Manufacturers will often line pots, pans, and other products with copper to protect them from tarnishing too quickly. But even this extra layer won’t prevent the metal from tarnishing at some point. For this reason, pans, saucepans, and other copper dishes should go in the dishwasher! High temperatures and strong detergents cause the metal to tarnish and become darker. The best way to clean your copper pots and pans is with everyday household products.
How to clean copper
When you first purchase copper cookware, it’s super shiny. But with time, it will gradually begin to tarnish. If you want your copper to get back its shine, follow our tips on how to clean copper.
Can you clean copper in the dishwasher? Absolutely not!
Cleaning copper without damaging it
Only the outer walls are copper for many copper pots and pans, while the inside is often stainless steel or enamel. You can’t prevent copper from tarnishing, which happens when the metal comes into contact with oxygen. It’s not enough to simply clean your copper pots and pans with a dishwasher detergent and warm water and let them dry – the copper will still look tarnished. However, by using various household products, your copper dishes will regain their glossy finish. Scratches, on the other hand, remain forever. When cleaning copper cups, copper bottles and other copper objects by hand, make sure you use the soft side of the sponge. Avoid steel wool or scouring agents.
Cleaning copper – first things first
Whether you want to clean a greasy copper pan or a copper pot full of burnt-on pasta, do it first by hand with hot water, dishwashing liquid, and a soft dishwashing sponge or brush. Soften stubborn stains by soaking the objects in lukewarm water with a small amount of dishwasher detergent. The food particles often disappear by themselves, and then you can simply wipe them away with a kitchen towel. To clean copper thoroughly so that it shines like the first day you bought it, you have several options.
Sign-up now to take advantage of member exclusives!
As a member of Ask Team Clean, you get access to exclusive offers and the best cleaning tips.
Cleaning copper with household products
You don’t need special cleaners to clean your copper pots, copper pans and other copper items. However, if you do decide to use them, make sure you follow the instructions correctly. It’s also possible to clean copper well without chemicals, which is always better for cookware. Just try the following household products:
Vinegar and salt
Mix vinegar essence and warm water with a ratio of 1:6, for example, ½ cup of vinegar essence and 3 cups of water. Add a tablespoon of salt to the vinegar essence first and mix well. Dip a soft, non-scratching cloth into the solution, wring it out well, and rub your copper cookware thoroughly with it. Leave it to work for about 30 minutes, and then rinse the solution off with warm water.
To clean adorned copper, you will be better off with a paste so that you can get into all the nooks and crannies. Mix salt with some vinegar essence and brush the paste over the decorations with a soft toothbrush. Alternatively, you can submerge the copper object into the vinegar essence water and salt solution – you will achieve the best effect if you bring the whole thing to a boil for a few minutes. After rinsing, polish your copper object with a dry cloth, and it will shine like new!
Sauerkraut juice is just as effective at cleaning copper as the vinegar essence-salt-water mixture. Use a soft cloth to rub your cookware with the sauerkraut juice, wait about half an hour, and then rinse the object thoroughly with warm water. You just need to polish it, and then you’re done!
Do you want to clean your copper because some dark spots have formed on it? Then try pure buttermilk! If you add a little salt, you can thicken the buttermilk, making cleaning a lot easier. Rub the buttermilk into your copperware, wait about ten minutes, and then polish it with a soft cloth without rinsing. That’s it all you have to do – and with a bit of luck, the dark spots disappear. If oxidation or tarnish has already formed, mix equal parts buttermilk and salt, apply the paste, and leave it to work for a good hour. Then wipe dry and polish.
Methods that work for silver jewellery can also clean copper – such as toothpaste and an old toothbrush. This method can take a while if cleaning pots and pans, but it’s a reliable choice. Brush the toothpaste all over the copper cup and use the toothbrush to reach into any ridges. Then rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth – the copper cup will look brand new.
Tomato sauce is the worst when it comes to stains, but did you know that it’s useful for cleaning copper pots and other copper objects? Thoroughly coat your pot, pan, or whatever you want to clean with tomato sauce. Leave to soak in for a short time, then rinse the object well with water and polish dry. Tomato purée is even more effective so give it a try if you have some in the house.
Has your copper already tarnished? Don’t worry; lemon will do the trick. Half a lemon is ideal for this, even if it’s already squeezed. Sprinkle some salt on it and rub it on the copper. This method is perfect for quickly cleaning large objects such as pots and pans. Finish off by rinsing with warm water, rub dry and polish.
Baking soda or baking powder
Copper objects come up a treat when cleaned with baking soda or baking powder. Of course, it is not enough to simply sprinkle the powder on your pot or pan. You will need to make a paste by adding a dash of lemon (vinegar works too) and some water. When applied to your copper pot, it will start foaming – this will dissolve discolouration, dirt, and oxidation. After cleaning, rinse the copper pot thoroughly with warm water, wipe it dry with a soft cloth and polish it.
We bet you didn’t think you could clean copper with something from your fireplace, but you can! Wood ash can clean copper pans and pots, but it’s best to sieve the ashes beforehand so that there are no small stones or sand left that might scratch the copper. Put some ash on a soft cloth and rub your copper pots and pans vigorously with it. Then wash, dry, and polish.
Newspaper or the pages of old books are also suitable for cleaning copper. Crumple up the paper and start rubbing it on the copper. Is the paper already slightly yellowed? Great! Because this method works best with relatively porous paper, preferably printed with black ink. Magazine paper is too smooth and therefore isn’t the best idea.
Good to know
If you follow our suggestions for cleaning copper, make sure you stay safe and wear rubber gloves since oxidation is harmful to health.
It’s best to use vintage copper cups for decoration since most of them don’t have a protective coating and can easily be damaged. If you want to drink out of them, never fill them with acidic drinks such as wine. Acid can react with copper and cause allergies or other health problems.