How to clean copper cookware

Copper pots and pans on wood table.

These four ways to clean copper pots and pans are surprisingly effective - and chemical free.

Be sure to wear gloves to protect copper's surface from fingerprints during the cleaning process.

Cotton gloves are best but rubber gloves work, so long as you wash a new pair of these gloves first. (Any sulfur that remains on the gloves could cause copper to tarnish.) 

Here's how to clean copper cookware with inexpensive, homemade, and eco-friendly items you probably already have in your kitchen. 

1.  Clean Copper with Vinegar and Salt

Cleaning with vinegar and salt works wonders on copper bottom pans. Mix white vinegar and table salt, and stir until the salt dissolves, creating a thick paste.

Dip a sponge or scrubber into the solution, and scrub the pan's copper bottom surface. Rinse and dry.

2.  Lemon and Salt Paste Cleaner

A lemon and salt paste is an easy, natural tarnish remover that works. To create the cleaning paste strain the juice from one lemon, or 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 a soft cloth lightly moistened with olive oil for a shiny finish. Allow to air dry.

3.  Cleaning Copper with Ketchup

Yes, you can actually clean copper with ketchup. Sounds crazy, I know. But ketchup's acidity makes it a natural tarnish remover.

To use, squeeze a light film of ketchup over the tarnished copper surface. Let sit for several minutes to allow ketchup's acidity to begin to do its work. 

Then scrub vigorously with a nylon scrubbing pad or soft sponge. Rinse thoroughly and polish to a shiny finish with a cloth lightly moistened with olive oil.  Allow to air dry.

4.  A Copper Polish to Make and Keep

Mix 1/2 each of flour, salt, and powder detergent. Add 3/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 cup water in a glass jar. 

Pour a small amount onto a nylon scrubbing pad or soft sponge and rub it into the tarnished copper bottom. Rinse thoroughly with water, and polish dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Label and seal the leftover portion for future copper polishing.

Preventing Copper Tarnish

To prevent tarnished coppering the future: 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.

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