How to clean copper: restore the beautiful shine to your favourite pans

Learn how to clean copper using ingredients already in your kitchen

How to clean copper
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Learning how to clean copper is an important part of maintaining your copper ware, whether you have just one treasured copper utensil or a whole set of copper pans. A highly prized material with exceptional heat conducting properties, copper is a little more high-maintenance than stainless steel and other materials used for making cookware. Copper oxidises over time, causing a dark tarnish to form on the surface of the metal; don't worry, though – the tarnish is easily removed and doesn't affect the performance of your copper in any way. Read on to find out how to clean copper using all-natural ingredients found in your kitchen. 

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1. Clean copper with salt and vinegar

Mix a tablespoon of table salt into a cup of vinegar; dip a cloth into the mixture and rub off the tarnish with the cloth. Alternatively, fill the kitchen sink with the mixture (you'll need more of it, of course) and hot water and soak your copper pans in it for half and hour. The tarnish will dissolve; afterwards, just rinse and dry.

2. Use baking soda

Baking soda does wonders at removing stains and tarnish from all types of metal, and copper is no exception. Simply sprinkle a little baking soda onto a damp cloth and work it into the tarnish. Rub off and rinse. 

3. Try cleaning copper with ketchup

The acidic profile of ketchup makes it a surprisingly effective cleaning agent, and it's especially effective on tarnish and burnt-on food. Cover the area of the pan that needs to be cleaned with ketchup and let sit for half an hour. Then, rinse off with warm water and dry.

4. Use a lemon

Lemon is also very effective at dissolving tarnish and restoring the natural shine of copper. Simply slice a lemon in half, sprinkle a little salt on the sliced surface, and rub all over the tarnished area – you don't even need a cloth! Simple rinse and dry afterwards.  

5. Polish your copper regularly

Copper rewards regular cleaning and polishing; it's much easier to keep it in good condition by giving it a regular polish rather than waiting until lots of tarnish has accumulated. You can just polish your copper with a soft microfibre cloth after washing, or you can use a dedicated copper polish (opens in new tab) that will remove stains and keep the metal in good condition. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.