How to Clean and Polish Copper Pots and Pans

If you have tarnished pots and pans, learn how to clean and polish copper to make them look new again.

Copper is a beautiful addition to any kitchen. But it’s not just for looks – it’s a heat conductor making it useful for cooking. The downside is that it oxidizes, turning black or brown over time. So to keep your copper cooking tools their original color, you need to clean and polish the outside.

Clean and Polish Copper

If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your copper pots, here’s the best way to do it.

Why are Copper Pots and Pans Lined?

Copper is a reactive metal. Reactive metals can tarnish and leach molecules into your food while cooking, causing toxicity. To combat the leaching of copper, almost all copper pots or pans have a tin, silver, or stainless steel lining inside.

Tin is the most common lining for older copper pots and pans, while silver and stainless steel are standard on new ones. 

How to Clean and Polish Copper Pots and Pans: Step by Step

You can clean and polish your copper pots and pans in one step, following these tips.

Clean the outside of your copper pan:

The outside of copper pans can tarnish, causing discoloration. The best way to remove the tarnish is with a mixture of an acidic substance and a mild abrasive – like lemons and salt. 

  • Cut a lemon in half
  • Sprinkle salt all over the cut half
  • Wipe on the outside of the pot or pan until it comes clean
  • Wipe with a soft cloth and water afterward

Alternative method: Combine baking soda and lemon juice (fresh or bottled) until a paste forms. Use a microfiber cloth to scrub the paste on the pot’s exterior until it comes clean. Rinse and dry.

Note: You can substitute another citrus, like oranges or grapefruit, for a lemon. If you want to make a cleaning paste but don’t have lemon juice, use white distilled vinegar.

Clean the inside of your copper pan:

You can use dish soap and water to clean copper pots and pans lined with tin, silver, or stainless steel. Use a sponge, scrub brush, or rag, to remove stuck-on messes.

Related: How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

How to Keep Copper Looking Better for Longer

To slow down the oxidation process that turns your copper a dark color, coat it with mineral oil after cleaning.

You’ll need a food-safe mineral oil, a lint-free cloth, and a clean pot or pan. After cleaning and drying the pot, apply a light coat of mineral oil with your cloth.

The oil will act as a sealant, making your pot look shiny and keeping it that way for longer.

How Do You Clean Copper Pots and Pans After Cooking?

While using lemon and baking soda to remove tarnish from your pans works well, it shouldn’t be your everyday cleaner—instead, clean copper pots and pans with dish soap and water after using them. Rinse well and dry with a fresh towel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can you put copper pots and pans in the dishwasher?

Unless your copper pots are “wear resistant” or “dishwasher safe,” you must hand wash them. Putting them in the dishwasher can lead to discoloration and ruin the lining that prevents copper molecules from leaching into your food or drinks.

How do you clean copper nonstick pans?

Always hand-wash your nonstick pans using dish soap and a soft washcloth. Clean the tarnished exterior with a baking soda and lemon juice paste. Rinse and dry afterward.

Can you clean copper pots with tomato paste?

Tomato paste is acidic, so it might remove tarnish from copper. To try it, rub tomato paste all over the pot’s exterior, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and wash it with soap and water. Dry afterward.

How do you get copper to have a mirror-like finish?

If cleaning your copper with baking soda and lemon juice didn’t produce the desired results, try a product like Wright’s Copper Cream to restore your pots to a mirror-like finish.

Final Thoughts

You can cook out of copper pots or hang them for a vintage-inspired decoration. Either way, the copper can tarnish over time, turning black or brown. The easiest way to remove the tarnish is with a mild abrasive like table salt or baking soda paired with an acidic substance like vinegar, lemon juice, or ketchup.

For regular cleanings, wash your pots and pans with dish soap and water. You can also add a thin layer of mineral oil to the exterior to promote shine and protect it from oxidation.