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How to Clean Tarnished Copper

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
copper cookware

Learning how to clean copper properly pays off in spades, especially if you don't want to have to pay a professional to scour your prized copper possessions. Clean up these pieces using DIY methods or professional products.

Hot Water, Vinegar and Salt for Cleaning Tarnished Copper

If your copper item is heavily tarnished, this method is a good one to try at home.

Supplies

  • 1 gallon boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Tongs
  • Soap
  • Warm water
  • 2 microfiber cleaning cloths

Directions

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a low, rolling boil.
  2. Add salt and white vinegar.
  3. Place the copper piece into the pot (make sure there are no plastic parts or other pieces that may be damaged by the boiling water).
  4. Allow the piece to sit in the hot water mixture until the tarnish comes off.
  5. Remove the piece from the mixture using tongs and place on a dry microfiber cleaning cloth.
  6. Allow the piece to cool off.
  7. Rinse the piece with warm water and soap. Rinse soap.
  8. Wipe to dry using circular motions.

Lemon and Baking Soda Removes Oxidation

Removing oxidation is easy when you combine lemon slices and baking soda.

Supplies

  • 1 sliced lemon
  • Baking soda, as needed
  • Warm water
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth

Directions

  1. Sprinkle baking soda on one side of each lemon slice.
  2. Gently rub the sprinkled side of the lemon over the copper.
  3. Repeat as necessary to remove all the oxidized spots.
  4. Rinse the copper piece with warm water.
  5. Dry the piece with the microfiber cloth using circular motions to eliminate any streaks.

If you don't have baking soda on hand, salt can work just as well.

DIY Copper Stain Removal Instructions

To clean tough stains from copper, you'll want to make a paste. Try using a mix of salt, vinegar and flour or mix up some lemon juice with cream of tartar.

Salt, Vinegar and Flour Supplies

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Flour, as needed
  • Warm water
  • Chamois cloth
  • Commercial polish, optional

Directions

  1. Dissolve salt in the white vinegar.
  2. Add some flour to make a paste.
  3. Apply the paste to the stained copper and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse the item with clean warm water and dry using the microfiber cloth.
  5. Polish the piece after it has dried, if desired.

Lemon Juice and Cream of Tartar Method

Add some cream of tartar to lemon juice to make enough paste to cover your stain. Apply the paste on the copper and leave on for at least 5 minutes. Follow directions above for rinsing and polishing.

Can You Clean Copper With Ketchup or Coke?

Using ketchup to clean your copper is a tried-and-true method. Simply rub on the copper, let it sit for about 15 minutes, rinse, and wipe to dry. Coke is another oft-touted method for shining up a copper piece; simply submerge the item in the cola and you should have a lustrous piece in 15 minutes to an hour. Rinse and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

Commercial Products for Cleaning and Polishing Tarnished Copper

Moderate tarnish can be removed by applying name brand commercial copper polish and following the directions on the container. Try:

Daily Copper Cleaning Advice

For every day cleaning, wash copper utensils or cookware with gentle liquid dish washing soap and warm water. Just remember not to scrub the item too hard as you don't want to strip it of its natural color. Regardless of the type of copper item you are cleaning, never use steel wool or an abrasive cleaning tool to remove dirt, grime or tarnish. Once the tarnish is gone, you can rub on some olive oil for a bright finish.

How to Clean Tarnished Copper