Mankind has been using copper around the house as well as for jewellery purposes for thousands of years and for good reason – not only does it look great but it is very durable. Back when people couldn’t just pop to the supermarket for a new pan, kitchen equipment was made to last and this meant cleaning them after use. Many of those traditional, natural ways of cleaning copper are still current and useful today.
Kitchen pans can get a lot of heavy-duty use and this is exactly what copper is designed for – it also has excellent heat conductivity so once it gets hot, it stays hot for longer. Giving your copper pans a little care and cleaning will bring them back to new with very little work and avoids the harsh chemicals in some cleaning products that can cause unpleasant reactions when touching the skin.
A vinegar and salt rub is one of the easiest ideas to clean copper pots. Simply mix a tablespoon of salt into one cup of white vinegar then rub it into the copper with a soft cloth. Alternatively, for a soak, make up a larger amount and put it into the pan then put the pan on heat. Boil the liquid until the grime comes off, empty and leave to cool. Once the pan has cooled, wash it once more with soap and water and rub over with a soft cloth.
A variation to this method includes adding flour to the mixture, coating the copper item and leave to stand for between 15 to 60 minutes. After this period, rinse the item with warm water and polish with a dry, clean cloth.
Lemon is another easy and cheap way to clean copper, particularly tough items like pans. Cut a lemon in half, add some salt to the cut side and rub this onto the copper pan. Alternatively, you can make up a lemon paste by mixing it with equal amounts of either cornstarch or baking soda.
Copper also comes in a range of decorative items as well as special cups and mugs, such as collectible Moscow Mule mugs. For these items, something a little gentler may be required and baking soda is the perfect answer. Combine the soda with lemon juice for a natural but gentle scrub or even just sprinkle the soda onto a cloth to use as a polish.
If the items just need a gentle polish, then ketchup is ideal for the job. Put a small amount onto a cloth and polish the pot then rinse it with warm water and dry with another cloth to restore the shine to the metal. If the stain is particularly stubborn, leave the ketchup to stand on the copper for a few minutes before using a gentle scrub cloth to ensure it is removed.
If all the natural cleaning methods fail, you can fall back on a sulfamic acid mixture. These can be purchased as a concentrate and mixed with water. The copper item is then dipped into the solution until it stops bubbling, removed and rinsed. Make sure you wear rubber gloves when using this type of product!