How to Clean Copper

You can easily and safely restore dull, tarnished copper surfaces to a shining golden glow. Here's how to clean copper mugs, pots, jewelry, and more using all-natural products you have around the house.

Here's how to clean copper mugs, pots, jewelry, and more using all-natural products you have around the house.

Goodbye, Tarnish

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 easy to learn how to clean copper mugs and pots and even copper jewelry. Try these simple, natural ways to clean copper and restore the glowing, polished surface.

A couple of precautions:

1) 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 and 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.

2) Make sure that the piece you want to clean with one of these methods is copper and not copper-plated, or you risk scratching the surface. Touch a magnet to the surface of the item. If it sticks, it's copper-plated and should only be washed with water and mild detergent. Dry the item and buff with copper polish. Rinse and dry.

Salt and Lemon

Wondering how to clean your copper pot? This method is super simple:

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

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

As an alternative, dip a scrubbing sponge into white vinegar, and squeeze out the excess liquid. Sprinkle the rough side of the sponge with salt and scrub the tarnish off the copper surface. Rinse and buff as noted above.

Here's how to clean copper jewelry with the same ingredients: Squeeze enough lemon juice into a bowl to cover the jewelry and add one or two teaspoons of 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.

Salt, Flour, and Vinegar Combinations

Salt and vinegar. Place the pot or mug in the sink and pour a little white vinegar on the surface. Sprinkle with salt and rub the area with a vinegar-dampened rag to remove tarnish (or use a scrubbing sponge for especially tarnished pieces). Repeat until the surfaces are clean. Rinse with water and buff with a clean, dry cloth to polish.

Flour, salt, and vinegar (or lemon juice). Mix 1/2-cup vinegar (or lemon juice, which is more acidic) with one tablespoon salt and enough flour to form a thin paste. Apply 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.

More Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Spend less time cleaning with these speedy tips from home cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper.

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