How To Remove Tarnish from Copper

Copper is a precious material so it must be properly cleaned. Copper is easy to maintain. You just need to follow procedures and devote some of your time to clean it. Below are guides to help you remove tarnish from your copper without damaging it.

Why copper gets tarnished. If copper has been stored for a long time, it will get stained by a green or black coating. This is not good, as copper is purchased by some people to show off the mineral’s natural beauty.

The major culprits that stain copper are copper chloride, copper sulfate, and cupric oxide. The methods below will bring back the shininess of your precious copper materials.

The Ketchup Method

  • Coat the copper thoroughly with ketchup before brushing. Brush the copper’s tarnished side with a bristled soft brush. You can also use an old toothbrush to remove the tarnishes in the sides of the copper and its details. Leave ketchup overnight on intensely tarnished materials before brushing them.
  • Use warm running water to rinse copper thoroughly. Use soap to ensure that no ketchup traces and odor will be left. Rodents and cockroaches might frequent your copper if it still smells like ketchup. Use paper towels to dry your copper material.
  • Ketchup alternatives. Some people use baking oil, olive oil or buttermilk to scrub the tarnish in their copper. All these materials may work. However, they all contain their own acid. Determine which works best for your copper material.

The Vinegar, Salt and Flour Mixture

  • Make a paste out of the ingredients. Stir the ingredients thoroughly before applying it into the copper. The vinegar’s acid will dissolve the copper’s tarnish immediately. Apply more coatings if your copper has accumulated a thick tarnish.

The Boiling Method

  • What you need. You need salt, white vinegar, a pot that can hold the copper, water, liquid dish soap, and soft cloths.
  • Boil the copper. Add 1 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt in a pot filled with water. Dip your copper materials in the solution. Boil them first in a running boil, then boil then continuously in low fire. Let the copper materials sit in the boiling water for a few hours.
  • Notes about the process. The vinegar and salt make acid while you’re boiling the copper. Also, note that if the pan has zinc, then the acid might make a reaction with the zinc. The chemical composition might change and allow the copper to bond with the zinc. This will make your copper appear silver through the zinc coating. However, it doesn’t make an enduring bond, so you can remove it.
  • The pan can also be damaged when you remove the zinc. The metal pan’s composition can be changed. Stop the boiling procedure when your materials are turning silver. Remove the silver discoloration by scrubbing them with an old toothbrush or a soft brush.

Tips in cleaning copper. Be careful so you won’t breathe cleaning solutions. Work in a ventilated area especially if you have weak lungs. While the copper is sitting in ketchup or boiling, ensure that children and pets won’t reach them.

You can use any procedure. Just ensure that the copper won’t be damaged especially if they’re heirlooms. They can be devalued substantially if they’re not properly cleaned. Store your precious materials in a dry place and clean them occasionally.


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