Spiffy Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Up Your Copper

Under 2 hours

From a shiny new set of copper cookware to a vintage farmhouse copper sink, I have always dreamed of having copper in my home. When free of rust and tarnish, copper’s reddish-orange hue and unmistakable sheen isn’t just an aesthetically pleasing design element, it’s also a practical addition to the kitchen.

That’s because copper is a cook’s best friend: It’s an excellent conductor of heat and completely safe to cook with. Just make sure it’s lined with another non-reactive metal – most copper cookware is, but it can’t hurt to double check – like nickel, tin or stainless steel. However, a lot of people avoid buying or using copper because they think it’s either difficult to clean or they just don’t know how. Well, consider both problems solved.

Whether you’ve got a stack of dirtied-up cookware or antique pieces that are starting to show their age, these low-lift DIY copper cleaning methods and store-bought products will have your copper treasures looking brand spanking new.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED FOR THIS PROJECT

TOOLS

MATERIALS

  • Microfiber Cloths
  • Dish Soap
  • Metal Cleaners
  • Cleaning Rags
  • All Purpose Cleaners
  • Odor Absorbers
1
Never Let It Air Dry
Person drying copper pan.

While it’s definitely a myth that copper is difficult to care for, you do have to treat it with a little more care than your run-of-the-mill pots and pans. One of the easiest ways to prevent water stains, which could lead to quicker tarnishing, is to wash copper using warm water and dish soap and drying it immediately after.

Oh, and while we’re talking about what not to do, here a few others: Never put copper in the dishwasher; don’t leave it to soak in water overnight; and never use a harsh abrasive (like steel wool, scrubbers that could leave scratches or bleach) to clean it.

2
Spot Treat with a Mild Abrasive
Person rubbing lemon on a copper pan.

A quick and easy, two-ingredient solution for returning tarnished or dull copper back to its former glory can be found in your kitchen: lemon and salt. Simply cut a lemon in half and sprinkle a bit of table salt on the cut side. All you need to do next is rub! In less than 10 minutes, any piece of copper that has minimal stains or a little patina should look brand new.

For more difficult spots or stains, combine equal parts salt and non-iodized cornstarch with enough lemon juice to make a paste. Rub the paste on the copper surface using a microfiber cloth, rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly. Similarly, you can make a paste using just equal parts lemon juice and baking soda for a similar result.

3
Polish with Vinegar and Flour
Person mixing a flour and vinegar paste to clean copper.

To give your copper a shiny boost, there’s another non-toxic copper polishing cleaner you can make at home. This one also involves two ingredients you probably already have stocked in your pantry: vinegar and flour. Mix together one-quarter cup salt and one-quarter cup flour, then add enough vinegar to make a thick paste. Rub that paste on the copper surface and gently buff it using a microfiber cloth until it shines; wash and dry thoroughly.

For a simple polish, soak a soft, clean cloth in white vinegar and rub the surface of the copper. Use different parts of the cloth as you clean for maximum effect.

4
Try Using Tomatoes (Yes, Tomatoes!)
Person using tomato paste to clean copper.

You probably would’ve never guessed that the acid in tomatoes can work wonders on cleaning copper. This simple method is a great option if the copper doesn’t have a lot of tarnish – and if you’ve got some leftover tomato paste you don’t know what to do with. Rub tomato paste on the surface of the copper, let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse with dish soap and warm water. Out of tomato paste? Ketchup can also do the trick in a cinch. All you need to do is rub a small amount over your pot with a rag and rinse.

5
Pick Up This Store-Bought Cleaner
A tube of Haggerty copper pan cleaner.

When you’re looking to give your copper an extra bit of shine, a store-bought polish is usually the best – and easiest – way to go. One of the top-rated cleaners at The Home Depot® is Haggerty’s 100 All-Metal Polish, a concentrated cream that simply needs to be rubbed on and buffed off for a tarnish-free shine. And while many people recommend using Bar Keepers Friend to polish copper, some experts advise against it – it can be a little too abrasive. But if you do decide to use Bar Keepers Friend, make sure to do a spot test in an inconspicuous place before treating the entire copper piece.

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5 Tips and Tricks for Making Tarnished Silver Shiny and New

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