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"How do I clean copper without the red after tone?"


I am attempting to clean/refinish several, small copper or copper plated antique figurines. I know from the school science experiments that my kids did with pennies that vinegar, ketchup, and acids clean the oxidation very well but leave the copper an unnatural red color. Is there a recommended method of pretreating or after-treating that will eliminate this? Or is there a commercial cleaning solution that will accomplish this without the red tone? This is a one time home use project I understand that most industrial solutions would not be suitable in this environment.

Guy Reddick
- Atlanta, Georgia


After I am through playing with lemon juice and ketchup and soy sauce and all the other stuff that turns our Revere Ware salmon colored, my wife tells me to finish the job with Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], and it works.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


I'm trying to clean-up, polish and reuse old copper handles, hinges, and screws on my pine kitchen cabinets. Handles and hinges are 50+ yrs. old (heart shaped at the ends) and have a slightly indented texturing which is meant to be darker. Even the screws are textured and beveled. Too many corners and crevices to polish! I've tried Brasso (which required an hour of polishing and strong fumes on one handle). I now have one half of the handle soaking in ketchup and the other half soaking in white vinegar and do not notice any miraculous. Help!

Audrey Mullarney
- Lebanon, Connecticut, USA


If you add some salt to that white vinegar (maybe 1 teaspoon per cup), and stir, I think you'll see it turn the copper a bright salmon color with little to no rubbing. But, per my previous message, you may not like that color too much and may want to finish up with Brasso.

A compromise might be something like Revere copper cleaner [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]. It is way faster than Brasso (probably because it contains food-grade citric acid ), but it leaves the copper a realistic copper color rather than the salmon color of cleaning with vinegar & salt.

 Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 25, 2008

Ketchup ruined my copper sink. I tried cleaning my copper sink with ketchup and left it on too long. Now it's a salmon color. Can it be saved? What can I use to remove the salmon color?

Shelley Haynes
Hobbyist - Ventura, California, USA

January 25, 2008

Store bought commercial brass or copper polishes will make it warm, Shelley. Maybe not instantly, but soon. Ketchup and other home cleaners that contain vinegar are quick, and okay for removing heavy tarnish on durable items, but they dissolve all of the oxide and patina and leave this salmon color.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 15, 2011

I have the same heart shaped kitchen hardware..How did it go?

Sonia Pinheiro
- New Bedford, Massachusetts

July 11, 2012

I too have those copper heart door pulls and they are only copper plated. Any way you try to clean them will take the finish off. Especially if they have years of nasty finger oil build up on them.

Luna Lynn Frey
- Madison, Wisconsin

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