How to clean copper

How To Clean Copper – The Best Ways

Household items made of copper add a great aesthetic effect to your home by portraying an aura of style and warmth. As is the case with other minerals similar to it, copper is bound to tarnish over time and lose its shine. Luckily, you do not need to be an expert or have the most expensive copper cleaning solution to restore the beauty to your copper jewellery and other pieces. If you know how to clean silver or you’ve tried cleaning brass, you’ll know that sometimes the best solutions are found at home.

The same can be said for copper. The expert team at SweepSouth has put together the easiest ways to clean copper using the best homemade copper cleaners. Use the following cleaning tips and methods to your advantage to bring the shine back to your tarnished and dirty copper.

Copper Cleaning Tips

Before getting started, keep the following copper cleaning tips in mind so that you don’t do any damage to your pieces and you’re left with the best outcome:

  • If your copper has been sealed, do not use the cleaning methods below as they could remove the sealant. To figure out if your copper piece has been sealed, use a cloth dipped in white vinegar and baking soda to rub an inconspicuous spot where there is tarnish. If the tarnish is removed, your copper piece has not been sealed and you can start your cleaning process.
  • Do not scrub too hard when cleaning. Use enough pressure to give a thorough clean but not so much that you scratch the copper piece.
  • Clean your copper pieces every 3 to 6 months depending on how often they are used or exposed to the elements that cause them to tarnish.
  • Apply a thin layer of mineral or baby oil to your copper piece after cleaning it. This will help to slow down any future tarnishment.
  • You’ll also want to figure out if your copper piece is made of pure copper, or if it’s copper-plated. To do this, apply a magnet to its surface; if it sticks, the item is copper-plated and you should rather use the cleaning method below.

How To Clean Copper-Plated Items

It’s important to determine that your piece is copper-plated to avoid using one of the other cleaning methods below and in doing so, risk scratching the surface. Use the following 3 steps to clean your copper-plated pieces:

  1. Form a cleaning mixture using water and a mild detergent. 
  2. Use a microfiber cloth or the soft side of a sponge dipped in the solution to clean your copper-plated item. Pay close attention to any particularly tarnished spots.
  3. Rinse the item under water and dry it off with a dry, clean microfiber cloth.

How To Clean Pure Copper Items

If your magnet test failed and the magnet didn’t stick, your item is made of pure copper. Use one of the following cleaning methods to clean pure copper items.

1. Vinegar And Salt

These two common household items make for a powerful cleaning solution when combined. Use the following 3 steps to clean your copper:

  • Place your copper item into a bowl or sink and pour some vinegar on the surface.
  • Sprinkle some salt on the rough side of a sponge and use it to scrub the copper. Add more salt whenever needed and be sure to focus on particularly tarnished spots.
  • Rinse the item under water before polishing it with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Tip: To achieve a deeper clean, place your copper item in a pot with 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, and 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn off the heat as soon as the tarnish begins to fade away. Once you’re able to remove the item, continue by following the steps above.

2. Lemon And Salt

If you have salt on hand but not vinegar, trade in the cleaning method above for this one instead. Follow these 3 steps:

  • Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle some salt on the cut surface. If you don’t have a lemon, use another acidic fruit like an orange. 
  • Use the lemon or orange to scrub your copper piece. The citric element of the fruit combined with the salt will do a great job at breaking down tarnished areas. Add more salt whenever needed.
  • Rinse the item under water before polishing it with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

3. Ketchup (Tomato Sauce)

Tomato sauce or ketchup often has vinegar mixed into it, plus the citric acid in the tomatoes makes it a great tool for cleaning. Use these 4 steps to clean your copper with ketchup:

  • Wash your copper item with warm soapy water.
  • Dry it off before applying ketchup to the copper. 
  • Use a sponge to rub the ketchup into the piece of copper in circular motions. 
  • Rinse your piece of copper under water before using a clean, dry microfiber cloth to polish it.

Use these methods to bring the shine back to your copper items and have them proudly displayed in your home. They’re worth taking care of, especially if you want to pass them down the family tree.