How to Polish Copper with Items you Already Have in Your Home

I have a hammered copper pot with a brass handle which I have had for years. It was a gift from my mom. It has a Jack O’ Lantern face cut out of one side, which I guess you would consider the front, but I have it sitting out year-round so generally that side is facing the wall, or rather, the back of the fireplace. Over the years the tarnish has snuck up on me and yesterday I realized that thing is really pretty brown. It’s no longer pretty at all. Fall is here, and it is time to turn it around and decorate for the season so I decided I really needed to shine it up. I knew I didn’t have any copper cleaner and really didn’t want to go to the store and buy any. It was late after all, about 10:30 p.m. which is the time I always decide things need to be done NOW for some strange reason, so I decided to figure out how to clean it up with what I had around the house. I opened up Pinterest (who doesn’t these days, right?) and looked up copper cleaning. There was no shortage of ways to clean it, one claiming that ketchup will clean it, but I had two issues with that one. First, ketchup stains and secondly, it just sounded way too messy, so that method wad immediately tossed out the window. Most other methods contained the same two basic ingredients… vinegar and salt. Sweet! I have both of those things here so I can clean my copper pot right this minute, which was by then about 10:45 p.m.

The Easiest Way to Clean Copper

I pulled out my vinegar and my salt. Sadly, to get to the basic kosher salt I had to dig back past my sea salt, pink salt, season salt, garlic salt… you get the picture. I found it though, looking dejected and forgotten in the very back of my spice cabinet. The vinegar was easier to get to although the varieties I have on hand are still ridiculously numerous. I pulled out two bowls, one small and one large (to put my pot into while I was cleaning it).

In the small bowl, I mixed up the vinegar and salt, grabbed a rag, and started working on the lid of the pot to see if this simple concoction actually worked.

I am thrilled to say it worked and worked well. I simply started out with a ratio of about 1:1. It took almost no scrubbing, and the vinegar did most of the work. I poured vinegar over the copper pot and then went back with the salt to rub off the tarnish. As I turned the pot in the bowl, much to my surprise, the tarnish had almost vanished just from sitting in the vinegar and whatever salt had washed into the bottom of the bowl. I could have quite literally set it in a bowl of vinegar, walked away for a few minutes, and come back to an almost clean copper pot. The salt worked like an abrasive to scrub off the stubborn areas, but no muscle was involved.

Before and After: Polished Copper

Time to add some flowers and make this a fall decoration to be proud of.

It is now finished, decorated, lighted, and well… you can see the results. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love my hammered copper Jack O’Lantern. Thank, Mom!

2 thoughts on “How to Polish Copper with Items you Already Have in Your Home

  1. I have a couple of small copper and brass pots that I found and they have green spots. I’m torn between leaving them “rustic”, or cleaning. This is great info!

    1. I like the green patina, but mine was just that dull brown. I really like how it shined right up for me with this technique.

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