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Copper is a welcome addition in any home, whether it is a shiny new set of copper cookware or a vintage farmhouse copper sink. When free of rust and tarnish, copper's reddish-orange hue and unmistakable sheen are aesthetically pleasing and an excellent cooking or decorative choice.
The task of cleaning copper doesn't have to be a kitchen chore. Learn how to clean copper, how to polish copper and the best practices for keeping it shiny by following these DIY methods that will have your copper treasures looking brand new.
Copper Cookware Facts
Copper is a cook’s best friend. However, a lot of people don’t know how to clean copper, so they avoid buying or using it.
This metal is an excellent conductor of heat. Just make sure your saucepan or frying pan is lined with a non-reactive metal such as nickel, tin or stainless steel. (Most copper cookware is, but it can’t hurt to double check.) With the right cleaning tools and metal cleaners such as copper sink cleaner, removing stains and baked-on grime from your new or antique cookware isn't difficult.
Why Copper Tarnishes
Copper cookware becomes discolored over time by exposure to oxygen. The process is called oxidation, and it is a natural process. Copper can develop a black or brown tarnish from moisture, dust, dirt and oils from repeated touching, and from exposure to certain chemicals. Heat and acidic compounds found in milk, vinegar, or wine can result in a form of an aqua-green or blue-colored corrosion.
Tarnish and corrosion make your copper pots and pans less visually appealing. But instead of tossing your prized cookware in the trash, try these tips on how to clean copper and restore its luster and usefulness.
How to Clean Copper with Lemon and Salt
One of the first things you need to know about how to clean copper is to make sure not to use anything overly abrasive. A quick and easy two-ingredient solution for returning tarnished or dull copper to its former glory can be found in your kitchen: lemon and salt.
- Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle a bit of table salt on the cut side.
- Rub on your pot or pan for about 10 minutes and any piece of copper that has minimal stains or a little patina should sparkle.
How to Clean a Copper Sink with Lemon and Cornstarch
Lemon juice is a good cleaning choice for the copper that is a part of your kitchen updates. It dissolves copper oxide, which reacts with copper to cause tarnishing. Use it on sinks or 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.
- You can also make a paste using equal parts lemon juice and baking soda for a similar result.
Cleaning Copper Using Tomatoes
Tomato paste can be used for more than cooking. It is also a very good copper cleaner. The weak acid and salt in tomato paste work create chemistry to dissolve copper oxide. 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 the copper with a cloth and rinse.
Copper Polishing with Vinegar and Flour
Cleaning copper and copper polishing are two different things. Once your copper is clean, give it a shiny boost with a polishing solution you can make at home using ingredients you probably have stocked in your pantry. Salt, vinegar and flour combine to polish copper.
- 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.
- Now that you know how to polish copper with this solution, do this regularly to maintain its shiny appearance.
Tip: Use different parts of the cloth as you clean for maximum effect.
Keeping Copper Shiny
- Never air dry copper cookware. Use a microfiber towel to dry it off for best results.
- Avoid tarnishing cookware by washing copper using warm water and dish soap. Dry it immediately after.
- Never put copper in the dishwasher.
- Don’t leave copper cookware to soak in water overnight.
- Never use a harsh abrasive (like steel wool, scrubbers that could leave scratches or bleach) on a copper kitchen sink or copper vessels.
- When you’re looking to give your copper an extra bit of shine, a highly-rated metal polish or non-abrasive cleaner is usually the best – and easiest – way to go.
These DIY cleaning methods will restore the look of your copper treasures. Use proper cleaning methods and eco-friendly substances as listed above. You can keep your cookware, storage containers or your copper-lined kitchen sink clean and retaining their luster for as long as you need them. Download The Home Depot Mobile App to shop for the cleaning and polishing supplies to protect your essential copper cookware.