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"Restoring old copper washing basin"

Current question:

July 7, 2021

I have a metal (tin) boiler. I would like to get it copperized if at all possible?
Thank you.

Marian Lecuyer
- Grande Pointe, Ontario, Canada

July 2021

A. Hi Marian. I'm not quite sure what you mean by a 'boiler', not what you are saying that it is made of (galvanized steel sheet metal maybe)? A plating shop which serves the public can do this for you, but don't expect them to be able to charge less for their time than your plumber or mechanic :-)

Luck & Regards,

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

Closely related historical postings, oldest first:


Q. I would like to restore an old copper washing basin. It is thin copper - bendable by hand, and about 50 cms wide and 35 cms high. It was built into a brick casing and used as a washing machine/with flue/gas, etc., - to clean clothes. It is badly tarnished (black) by I think, years of use/flames, etc. There is also some paint on it in parts. Is it possible to restore? Is it worth it? How do I do it most efficiently and effectively?


Damian Brown
- Kew, Victoria, Australia


A. I'd use nail varnish remover (Acetone [affil. link to info/product on Amazon]) to take the paint off and Brasso [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] to polish up the copper. If you want a professional job done take it to a plating shop and ask them to electro-polish it. Is it worth it? Who knows.

Ian Brooke
university - Glasgow, Scotland


Cleaning copper-bottom pots and pans


Q. I have heard of using hydrochloric acid to clean old copper, but it may be considered a hazardous chemical, requiring special methods to dispose of.

My question is similar. I have "inherited" some old, copper-bottomed pots and pans. They are quite usable, but the copper bottoms have burned-on grease or something that is quite black. Copper cleaners can't get it off. Help!

If hydrochloric acid will clean it, where would I get some?

Hazel Watson
- Ann Arbor, Michigan

Barkeeper's Friend 4-pack

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A. Hydrochloric acid is, for your purposes, exactly the same thing as Muriatic Acid [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] . It is hazardous to use and to dispose of, and it can pit the stainless steel which the rest of the pots & pans are made of; I wouldn't recommend it :-(
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how aggressive ketchup or vinegar plus salt can be, and think you could try that, Hazel. Then you can finish up with Brasso to restore a warm copper copper because vinegar plus salt will leave it raw looking and orangeish.

But a secondary possible problem is that if the black is carbon; nothing will chemically remove it, only abrasion will. You can try a powder like Barkeeper's Friend, because it has pumice or a similar abrasive in it, although you you may find that you need a buffing pad on a battery-operated drill rather than just hand rubbing to polish it away with a practical amount of work.

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

November 5, 2012

Q. I have an old (antique) copper basin which appears to be tin on the inside. It is oval in shape and has two handles on either side. It has been hanging around my parents house forever, mostly outside in all sorts of weather and now I have acquired it. It is currently the color of an old penny and I am thinking about polishing it and letting the true shiny copper color come through, then keep it indoors. I noticed on one of the responses above that you recommend catsup or vinegar & salt for someone else's similar project. Would that still be the approach for my project? Thanks! I look forward to your reply.


Dewey Walling
- Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

A. Hi Dewey. Yes it may be a copper basin with tin plating on the inside. But it might also be a steel basin with copper plating on the outside, which will probably not hold up to your cleaning/polishing work. Check it with a magnet before you start and possibly wear through copper plating. If it's solid copper, ketchup won't hurt it.

Luck & Regards,

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

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