How to Clean Copper

Exposure to water and even air can discolor copper or cause it to tarnish. Here are some tips for how to clean copper safely using ingredients commonly found in your kitchen.

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Photo by: Photographer:BULENT UMUT

Photographer:BULENT UMUT

Copper pans, sinks and accessories add beauty to your home. But like all metals, copper tarnishes over time and with use. Exposing copper to air turns it black, and exposing it to water turns the surface greenish-blue. You can get your copper items shiny again with our tips on how to clean copper, how to clean a copper sink and how to clean copper bottom pans.

There are commercial copper cleaners available, like Brasso and Barkeeper’s Friend, but you can make natural cleaners from ingredients in your kitchen that are safe, effective and more affordable.  

Vinegar, Flour and Salt 

The first natural cleaner to answer the question of how do you clean copper uses that standby, vinegar. Mix 1/4 salt, 1/4 cup flour and enough vinegar to make a thick paste. Use a soft cloth to rub the paste on the surface of the copper. Buff till it shines. Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly. 

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda 

You can make another natural cleaner by mixing lemon juice (or vinegar) and baking soda into a sudsy mixture. Apply to the copper and buff with a soft cloth. Rinse with water and dry. These mixtures work because the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice strips the oxidized patina from the copper and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to remove the grime. You can also use lime juice instead of lemon.


Grab a bottle of ketchup for the third natural cleaning idea. Yes, ketchup. This is how to clean copper with a condiment. The acid in the tomatoes cleans grime off copper. Rub a thin layer of ketchup on your copper item and buff till it shines. Rinse and dry. 

Vinegar and Salt

Dissolve salt in vinegar. Use a soft cloth to apply the liquid solution to the item, then buff till the copper gleams. Rinse and dry. If dents in the copper are holding any grime, use a soft toothbrush to scrub the copper.

Boil It 

If none of the cleaners we’ve suggested work, put one cup of vinegar, one tablespoon of salt and three or four cups into a large pot and bring to a boil. Put your item in the pot and boil it till the tarnish falls off the item. It may need more scrubbing when you pull it out of the pot, but you’ll need less elbow grease to get the shine back.

Once your copper is shiny again, keep it cleaner, longer, by wiping a thin layer of mineral or linseed oil on it. Knowing how to clean copper, how to clean a copper sink and how to clean copper bottom pans will make these items beautiful.

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