Cleaning copper

pans, copper, pots and pans, kitchen

I love my copper pots and pans. I've tested out the patina on them, and although they age beautifully- I personally love the look of shiny pink copper. Which, as you may or may not know, involves a little extra work each week.

 copper patina, copper pot, cleaning pan

If you like a patina on your copper, just care for your pots and pans the way you normally would: cook, wash with hot soapy water, dry, repeat. Don't ever put them in the dishwasher. You'll see that beautiful oxidation occur naturally within a short period of time. 

However, if you're like me and want that sparkling new look: I've got your options covered. I tried out four different methods to achieve it.

I decided to try two cleaners, Twinkle and Bar Keepers Friend. I chose these two because of their great reviews from customer on Amazon, and they are each around the same price point- just under $10.00. 

I also decided to try two natural methods; the ketchup method and the lemon & sea salt method. 

Twinkle cleaner.
twinkle, copper, brass, copper and brass cleaner,
I liked how it comes with a sponge in the little container, so I don't have to waste paper towels or dedicate a sponge to this product (which would obviously get lost under the sink each time and require a new one). This gritty paste gets rubbed into the pot and effects are immediate. It almost seems as though its painting over or dying the pot a fake pink as opposed to eating away at the grime and discoloration. That's more of my observation and less of a fact though. It's much more pink and less orangey-pink...
twinkle cleaner, copper clean, sponge, chemicl
After rinsing, I noticed the parts I missed dried with a white film, so I went back and washed the pot with warm soapy water; and it was sparkling new. I didn't like the idea of putting this putty/paste near food though; it doesn't seem at all food safe and I didn't like that. 

The Bar Keepers Friend.
bar keepers friend, cleaner, copper,
I like the idea of this cleaner because it's not limited to just copper. This Cleaner & Polish has a non bleach-based formula. The bottle claims it can be used for  cleaning stainless steel cookware and sinks, glass and ceramic cooktops, solid surface countertops, porcelain and acrylic bathtubs. It will remove rust, tarnish, hard water stains and lime scale. I felt like it would be nice to have a cleaner that's multipurpose.
bar keepers friend, cleaning solution, copper cleaner,
I squired a small amount on a paper towel, and rubbed it into the pot. I loved how this cleaner worked; the liquid went on the paper towel clear and as I was rubbing, the paper towel was turning grey and dirty- it felt like I was removing the grime and discoloration from the copper as opposed to layering on top of it. I think this is the easiest photo to compare the difference: this to me looks like new copper, where the Twinkle formula produced a very pink color.
A quick rinse, and I was really satisfied with it. Although I was much more satisfied with the clean; I still wasn't thrilled about using a chemical based cleaner around food.
Onto the natural products! I need to admit: going into this experiment I really didn't think the natural methods would stand up to the chemicals. 
heinz, tomato, Ketchup, cleaner, copper
Yes, just normal ketchup. We're a Heinz family, so that's what I had in the fridge and that's what I used. I gooped it on, spread it around a little and waited 10 minutes. Then I washed it off.
ketchup, copper cleaner, heinz, heinz ketchup,
Surprisingly: the color was nearly indistinguishable from the two chemical cleaners! This worked like a charm. I loved a food-based alternative because I don't have to worry about accidentally ingesting this.  However, I did need a fairly thick coat of ketchup to cover the whole area I was testing, and I'm not sure how you would apply this to let it sit for the whole 10-15 minutes if the entire pot was covered in layers of ketchup. It's the most time consuming and messy method I tried. 
Lemon and salt.
sea salt and lemon, natural cleaner, organic, salt, copper, lemons
This is the same concoction I use to clean my cutting boards. I cut a lemon in half, add a large spoonful of sea salt, and use it like an abrasive scrubber. This works really well for wood cutting boards because it helps to remove any stubborn smells (like chopped garlic). I tried it on the copper pan.
lemon cleaner, copper clean, salt, lemon, natural
My initial reaction was surprise, it was working fairly quickly! I was slightly nervous the salt would scratch the copper, but it didn't seem to do so. 
After two days of sitting to test the spots; I looked at my test areas. The first three, the two purchased cleaners and ketchup, held up well and looked the same as when I finished cleaning them. The lemon and salt has turned a dull brownish color that I like less than the natural patina. 
twinkle, cleaner, ketchup, heinz, coppercleaner comparison, lemon, salt, lemon and salt, bar keepers friend, copper
My overall reviews:
  • The only "loser" was the lemon and salt mix. It's definitely organic, but if it doesn't last even two days, it's not worth the effort. I also like the color much less than the natural patina.
  • The Twinkle cleaner works just fine, but I just don't love it. Something about the color just seems weird to me.
  • Ketchup is the runner up, solely because of the mess and time needed to clean a whole set. You'd have to apply the goop, let it sit, wipe and wash for each pan; I can see this being a few hours of work; but it is a natural food-safe option. 
  • Bar Keepers Friend is my winner. Not only did I see the dirt and grime coming off of the pot onto the paper towel, but I'd love to test it out on stainless steel and in the bathroom. Because it's not a natural cleaner, I'm still going to double wash my pots and pans after cleaning them, but overall it should still take less time than the ketchup method.


What do you use to clean your copper? Did I mention it here or is it a trade-family secret? I won't tell ;) 


PS- the amazon links above are NOT affiliate links. I did not receive any payment or compensation for this blog post, it's simply an experiment of my own interest. 


  • Lela

    Your copper pots and pans are so pretty! I love the look of them, and I’ve always wanted a set to display. I had no idea it took so much work to keep them clean though. Thanks for sharing at Inspiration Thursday!

  • Sue Carr

    I have used Barkeeper’s Friend in both powder and liquid successfully for years on everything! Stubborn water or rust
    stains on dishes and glassware, Corningware, the inside of my crockpot, , copper, stainless steel, cooktop, stainless steel sink… Love it!

  • Elaine Matthews

    What a great post!! So many ideas out there these days!! Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday!! See you later this week!! Pinned!

  • AJ Paradis

    Interesting post. I’ve only ever owned one copper pot, but can’t recall what I cleaned it with. I love the comparison. I know us Pyrex collectors cherish barkeepers friend!

  • Patti AParicio

    I like to use a combination of barkeepers friend and Tarn-X it works like a charm! The Tarn-X works with almost no scrubbing, I use barkeepers friend on the spots that require a little more effort. Great post, I love seeing how the catchup works.

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