How To Clean Copper?



Copper may be tough, but it's also temperamental and changeable. It is an active metal that oxidizes quickly. This oxidation causes a bright new copper penny to quickly turn a dull brown, and an even older copper penny to form a black or green layer of oxidation. Different items may need different treatment; for instance, a copper coin may lose some or all of its value if careless cleaning causes even slight damage to the coin's surface, but a copper pot may benefit from a good acid dip. Take your copper item into consideration when selecting a cleaning method.

Non-Chemical Methods
Try cleaning your copper using some unlikely non-chemical methods for removing discoloration. One of these involves soaking your piece in grape-seed or olive oil. As it is possibly the gentlest of methods, it can take a long time, up to a year, to see a difference. Obviously, reserve this method for the most valuable of copper items to which no damage should be done. Other options include using an eraser to gently rub at the copper, or using a toothpick, bone stylus or soft toothbrush to scrub at dirty copper.

To clean copper, however, it isn't necessary to go as far as the hardware store. Most of the supplies to do the job can be found in your pantry, and what sound like folk remedies often turn out to be quite effective. Ketchup, lemon, vinegar, and salt? All come highly recommended as agents to clean copper, when used in the right way.

Homemade Copper Cleaner
Mix up your own quick copper cleaning solution by making a paste out of lemon juice and baking soda, lemon juice and cream of tartar, or flour, salt and vinegar. The paste should be thick enough to stick to your copper surface, but thin enough to rub in without following your cloth. Omit the flour if you would rather make a bath for the copper, using just salt and vinegar.

Closer to home, it's important to remember that copper or brass utensils are often coated with a clear lacquer. If the item is intended for decorative use only, that is a plus, because the lacquer is designed to resist tarnishing. If the item is to be used for cooking, or will come into contact with hot water, however, the lacquer should be removed. That can be accomplished by immersing the item in a solution of boiling water and baking soda.

To clean it once the lacquer is removed, the application of a paste consisting of flour, salt and lemon juice or vinegar can be quite effective. Even ketchup, when smeared on a copper utensil, will remove tarnish, thanks to the vinegar in its makeup. Rochelle salt (potassium sodium tartrate) is another possibility when combined with caustic soda(also known as  sodium hydroxide (NaOH),the CAS number is 1310-73-2), while white vinegar and salt is a means of restoring the shine to copper pennies dulled over time.

How To Choose
The best way to decide which method is right for you is to begin with the mildest and work your way up the list. Non-chemical methods are a good place to start, and allow you to gauge the extent of oxidation. If they prove ineffective, try some of the homemade formulas.


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