Cleaning copper is actually easier than you think. These four easy, effective tarnish removal methods use items you probably already have in your kitchen: salt, vinegar or lemon juice, olive oil and ketchup.
Regardless of which method you choose, always begin the process by washing copper in warm water and hand dishwashing detergent.
Wear gloves to protect the surface from fingerprints. Cotton is best, but rubber works as long as you wash a new pair first. (Any sulfur that remains on the gloves could cause it to tarnish.)
Moisten salt with vinegar or lemon juice to make a paste for a bright finish, or a paste of rotten-stone (decomposed limestone that is used in powder form as a polishing material) and olive oil for a dull finish.
You can also simply sprinkle salt on the dull areas and then scrub with a vinegar-soaked rag.
The job is made even easier if you run hot water over the bottom of the copper pan first. The heat helps the salt and vinegar do their job.
Strain the juice from one lemon, or pour a few generous drops of lemon juice into a small container. Add salt until the mixture forms a paste-like texture.
Using a soft, dry cloth, rub the paste over the copper. Rinse with warm water.
Polish with with a clean cloth lightly moistened with olive oil for a shiny finish. Allow to dry.
Yes, ketchup. Sounds crazy, I know. But ketchup's natural acidity actually is quite effective in removing copper tarnish.
But it's also rather messy. This is best used for smaller copper items.
Squeeze a light film of ketchup onto the copper surface. Let sit for several minutes to allow ketchup's acidity begin to do it's work. Then scrub vigorously with a soft cloth.
Rinse thoroughly. Polish to a shine, if desired, with a cloth lightly moistened with olive oil. Allow to air dry.
A tip to prevent future copper tarnish: Don't use your copper utensils or pans with copper interiors to store acidic foods such as fruits, salad dressings, tomatoes, or anything containing vinegar. Toxic compounds can form if acidic food is cooked, stored, or served in copper containers.
About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.