How to Clean Copper Naturally

shot of copper and brass cooking utensils against brick

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Copper is found in many fine household items, such as jewelry and pots. Over time, though, the surrounding air causes the metal to tarnish, and who wants to display tarnished copper? Tarnishing is a natural process, so it makes sense to use natural items to eliminate the dark, grimy appearance. Commercial copper cleaners often contain harsh chemicals, but you can naturally clean copper with materials usually already found in your home.

Vinegar and Salt

cleaning copper with vinegar and salt

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Rub a mixture of 1 tablespoon of table salt and 1 cup of white vinegar onto the copper with a soft cloth and rinse. Or, immerse the tarnished copper into a pot of 3 cups of water and the salt-vinegar mixture, bring to a boil and boil until the grime and tarnish comes off. Once the copper is cool, wash it with soap and water, rinse and rub with a soft cloth.


hands clean copper spoons with small bowl of ketchup

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Not just for your burgers, a small amount of this common kitchen condiment can be rubbed onto tarnished copper to restore its natural luster. Then rinse and dry.


hand rubs lemon and salt on tarnished copper piece

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

To naturally clean copper pots and pans, and less fragile copper pieces, cut a lemon in half, add salt to the cut side and rub gently onto the item. You can also make a paste with lemon juice, and equal parts salt and non-oxidized cornstarch or baking soda

Baking soda

cleaning a copper bowl with baking soda and lemon juice

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Combine this mineral with lemon juice to clean copper naturally, or sprinkle just baking soda onto a cloth and polish the tarnished copper.

To keep your copper shiny longer, you can spray or polish a lacquer. Try to keep the oils from your fingers and skin off of the copper, as they can cause discoloration. If you are wearing copper jewelry, apply a clear nail polish to your piece to prevent the copper from coming in contact with your skin.

Science Experiment

overview of DIY natural ways to clean brass lemon ketchup

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

When thinking of copper, people often think of pennies. But, at least since 1982, pennies have been minted from almost 98 percent zinc, with a copper plating. That plating, however, makes for a fun age-old science experiment for both kids and adults. Immerse your pennies into various types of liquids to see which make the copper surface shiny and which remove the copper plating. Now that you know which natural materials can clean your more precious copper pieces, you can figure out what will amaze your children.

Once the silver is shiny again, how do you keep is so? Store silver in anti-tarnish bags or wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and sealed in a zip-top bag. Also, do not wear rubber gloves or store anything rubber near the silver, as rubber corrodes silver.