How do I clean copper items?
January 9, 2017 9:08 AM   Subscribe

This is a 2 part question: 1. I have some old copper cookware that has carbonized stains on it. How do I clean them? 2. How do I clean my large copper hood over my cook top without leaving obvious marks between the sections I clean it in?

My copper cookware was given to me by a friend whose brother previously used it for everyday cooking and hadn't done a great job of cleaning the pots and pans after use. I've tried all kinds of copper cleaners and light abrasives, but I can't figure out how to get rid of the carbonized stains. Any ideas? In case it matters, I don't cook with the pots and pans; they're just for decoration.

Second question. The outside face of the copper hood above my cook top is 7 feet long by 3.5 or 4 feet tall. Whenever I clean it, I have to clean it in sections, i.e., I clean a section then move my step stool and clean the section next to it, etc. I always end up with visible lines between the sections that I'd like not to be there. I believe the copper is untreated, which I like, but I think that's why these obvious sections show up. Any suggestions for how to fix this? Are there metal cleaning companies that will come into my house for something like this?
posted by Maisie to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I've tried all kinds of copper cleaners and light abrasives, but I can't figure out how to get rid of the carbonized stains.

My go-to would be an acid+abrasive. Commercially: Penny-Brite/Barkeepers Friend, DIY: Vinegar+Salt/Citric Acid+Salt (one site suggests cutting a lemon in half and sprinkling salt on it). If it doesn't work immediately, I'd make a paste and let it set. If that didn't work, I'd add heat, for example, letting it soak in another pan with hot vinegar for a bit.

For the hood -- what are you using to clean it?
posted by sparklemotion at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2017

I came in to suggest a lemon and salt. Just put a whole bunch of salt on the exposed bit of a used half lemon (i.e. you've already squeezed the juice into your tea or whatever) then use the lemon like your scouring pad/sponge.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2017

Yes to both suggestions. Key is; if it's really embedded stain - soak longer. Scrubbing doesn't do much for well-established tarnish. You need to get the chemical reaction going, let it work, and then you're basically wiping away the results - which should be clean(er) copper. Rinse, dry, repeat.
posted by rich at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2017

Barkeeper's Friend is among what I've tried on the cookware, but it doesn't get the carbonized stains off, unfortunately. I've done the lemon/salt treatment, but it doesn't cut through the carbonized stains. It's not tarnish I'm trying to get off, it's carbonized cooking fat and it's seemingly fused with the copper. I feel almost like I should take my pots and pans to a place that will use fine sandpaper at high speeds to take off the stains, if that makes any sense.

For my hood, I've tried every cleaner -- commercial copper cleaners, home copper cleaners, you name it. The hood gets cleaned, but it never looks evenly cleaned because I have to clean it in sections due to its size. So, how do I clean it in sections because I have to, but get it looking like it was all cleaned at once?
posted by Maisie at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2017

Have you tried ketchup? Just smear it on, let it sit for 10-20 minutes, then clean off. Presto shiny copper.

But I don't think it will work for carbonized spots - I think that requires buffing. May work with a combo of steel wool & ketchup, but I'd be concerned about the scuffs.
posted by slipthought at 1:38 PM on January 9, 2017

There are loads of threads about removing carbon build-up from engine pistons. Maybe you'll find something there that works for you. Pistons are alumiƱum though and many strong products seem to dissolve that. Not sure about copper though.

Here's one such thread.

posted by guy72277 at 12:39 AM on January 11, 2017

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