Copper is a beautiful and versatile metal that has been used for centuries for various purposes such as making cookware, decorating homes and electrical wiring.
Its natural reddish-orange colour and shine make it an attractive material for decorating homes and for everyday use.
However, over time, copper can begin to tarnish and lose its shine, becoming dull and discoloured. This process is known as oxidation, and it’s caused by a reaction between the copper and substances in the air.
In this article, we’ll explore the different methods for cleaning tarnished copper, from using natural ingredients like lemon and salt to using commercial cleaners.
We’ll also provide tips on how to prevent tarnish from forming in the first place and keep your copper looking its best.
Why Does Copper Tarnish?
Copper begins to tarnish because of a reaction with the environment.
The air contains substances like sulphur, which can cause a chemical reaction with the copper and form a dull, brownish-black layer on its surface.
This process is known as oxidation, and it’s what causes copper to tarnish. Copper is a reactive metal, which means that it reacts easily with its environment.
When copper is exposed to air, the reaction with substances like sulphur can cause the copper to change colour and lose its shine.
Over time, this tarnish can build up and make the copper look dull and discoloured.
To keep copper looking its best, it’s important to clean it regularly and store it properly to prevent tarnish from forming.
What Can You Clean Copper With?
Cleaning copper can be a simple and straightforward process, as long as you have the right tools and materials on hand.
Here are some things you can use to clean copper:
- Soft cloth or sponge: To wipe and scrub the copper gently.
- Lemon: A natural ingredient that is highly effective in removing tarnish from copper.
- Salt: A granulated abrasive that will help to scrub away the tarnish.
- Vinegar: A household ingredient that works as a natural cleaner and can be used to clean copper.
- Bicarbonate of soda: A natural abrasive that will help to clean the copper without damaging it.
- Ketchup: A surprising but effective ingredient for cleaning copper, as it contains tomato paste and vinegar.
- Commercial copper cleaner: An alternative to natural ingredients, commercial copper cleaners are readily available and easy to use.
Having these items on hand will make it easier to clean copper and bring back its original shine whenever it becomes dull and tarnished.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a pair of gloves, as some of the ingredients can be harsh on your skin.
The following cleaning techniques are easy and use cleaning substances that you’re likely to have lying about in the house.
Method 1: Lemon and Salt
Lemon and salt are a natural and effective combination for removing tarnish from copper.
To use this trick, simply cut a lemon in half and sprinkle salt onto it on a plate or cutting board.
Then, use the lemon to rub the salt onto the copper surface. The lemon will act as a mild abrasive and help to remove the tarnish, while the salt will help to scrub it away.
Rub the copper gently in circular motions, taking care not to press too hard and damage the surface.
After a few minutes of scrubbing, rinse the copper with water and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Your copper should be looking a lot better already. This method is safe for use on most types of copper and is a great option for those who prefer to use natural cleaning methods.
Method 2: Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda:
Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are a powerful combination for cleaning copper.
To use this method, mix equal parts of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to form a thick paste. Apply the paste using a soft cloth or sponge onto the tarnished copper surface.
Let the mixture sit on the copper for about 10 minutes.
After the time has elapsed, use the cloth or sponge to scrub the copper gently in circular motions.
The bicarbonate of soda will act as a natural abrasive and help to remove the tarnish, while the vinegar will help to loosen and dissolve it.
After scrubbing the copper, rinse it thoroughly with water to remove any residue from the cleaner. Then, use a soft cloth to dry the copper completely.
This method is a safe and effective option for those who prefer to use household items for cleaning.
Method 3: Ketchup
Ketchup may seem like an unusual ingredient for cleaning copper, but it is actually highly effective.
Ketchup contains tomato paste and vinegar, both of which work to remove tarnish from copper.
To try this weird hack, simply spread a generous amount of ketchup over the tarnished copper surface and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Once the 10 minutes are up, use a soft cloth or sponge to gently scrub the copper in continuous, repetitive strokes.
The acid in the ketchup will help to dissolve the tarnish, while the abrasive qualities of the tomato paste will help to scrub it away.
Once you’re done scrubbing, rinse the copper thoroughly with water and dry it with a soft cloth. You should notice a noticeable improvement in the shine and appearance of the copper.
This method is safe for use on most types of copper and is a great option for those who want to use natural cleaning methods.
Method 4: Commercial Copper Cleaners
Commercial copper cleaners are readily available and easy to use. They are formulated specifically for cleaning copper and are an effective option for removing tarnish and restoring shine.
It’s very easy—simply follow the instructions on the label.
In general, you’ll need to apply the cleaner to the tarnished surface and let it sit for the specified amount of time.
Once you’re done with that, use a soft cloth or sponge to scrub the copper gently. The cleaning agent will help to dissolve and remove the tarnish.
After that, rinse the copper with water and dry it with a soft cloth.
Commercial cleaners are a convenient option for those who prefer not to use natural ingredients or those who want a faster cleaning solution.
Preventing Tarnish in the First Place
In addition to cleaning copper when it becomes tarnished, there are steps you can take to prevent tarnish from forming in the first place. Here are a few tips for keeping copper looking its best:
- Keep copper dry: Water can cause copper to tarnish, so it’s important to keep copper dry whenever possible. Use a soft cloth to dry copper thoroughly after washing or rinsing.
- Store copper properly: Copper should be stored in a dry, cool place away from moisture and light. Store copper in a protective pouch or wrap it in a soft cloth to protect it from scratches and other damage.
- Handle copper gently: Avoid handling copper with wet hands, as the moisture can cause tarnish to form. Additionally, avoid scratching or dragging objects across the surface of the copper, as this can damage the finish and make it more susceptible to tarnish.
- Clean copper regularly: Regular cleaning can help to keep copper looking its best and prevent tarnish from forming. Use a soft cloth or sponge and a mild cleaning solution to clean copper on a regular basis.
By following these tips, you can help to keep your copper looking its best and prevent tarnish from forming.
Regular cleaning and proper storage will help to ensure that your copper stays shiny and beautiful for years to come.
Cleaning copper can be done using a variety of methods, ranging from natural ingredients such as lemon and salt to commercial cleaners.
Whether you prefer to use natural or commercial solutions, the key is to be gentle and avoid scratching the surface of the copper.
Regular cleaning and proper storage can help to prevent tarnish from forming in the first place, keeping your copper looking its best for years to come.
With these tips and tricks, you can easily clean and maintain your copper to keep it shining and beautiful.
In The Wash is your guide to the best laundry and cleaning products, tips and tricks. Our mission is to solve the UK’s cleaning and laundry dilemmas!