To protect pots, pans, and other products from tarnishing too quickly, manufacturers often line them with copper. But even this extra layer cannot prevent the metal from tarnishing at some point. By the way, pans, saucepans and other copper dishes should never be put 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 normal household products.
How to clean copper
When you first purchase copper cookware, it starts off super shiny, but with time, it gradually disappears as the copper starts to tarnish. If you want your copper to get its shine back, follow our tips on how to clean copper – it’s really simple.
Can you clean copper in the dishwasher? Absolutely not!
Cleaning copper without damaging it
For many copper pots and pans, only the outer walls are made of copper, while the inside is often made of 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 do not use the hard side of the sponge, 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 simply soaking the objects in lukewarm water with a little dishwasher detergent for a while. 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.
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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 properly. It’s also possible to clean copper well without chemicals, which is always the better choice for cookware. Just try the following household products:
Vinegar and salt
Classic household items can also be used to clean your copper pots. Mix vinegar essence and warm water with a ratio of 1:6, for example, 5 fl. oz. of vinegar essence and 30 fl. oz. 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 the boil for a few minutes.
After rinsing, polish your copper object with a dry cloth and it will shine like new!
Just as effective at cleaning copper as the vinegar essence-salt-water mixture is sauerkraut juice. 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, which will make cleaning a lot easier. Rub the buttermilk into your copperware, wait about ten minutes, and then polish it with a soft cloth without rinsing first. That’s it all you have to do – and with a bit of luck the dark spots will be history. If verdigris 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.
What works for silver jewellery also helps when it comes to cleaning copper – toothpaste and an old toothbrush. With pots and pans, this method may take a while, but nevertheless, it’s a good choice. Brush the toothpaste all over the copper cup and use the toothbrush to reach into any ridges there might be. Then rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth – the copper cup will look like new.
Tomato sauce is the worst when it comes to stains, but did you know that it can actually be used for cleaning copper pots and other copper objects. Completely 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 thoroughly with water and polish dry. Tomato purée is even more effective so give it a try if you have some in the house.
Has verdigris already formed on the copper? That will come off easily with some lemon. Half a lemon is ideal for this even if it’s already been squeezed. Sprinkle some salt on it and rub it on the copper. This method means that bigger objects such as pots and pans can be cleaned in no time. Finish off by rinsing with warm water, rub dry, and polish.
Baking soda or baking powder
Baking soda and baking powder can also be used to clean copper objects well. 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 essence works too) and some water. When applied to your copper pot, it will start foaming – this will dissolve discolouration, dirt, and verdigris. After cleaning, rinse the copper pot thoroughly with warm water, wipe it dry with a soft cloth, and polish it.
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 verdigris 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 do want to drink out of them, never fill them with acidic drinks such as wine. Acid can react with the copper and cause allergies or other health problems.