The Cure to Copper Pot Tarnish

Over the years I’ve been snapping up old tin lined copper pots, when I find them, at flea markets and thrift stores. Cooking in this kind of pot allows for the most conductivity while using the least amount of heat energy/electricity. This point is not exactly that one can save money on electricity bills so much as it is that all sorts of subtle effects can be achieved in cookware that heats quickly and evenly at low temperatures. But, for all of this, copper pots with tin take understanding to use. You can only cook in them with a wooden spoon, else they get scratched. You can’t use a scouring pad to clean them either, or everything will be scuffed up and ruined. Worse still, copper loses its aesthetic lustre after only a short time on the elements. To combat all of this, I’ve decided to do a few down home cleaning experiments to see what works best:



Any combination of the items shown here would probably work, either all mixed together, or in different proportions. I just tried a few things. I coated each dirty pot in the substance for an hour and then scrubbed with a reasonably soft sponge.


#1: The ketchup cure.

Ketchup is essentially a mix of vinegar, salt, and tomatoes. The high acidity makes it a good candidate for copper cleaning. When we were kids in Toronto we used to eat at The Burger Shack. The management used to get angry when we wrote dirty words on their copper tables with the squeeze ketchup. They would have to scrub the whole table that night in order to purify it. The Burger Shack is still there and they still have copper tables. I still write dirty words on there.
The ketchup copper cure works amazingly well. The smell makes me crave French fries, but the result is that the grime comes off easily and the pot looks amazing. There was some elbow grease involved, but not very much.

Before & after photos.

#2: White vinegar, salt, baking soda, flour.

This was a paste I made that bubbled like pancake batter when I put it on the pan. I thought for some reason that this would work the best, but actually it worked the worst. Perhaps the proportions could be changed. After ten minutes of scrubbing I gave up.  I hate washing pots at the best of times, so this was a bridge too far for me. In defence of this mixture, I did select a particularly dirty pan for the job.

#3: Lemon and salt

This one also worked quite well. I could see the copper getting clean as soon as I drizzled it on. I had to scrub quite a bit, but I think it is because the lemon had no way to cling to the metal. Next time I will attempt to make this solution into a paste.

Before & after photos.


So this is how I spend my afternoons here in sunny Victoria. The one upside to this whole experiment is that those pots, once shamefully stuffed into the back of the cupboard, can now hang up on a rack on the wall and make me seem like a real cook. Good luck in your culinary adventures, too, my friends.


Lead photo: Lauri Koski


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Born and raised in the mysterious East (by which I mean Ontario and Quebec, not Asia), Adam migrated out to British Columbia in search of adventure and fortune. He had been at different times a scholar, a musician, a poet and a ...

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