lemon and baking soda to clean a copper water jug, all of which worked with some nuances in the results.

  • Vinegar, salt and flour paste worked like magic – the best remedy by far.
  • Just vinegar and salt also worked well, but the lemon-salt combo worked better.
  • Ketchup was quite a handy remedy, but loses points owing to the mess it creates.
  • Baking soda and lemon works okay, but you’ll need to put some muscle into it.

So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to restore the shine of your copperware.

Method 1: Use Vinegar, Salt and Flour

before after cleaning copper

A salt, vinegar and flour paste is the best method to remove the most stubborn tarnish from copper. With the help of the salt, acidic vinegar cuts through the surface corrosion. Salt also acts as an abrasive agent. But the magic ingredient seems to be the flour. For the most part, it acts as an abrasive agent. Your copperware will surely end up with a new shine with this method.

Things you’ll need:

things need to clean copper

  • Salt (abrasive agent)
  • Flour (acts as abrasive)
  • White vinegar (acidic properties)
  • Towel

Step 1. Make a paste of salt, flour and vinegar

make a paste with salt, flour and vinegar

  • Put some flour in a bowl.
  • Add an equal amount of salt to it.
  • Pour enough vinegar into the bowl to make a spreadable paste.
  • Mix the ingredients completely.

Step 2. Brush the copper surface with the paste

brush the copper with vinegar, salt and flour paste

  • Using a brush, coat the entire surface of the copper item with the paste.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Step 3. Buff the copper item to remove the tarnish and restore its shine

buff copper to remove tarnish

  • Scrub the copperware with a towel to completely remove the stains and reveal a perfectly shiny copper surface.

copper after cleaning

Method 2: Use Lemon and Salt

before after cleaning copper

There are few cleaning jobs that lemon can’t accomplish. You can get rid of any tarnish stain with the dynamic duo of lemon and salt. The acidic nature of lemon combined with salt can break up surface corrosion, allowing you to completely clean your copperware.

Things you’ll need:

things need to clean copper

  • Lemon, cut in halves (acidic properties)
  • Salt (abrasive in nature)
  • Towel

Step 1. Scrub the copper surface with lemon and salt

scrub copper with lemon and salt

  • Dip the cut side of the lemon in salt, so that the salt coats the entire lemon surface.
  • Scrub the tarnished copper with the salted lemon to reveal the shining metal underneath.
  • When you run out of salt on the lemon, dip the lemon in the salt again before moving on to the next spot.
  • Go over the entire copper surface to clean any remaining tarnish stains.

Step 2. Buff the copper item with a towel to restore its shine

buff the copper with towel to restore shine

  • When all the tarnish stains are removed, wipe the mess clean with a towel.
  • Buff the metal with a dry face of the towel for a glossy finish.

clean copper surface

Method 3: Use Vinegar and Salt

before after cleaning copper

If you don’t have flour at hand, you can also make do with a simple vinegar and salt paste. The basic working principle is the same, just without the added benefit of flour. You may need to use more elbow grease.

Things you’ll need:

things need to clean copper

  • Salt (abrasive in nature)
  • White vinegar (acidic nature)
  • Kitchen towel

Step 1. Make a salt and vinegar paste

make a paste with salt and vinegar

  • Put some baking soda in a bowl.
  • Add an equal amount of white vinegar to it.
  • The bubbling will settle down as you mix the ingredients.

Step 2. Brush the copper surface with the paste

brush the surface with the paste

  • Use a brush to cover the entire surface of the copper item with the salt and vinegar paste.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes to allow the paste to work.

Step 3. Buff the copper item with a towel to remove the tarnish

buff the surface with a towel

  • Start rubbing the surface of the metal with a kitchen towel. You’ll notice that the tarnish-free metal starts surfacing.
  • Burnish the entire copper surface to reveal the shining surface underneath.

copper surface after cleaning

Method 4: Use Ketchup

before after cleaning copperware

The image of ketchup remains untarnished when it comes to removing tarnish from metals. The salt and vinegar present in the ketchup are responsible for its tarnish-removing capability.

The only downside is that it can be a sticky, gooey mess. You may not want to put it on your prized antiques.

You can also make a natural polish to lacquer your newly cleaned copperware with beeswax and olive oil to protect it from further corrosion. This is the basic formula polish that can also be used as a wood polish. Beeswax has long been used as a natural sealant for metals. It will give your metal a warm and earthy finish.

Things you’ll need:

things need to clean copperware

  • Ketchup (tarnish removing property)
  • Olive oil (prevents further corrosion) – 1 tablespoon
  • Beeswax (natural sealant) – 1 teaspoon
  • Kitchen towel

Step 1. Brush the copper surface with ketchup and leave it for 1 hour

brush copperware with ketchup

  • Coat the copper item with ketchup using any brush.
  • Let it sit for 1 hour to allow it to work.

Step 2. Wipe the copperware clean with a kitchen towel

wipe the copperware clean with a towel

  • Simply wipe off the ketchup with a kitchen towel. You’ll find that the tarnish comes off along with the ketchup.

Step 3. Make a natural polish with beeswax and olive oil

make a natural polish with beeswax and olive oil

  • Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into 1 teaspoon of melted beeswax and mix thoroughly.
  • You can melt beeswax in a microwave or a double boiler. You can also melt it in a water bath over a stove.
  • Once taken off the heat, the wax will solidify pretty quickly. So, you’ll need to be swift in adding the olive oil. After mixing in the oil, it won’t solidify as quickly.

Step 4. Coat your copperware with the natural polish

coat the copperware with natural polish

  • Brush a light coating of the natural polish over the entire copper surface.
  • You can also use a cotton cloth to buff the surface with this natural polish. Keep buffing until you achieve the shine you desire.

cleaned copper surface

Method 5: Use Baking Soda and Lemon

before after cleaning copper

A baking soda and lemon paste can also be used to get rid of the tarnish from a copper surface. Baking soda acts as an abrasive agent and also helps the acidic lemon to break the surface corrosion.

Things you’ll need:

things need for cleaning copper

  • Baking soda (abrasive agent)
  • Lemon (acidic properties)
  • Kitchen towel

Step 1. Combine baking soda and lemon juice

clean copperware with baking soda and lemon

  • Put some baking soda in a bowl.
  • Squeeze enough lemon juice into it to make a thin paste.
  • Don’t fret over the bubbling and fizzing. It will settle as you mix the ingredients into a paste.

Step 2. Brush the copper surface with the paste

brush copper surface with lemon and baking soda paste

  • Brush the paste over the tarnished surface of the copperware.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes. For stubborn tarnish, you can reapply the coating halfway through.

Step 3. Buff the copper item with a kitchen towel

buff with a kitchen towel

  • Buff your copperware with a sturdy kitchen towel for a glossy finish.

clean copper ware

Tips

  • Cream of tartar can be used in place of salt or baking soda with lemon or vinegar.
  • Avoid excess exposure to moisture to keep your copperware from turning black.
  • The natural polish can used on alloys of copper like bronze and brass as well.
  • Lacquered copper ornaments can be cleaned easily with any mild dish soap.
  • Polish your copperware with a dab of any vegetable oil and a kitchen towel to keep them from becoming tarnished for a long time.

Summary of How to Clean Copper

how to clean copper summary

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