How to Clean and Seal Your Copper Treasures


June 12, 2024

I’m Allison.
Design obsessed and self-taught DIYer, I'm so excited to share my journey with you, and be a source of inspiration as well as a resource.
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Copper! It’s the metal that adds warmth, character, and a touch of timeless elegance to our homes. From gleaming pots and pans to stunning hammered sinks, copper elevates everyday objects into design statements. Recently I found a beautiful copper wine cooler at an estate sale, but it definitely needed a little TLC. Being my first copper piece, I had to do a little research on the best way to restore it, so I want to share my top tips for how to clean copper.

Before vs After

Conquering Tarnish: Your Copper Cleaning Arsenal

Tarnished copper? No problem! Here’s a breakdown of cleaning methods, from natural options to some store-bought heroes:

  • The Natural Wonders:
    • The Lemony Scrub: This classic method uses the power of citric acid found in lemons. Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle some salt (coarse or table salt works) on the fleshy side, and scrub the tarnish goodbye. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.
    • The Vinegar Powerhouse: Vinegar’s acidity tackles tarnish with ease. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl. Dip a microfiber cloth in the solution, wring it slightly to avoid dripping, and buff the tarnished areas. For stubborn tarnish, let the vinegar solution sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. Rinse well and dry completely.
  • The Ketchup Surprise: Yes, you read that right! Ketchup’s acidity can be surprisingly effective on mild tarnish. Apply a generous amount of ketchup to the copper and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. The vinegar in the ketchup helps loosen the tarnish, making it easier to buff away with a damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely.
  • Bar Keepers Friend to the Rescue: This popular cleaning powder is a powerhouse against tarnish. There are several different types of Bar Keepers Friend, but for this project I like to use the Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser. Use a microfibercloth and gently rub the liquid onto your piece and then wipe clean with a fresh cloth. Always do a spot test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t scratch your copper.
Here’s an example of using lemon + salt. The before & after is remarkable!

Bonus Tip: For heavily tarnished or intricate pieces, create a paste using salt, flour, and vinegar. Mix equal parts salt and flour, then add enough vinegar to form a thick consistency. Apply the paste with a soft cloth, buff gently, and rinse thoroughly.

Sealing the Deal: Preventing Future Tarnish

Now that your copper is sparkling, let’s keep it that way! Copper tarnishes naturally when exposed to air. Here’s how to add a protective layer especially if you went with an all natural cleaning method noted above:

  • Wax On, Tarnish Off: Apply a thin coat of furniture wax to the clean, dry copper surface. Buff with a soft cloth to create a barrier that helps slow down tarnishing. Reapply the wax every few months for lasting protection.
  • An every day option: you likely have some form of mineral oil in your kitchen. While not as strong as a furniture wax, mineral oil will also help seal copper and add at least a small level of protection from air.
  • Lacquer Love: For a more durable option, consider using a clear lacquer specifically designed for copper. This creates a stronger barrier but requires more care during application. Ensure proper ventilation and follow the product instructions carefully.

Remember: Patina, the natural green or brown film that forms on copper over time, can be beautiful in its own right. If you prefer the antiqued look, you don’t necessarily need to clean and seal your copper.

All In One Copper Cleaning options

Short on time and looking for a one stop shop? There are options for you! While I haven’t personally tried these yet, I’ve done some research and these look like well reviewed options.

Wright’s Copper & Brass Polishing Cream: apply this thick cream all over and gently massage it into your piece. After a short time, wipe the cream off with a fresh rag and not only will your copper be clean, but it will be sealed too! I’m adding this one to my shopping cart for next time!

Brasso Metal Polishing cream: Brasso does exactly what it says it will do, and is good for all metals. So if you have a variety of finishes in your home, this should definitely be in your cleaning cupboard!


With a little cleaning know-how and some clever sealing tricks, your copper can continue to be a shining star in your home decor. So grab your lemons, vinegar, ketchup (or Bar Keepers Friend!), and get ready to bring back the brilliance. If you’re thinking of adding copper into your home, I hope this guide will be helpful for whatever your needs may be!

If you’re in love with this copper wine cooler as much as I am, I’ve rounded up a few similar pieces from the resale market. You can shop them HERE!

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