Copper is a lovely addition to a home’s decorating style or cookware, but I was hesitant to clean my tarnished copper canisters from my grandmother until I learned about this genius trick!
I don’t know if you have noticed lately, but copper items seem to be everywhere these days from copper pots to light fixtures and other home décor accents. I even bought a set of copper measuring spoons the other day.
The one problem with copper and most metals is that over time, air causes copper to tarnish. While tarnish can bring a certain beautiful patina in some surroundings, brilliant copper also lends glam and warmth to a space.
I have often shied away from metal pieces at thrift stores because of all the tarnish and not knowing how to restore it. So I was super excited to breathe life into a set of copper canisters from my grandmother (these are similar if you like the look) that was sitting in a cupboard collecting dust and tarnish.
Who doesn’t love a good upcycle?
Now these canisters are maybe 60 (or more) years old, so I was very careful in choosing a natural method that would not damage the copper pieces and I think I have found the one!
Clean Copper Naturally in 5 Minutes
Having several canisters allowed me to do some quick experimentation about the best way to restore copper. All of these methods work well on both solid copper and copper plating.
Although I will go through all the methods I tried, if you just want the BEST ONE…Skip to the bottom (Method #3) for the instructions.
Cleaning Copper with Ketchup (Method #1)
After my brass experiment, I was not too thrilled to try this one out. The recipe goes like this: slather ketchup all over the copper piece and watch the copper oxide disappear.
The ketchup method did work, albeit very slow and messy. I am convinced that this worked only because of the vinegar present in the ketchup. Plus, who wants to waste all that ketchup?
Another Method is to use lemons. The results were very similar to the ketchup, so I will lump it in here. To naturally clean less fragile copper pieces, cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt to the cut side and gently rub the mixture onto the item. The table salt speeds up the process. You can also make a paste with lemon juice, and equal parts salt and baking soda.
Cleaning Copper with Metal Cleaners (Method #2)
Metal Polishes like Brasso or Barkeeper’s Friend do work well in removing tarnish on copper pots and pans, but there are some cautions. They may etch or dull delicate surfaces. Test a small hidden area first.
Sprinkle some of the cleaner in a container and mix with a bit of water until a paste forms. Rub the copper surface with a soft cloth and the mixture to remove tarnish. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
This method actually worked beautifully, but the cautions and the scrubbing were definitely some drawbacks compared to the best method.
Cleaning Copper with Salt and Vinegar (Method #3)
And here is the easiest and most effective method I tried!
For heavily tarnished pieces -In a large pot boil 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 5 cups water (double if you are cleaning larger items).
Place the tarnished copper in the boiling water with tongs. As the copper oxide is removed, turn the piece to a new spot. You can also laddle the water bath over the piece for hard to reach areas. If needed, use a soft toothbrush to get into crevices to remove grime.
Once all the tarnish is removed, make sure to clean the copper piece thoroughly with warm water. Vinegar and salt can speed up the collection of tarnish.
If you just want to freshen up copper rather than remove heavy tarnish, you actually don’t need to boil the vinegar, just mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 tablespoon salt and rub with a soft cloth.
Frequently asked questions:
It’s pretty darn impossible to completely avoid exposing your copper items to oxygen and water that causes oxidation. You can, however, apply a thin coating of oil on it to slow the process. Some commonly used oils for preventing tarnish are linseed oil, baby oil, mineral oil, and beeswax. A high quality car wax can also be applied for items that are strictly for display. If you are coating something that you handle often use to cook or store food, be sure to use an oil that is safe for consumption.
If tarnish continues to build up over time, it can develop a patina. It’s a blue or green film like you’ve probably seen on the Statue of Liberty.
Sometimes when cleaning copper the tarnish is removed, but it doesn’t quite get the same gleam. You can polish it with a natural paste of salt, flour, and vinegar! Mix a quarter cup each of flour and fine salt in a bowl. Add in white vinegar slowly until it forms a thick paste. Polish your copper item with a microfiber cloth and then rinse and dry.
So there you have it! These canisters were the perfect mix of function and a bit of style in the kitchen. And now anytime I see copper or other metals in yard sales or the thrift store, I won’t be as hesitant about how it will look after cleaning.
Looking for more ways to bring your bring your favorite items back to life? Check these out:
- HOW TO CLEAN ANTIQUE TARNISHED BRASS
- ANTIQUE TRUNK MAKEOVER WITH WORLD MAPS
- HOW TO CLEAN ANTIQUE TARNISHED BRASS
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