How to Clean Copper

Clean Copper Sink and How to Clean Copper Items.
How to Get Copper Clean.

How to Clean Copper Pans, Sinks, Coins and Jewelry

Why Does Copper Tarnish? Tarnish is formed naturally in a process called oxidation which protects the copper from further erosion.

Because copper is an alloy, it will change color when exposed to other elements. This color is known as a patina.

If the copper has been exposed to air, it will get a dark patina like a penny. If copper is exposed to water, it will get a greenish-blue patina.

Luckily, you can easily clean copper with everyday household products.

Cleaning Copper

Copper pans, sinks, pennies, jewelry and other copper items are exposed to other elements such as skin oil, grease, burned food, and acidic or alkaline spills. Removing tarnish is not difficult but in some cases you may need to use a little more elbow grease.

Cleaning Tools

Some items you may need to clean copper:

  • A pot large enough to fit the copper item inside
  • A glass bowl
  • A toothbrush
  • Soft towels to dry
  • Copper cleaner (below)

Copper Cleaning Solutions

Don’t use these cleaning solutions to clean copper sinks. The sink should have a tarnish that is coppery brown.

Vinegar and Salt

Vinegar and salt are great for cleaning copper because acidic vinegar strips oxidized tarnish and the abrasive salt helps remove any of the built-up grime.

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

If you don’t have vinegar, acidic lemon juice works just as well. Baking soda is used as the abrasive in this recipe, but you can substitute that with salt if needed.

Cleaning Paste

A great way to clean large areas or spot clean is to make a paste. To do this, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1-cup vinegar and enough flour to make a thick paste.

Apply the cleaning paste onto the copper item and let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour. Use a green scrubby or toothbrush to remove tough tarnish or grime if needed.


An easy way to clean copper in a pinch is to use ketchup. Yes, using ketchup is surprisingly effective because it contains vinegar and salt and the tomato paste in ketchup is also very acidic.

You can use it to clean copper by rubbing a small film over the item, using something like an old toothbrush, then let it sit for a couple minutes, and then wash it away.

Cleaning Copper Pennies or Other Small Copper Items

Small copper pieces are easily cleaned by hand. Make a cleaning solution of 1/2 cup of lemon juice or vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt or baking soda. Stir until dissolved.

Moisten a clean cloth with the cleaning solution and rub until the tarnish is removed. Rinse the item thoroughly with water after cleaning and polish with a dry soft cloth.

If you have many pennies you want to clean:

  • Use a shallow bowl with your mixture and place about 20 to 25 pennies in at a time. You just don’t want the pennies stacked atop each other.
  • Let them sit five minutes and check the progress. Depending on the desired amount of shine you are looking for, you may have to repeat letting them sit in the solution a couple of more times.
  • Remove the pennies and rinse under water.
  • Place them on a paper towel.
  • Use a soft cloth to dry and buff.

Note: This is for your basic everyday copper coins. Do not clean copper coins that may be collectible as it may decrease their value.

Cleaning Tarnish from Copper Jewelry

Copper jewelry can oxidize over time due to the oils on our skin, lotions, makeup, humidity and that tarnish is a naturally occurring process.

Cleaning Lacquered Copper Jewelry

If you have a lacquered piece of copper jewelry it may be a while until you see tarnish. To clean and polish try using a warm, soapy water solution then buff dry.

Cleaning Unlacquered Copper Jewelry

If you have a copper piece of jewelry with gemstones; that may be affected with a mild acid cleaning solution, or delicate copper jewelry, lay it on a clean soft cloth.

Make a cleaning solution of 1/2 cup of lemon juice or vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt or baking soda. Stir until dissolved. Dip an old toothbrush in the cleaning solution and scrub gently in all the cracks and crevasses until the tarnish is removed.

If you just have a copper piece of jewelry (with no gemstones), you can place it in a glass container and let it soak for about 10 minutes.

After either of these cleaning methods, rinse the jewelry with clean water and then dry and buff to polish.

Cleaning Tarnished Copper Pots

Most copper cookware is typically lined with a different material so you can clean the interior per the material.

If the exterior of the cookware is lacquered, you can use a mild dish soap to clean and then wipe dry.

If the cookware is tarnished because it does not have a lacquered finish, cut a lemon in half then dip it in salt. Rub this over the exterior until you see the copper color return, rinse thoroughly, use soapy water to wash, then dry and buff.

Cleaning Copper Sinks

Copper sinks are beautiful but they will get exposed to some foods that did not get rinsed into the drain and even dirty dishes for a prolonged period of time.

Copper sinks are best cleaned with mild soap and warm water using a sponge or soft cloth. Do not use abrasive cleaners or metal scrubbing pads.

After cleaning it is recommended to apply a coat of protection (wax or spray) that will help prevent spotting. There is a product called Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish that was recommended we use on our copper sink. It provides a layer of instant protection.