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.
Copper is used for more than expensive cookware. The durable material is featured in a number of household items, from pipes to appliances. Still, most people associate copper with cookware, as it does an exceptional job of conducting heat. Copper is also extremely durable, non-magnetic and resists everyday wear and tear. The downside to having copper items is that the material reacts when exposed to air for long periods of time. If you own copper pots or utensils don't be surprised if they tarnish in moist air; this is normal, but preventable.
Tips on How to Clean Copper
You can eliminate nasty tarnish marks if you learn how to clean copper and maintain its shine. Moderate tarnish can be removed by applying name brand commercial copper polish and following the directions on the container. If you are wary about using store-bought copper polishers, then make your own at home. Simply add a little salt to a bowl of vinegar or lemon juice, and mix to make a paste. Apply the past on the tarnish and rub gently. Once the tarnish is gone you can add some olive oil for a bright finish.
Even though tarnish does not compromise cooking results, it's always a good idea to clean copper cookware after each use. Fortunately, for frugalistas there are a host of homemade cleaners that can be used to spruce up copper items, including:
- Soap and water: 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.
- Hot water, vinegar and salt: If your copper item is heavily tarnished, then add it to a pot that contains boiling water, one tablespoon of salt and one cup of white vinegar. Let the item sit for several hours in the hot mixture before washing it with soap and warm water.
- Salt, vinegar and flour: To clean tough stains from copper, dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one cup of white vinegar. Then, add some flour to make a paste. Next, apply the paste to the stained copper and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the item with clean warm water, and polish it after it has dried.
- Lemon and salt: To clean large copper pots, dip lemon halves in salt and rub them on the cookware. If you are cleaning smaller copper items, then make a paste of lemon juice and salt, and rub it on the dirty copper with a soft cloth. Next, rinse the item with warm water and allow to dry thoroughly before you polish it.
- Lemon and baking soda: Another option is to sprinkle some baking soda on a slice of fresh lemon and rub it on the copper. Once the dirt and grime is gone, rinse the copper with warm water and dry.
- Lemon juice and cream of tartar: Add some cream of tartar to lemon juice to make a paste. Apply the paste on the copper and leave on for at least five minutes. Then, wash in warm water, dry with a chamois cloth and polish if needed.
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.
Learning how to clean copper is not hard; however, it can be tricky to remember how to preserve copper items, especially if you have a variety of them that you use for different reasons. For example, if you have a set of copper utensils, don't use them with acidic foods. This goes for copper pans lined with tin as well. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar-based products, lemon juice and other fruit juices can cause a toxic compound to form. You are better off sticking with copper utensils and cookware that have a porcelain enamel finish. The coating conducts heat well, while protecting the copper and your health.