You can easily and safely restore dull, tarnished copper surfaces to a shining golden glow. Here's how to clean copper pans, pots, jewelry, and more using all-natural products you have around the house.
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A verdigris patina looks gorgeous on your antique copper weather vane, but when it comes to pots, mugs, and jewelry made of copper, the look of darkened tarnish can be downright unappealing. There are lots of reasons that copper tarnishes: Exposure to air, moisture, dirt, and even the oils on your skin can all react with the copper and cause the surface to oxidize and turn color. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to clean copper mugs, pots, and even copper jewelry. Try these simple, natural ways to clean copper and restore the glowing, polished surface.

kitchen copper pot pans hanging
Credit: Michael Partenio

Before You Start Cleaning Copper

Some copper items feature a lacquer finish that you should avoid cleaning with these methods. To find out whether the surface is lacquered, dip a rag in white vinegar, then baking soda, and use it to rub an inconspicuous spot on the copper surface. If it removes a spot of tarnish, the piece isn't lacquered and you can use the following natural cleaners.

Before cleaning copper, you should also check to see if the item is copper-plated. If the piece you want to clean with one of these methods is copper-plated, you could risk scratching the surface. To test if your item is copper, touch a magnet to its surface. If it sticks, the object is copper-plated. To clean copper-plated items, wash with water and mild detergent. Dry the item and buff with copper polish ($4, Ace Hardware). Rinse and dry.

copper pots hanging in kitchen
Credit: Bryan E. McCay

How to Clean Copper with Salt and Lemon

Wondering how to clean copper pans and pots? This method is super simple.

Step 1: Cut Lemon and Scrub Copper with Salt

Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle coarse kosher salt onto the cut surface. Scrub your copper mug, pot, or pan with the cut side of the lemon to remove tarnish. Add salt to the lemon as needed.

Step 2: Rinse and Dry

Continue cleaning copper with lemon and salt until the tarnish is gone. Rinse the copper piece under running water. Buff the surface with a clean, dry cloth to polish.

teal bead board kitchen wood shelves with copper containers
Credit: Bryan E. McCay

How to Clean Copper with Vinegar

As an alternative, look to distilled white vinegar to clean copper pots and pans. First, place the pot or mug in the sink. Pour a little vinegar on the surface or dip a scrubbing sponge into vinegar and squeeze out the excess liquid. Sprinkle the rough side of the sponge with salt and scrub the tarnish off the copper surface. Repeat until the surfaces are clean. Rinse with water and buff with a clean, dry cloth to polish.

How to Clean Copper with Flour

Mix 1/2-cup distilled white vinegar (or lemon juice, which is more acidic) with 1 Tbsp. salt and enough flour to form a thin paste. Apply the paste to the copper surface and scrub away the tarnish with a cloth or scrubbing sponge. Rinse under running water and buff with a dry cloth to polish.

vintage jewelry storage
Credit: John Bessler

How to Clean Copper Jewelry

If your copper rings, necklaces, and bracelets have been collecting dust and tarnish, it's easy to restore their shine. Here's how to clean copper jewelry with natural ingredients. Squeeze enough lemon juice into a bowl to cover the jewelry and add 1 or 2 tsp. salt. Put the copper jewelry into the solution and let it soak for a few minutes. Rinse the jewelry under running water and buff dry to polish.

How to Clean a Copper Sink

Before cleaning a copper sink, consult the manufacturer's manual. Avoid abrasive and acidic cleaners. A few drops of liquid dish soap and a nonabrasive sponge or dishcloth should do the trick for cleaning copper sinks. Scrub the sink gently with the suds before rinsing with clean warm water and buffing dry with a towel. For tough, stuck-on stains, mix baking soda with a few drops of water until a paste forms. Apply the baking soda paste to your sink with a sponge, then rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

By Jan Soults Walker and Caitlin Sole


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