Have you seen how dirty old copper objects, coins, jewelry pieces, and utensils look? When copper is left for a long time without cleaning, it reacts with oxygen to form a layer of copper oxide. This layer of oxidized copper is blackish-reddish in color and it takes away all of the shine from your sparkling copper objects. This tarnishing of copper leaves your beautiful items looking dull and dark. There are several ways to clean copper objects, whether they are coins, jewelry pieces, or utensils. Some of the ways are not safe for use on very expensive or delicate items as they can permanently damage the surface. Most of the methods can only be used on non-valuable, everyday use items. Let us discuss all of the different ways to get your copper objects shiny again.
1. Lemon juice
Squeeze the juice out of 3-5 lemons. You will need more juice if your copper object is very big. The idea is to soak the object or utensil completely in the juice. Leave the object in the juice for 5-10 minutes. Remove the object from the juice and wipe it dry with a clean tissue or cloth. Your object or coins or utensils will be sparkly again! Lemon juice contains citric acid. This acid breaks down the oxide layer on the copper and away from its surface leaving behind the shiny metal. Coin collectors: please note that this method of cleaning copper is dangerous for very valuable coins. In fact, many collectors actually like their coins covered in a layer of copper oxide so best to let the coins be as is when you aren’t sure.
2. Lemon and salt
Use this easy method of cleaning copper utensils. Dip a lemon rind into salt and use it to scrub the copper utensils. Scrub for at least 2-3 minutes to clear away the layer of copper oxide.
3. Vinegar and table salt
This is a super-easy way of cleaning copper utensils. You need white wine vinegar and ordinary table salt.
- Place all your tarnished objects in the sink.
- Sprinkle liberal amounts of salt over the utensils.
- Next, add a few drops of vinegar on all the utensils over the salt layer.
- Again add a layer of salt on top of the vinegar layer.
- Let the vinegar and salt work their magic on the utensil surface.
- Now take a scrubber or sponge and add some vinegar on it.
- Gently rub the treated utensils.
- You might have to add some more salt on it as you scrub.
The beauty of this method is that you needn’t spend too much energy on the scrubbing part; just a bit of gentle scrubbing and you’d be done!
4. With baking soda
This is a great way of cleaning copper utensils.
- In a large bowl, mix vinegar and salt. In a second bowl, mix together a few teaspoons of baking soda and half a gallon of water. (You can take more if you have more utensils)
- Place the tarnished items in the solution making sure they are immersed completely.
- Remove the objects from the vinegar solution after a few minutes.
- Immediately dip the utensils in a solution of baking soda and water. Baking soda neutralizes the acid of the vinegar which can end up corroding your utensils or copper objects.
5. With ketchup
You can easily use ketchup to easily clean copper and brass.
- Place the tarnished copper items in the sink.
- Liberally apply ketchup all over the items. Spread the ketchup evenly so that it forms a thick coat over the entire surface.
- Leave the ketchup on the surface for 30 minutes.
- Wipe down the object or utensil with a tissue or a rag. Your utensils will sparkle like new!
6. With coke
This is the simplest way to clean copper coins.
- Place all of your darkened, tarnished coins in a nonmetallic container.
- Pour coke (Coca Cola® or any other similar carbonated soda drinks) over the coins.
- Make sure all the coins are submerged completely in the coke.
- Leave the coins in the coke for at least 3-4 hours; the longer the better.
- Remove the coins from the coke after the stipulated period is over. All your coins will be shinier!
7. With acid
Acids like acetic acid, citric acid, and muriatic acid, etc can all be used to clean copper. We have already discussed ways of cleaning copper with lemon juice and vinegar. These respectively contain citric acid and acetic acid. The acid reacts with the oxide layer and neutralizes it. It is best to use sodium bicarbonate or baking soda solution on the object immediately after use. This way, the soda will neutralize the acid on the object and not damage it. Muriatic acid is another way to clean copper. This gives rise to a redox reaction where oxygen and hydrogen are released and copper combines with chloride to form copper chloride which is shinier. Muriatic acid is another name for hydrochloric acid but it is stronger and of industrial grade.
8. With acetone
Acetone has a pH of 7 which means it is neither an acid nor a base. When mixed with water, it forms a solvent that can be used for cleaning purposes. One of the main purposes of acetone is as a laboratory cleaning agent. You can easily clean copper wires or copper pipes with acetone. Simply dip the tarnished wire or pipe in the acetone-water mixture. Leave it on for a few hours. Wipe it clean with a cloth or tissue.
9. With ammonia
Ammonia is an easy and effective way to clean copper, brass and even silver and gold.
- Mix ammonia and water in equal parts
- Immerse your copper objects in the solution. Steep the objects for at least 5-10 minutes before removing them and wiping them with a soft cloth.
- Dry the objects completely before storing.
- Do not use this method on delicate copper objects especially jewelry with pearls as it can damage the soft surface.
10. With tartar
Cream of tartar and tartaric acid are not quite the same thing, though the former is made with tartaric acid. Hence it makes a great cleaning agent for copper, brass and heavily tarnished metals. Simply apply the tartar liberally on the utensils, wires, pipes, jewelry, and/or other copper objects. Wipe off after an hour to reveal shinier and cleaner objects.
Use isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to clean your copper utensils. While it is safe for use on most copper objects, it is better to avoid this method to clean delicate copper jewelry as a layer of oxidation could form on the surface.
12. With dish soap
Dish soap may not be able to clean very heavily soiled or tarnished copper objects, but it is good for everyday cleaning. Use dish soap and hot water on the object and scrub gently using a metallic scour. This should get off most of the grime and keep your copper utensils shining.
Here are the steps to clean copper with toothpaste:
- Take a liberal amount of toothpaste on an old brush.
- Turn on the hot water tap in the sink and hold your tarnished item under the running water.
- Simultaneously, start scrubbing the object with the brush. The toothpaste and water should foam. Keep scrubbing gently and thoroughly to clean the entire object.
- Rinse off with clean water.
- Wipe dry before storing.
Mix a few teaspoons of borax powder with lemon juice. Scrub the mixture on badly tarnished copper objects. Wipe or wash off after a few minutes. You can even clean copper jewelry using this method. Borax is gentle yet effective and won’t harm your delicate objects. It is the best solution to clean outdoor copper objects.