Project Guide

How to Clean Copper

Copper Cookware Facts
Person drying copper pan.

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. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat. 

Just make sure it’s lined with another 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.

How to Clean Metal with Lemon and Salt
Person rubbing lemon on a copper pan.

One of the first things you need to know about how to clean metal is to make sure not to use anything overly abrasive. 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. 

  • 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
A copper vanity sink installed in a bathroom.

For sinks, or more difficult copper 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 just equal parts lemon juice and baking soda for a similar result.

Cleaning Copper Using Tomatoes
Someone using tomato paste to clean a copper pan.

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 cloth and rinse.

Copper Polishing with Vinegar and Flour
Someone mixing flour and vinegar in a glass bowl.

Copper cleaning and copper polishing are two different things. Once your copper is clean, you can give it a shiny boost with a non-toxic copper polishing cleaner you can make at home using 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.

Tup: Rub your copper with a soft, clean cloth soaked in white vinegar. Use different parts of the cloth as you clean for maximum effect.

Keeping Copper Shiny
Copper pans hanging on a pot rack against a tile kitchen backsplash.
  • Never air dry copper cookware. 
  • 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).
  • When you’re looking to give your copper an extra bit of shine, a highly-rated store-bought polish or non-abrasive cleaner is usually the best – and easiest – way to go.