What is the Best Chemical to Clean Copper?

Copper is highly reactive and susceptible to tarnishing when exposed to water, heat, dust, or certain chemicals; however, eliminating dark tarnish and green corrosion with everyday household items should be simple and quick.

Vinegar and lemon juice are effective methods for cleaning copper effectively, while other solutions like nail polish remover, acetone, hydrochloric acid or hydrogen peroxide should be approached with caution.

1. Citric acid

Citric acid is an accessible home remedy for combatting copper tarnish. Found in many citrus fruits such as lemons, citric acid can break the bond between copper oxide and the surface of copper metals and dislodge any tarnish in its path. While citric acid cannot dissolve copper itself, it does provide relief in dislodging any existing tarnish build-up on them and dislodging tarnish off.

Citric acid can easily be used to clean copper objects by applying it with a soft cloth or sponge and gently rubbing against its surface before rinsing with water. Scrubbing brushes or steel wool could scratch its surface, so it is wise to avoid this approach unless using an abrasive pad instead.

Reichert suggests using lemon juice and salt in combination as natural cleaners for copper to remove any tarnish that accumulates, using a 75:25 ratio of lemon to salt until they form a paste that you dip a cloth into before wiping away any residual deposits on the copper item. Rinse and dry it immediately afterwards so as to prevent further corrosion of its surface.

Alternative solutions include vinegar or ketchup as natural cleaners that contain acids which will dislodge any tarnish that remains. Most people choose vinegar because it’s affordable and easily accessible in homes across America.

Acetone is another common solvent used to remove tarnish from copper items, serving as an organic compound that is widely utilized as nail polish remover and working by evaporating onto its surface and stripping away oxidized elements from it. You may even submerge your item completely into an acetone solution to ensure thorough cleansing.

2. Acetic acid

Copper is an indispensable metal found in kitchen items like pots, pans and utensils. Over time it becomes discolored due to a natural reaction between its chemicals and air molecules; although not harmful in any way it makes copper look dirty and unattractive if left alone for too long. Luckily there are some household items you can use without resorting to harsh chemicals to clean your copper vessels and restore their beauty.

Citric acid is an natural compound with the capacity to cleanse copper of any oxidized elements on its surface. Commonly found as a flavor enhancer in soft drinks like Coca Cola, citric acid can also be found in many fruit juices and even some forms of vinegar – making citric acid an invaluable copper cleaner!

Acetic acid is another organic acid that can be used to clean copper items. This chemical is found in many nail polish remover products as well as household cleaning supplies; its rapid evaporation means it should be applied quickly when working with it on copper items. You could also submerge copper items in acetone for even faster oxidized particle removal.

If you prefer non-toxic cleaning solutions, why not create your own? A DIY lemon juice and salt solution is an effective alternative that dissolves copper oxide deposits and reveals its raw surface underneath. This method works on most copper surfaces; especially effective on heavily tarnished pieces. Alternatively, try rubbing it on with tomato paste – but be sure to rinse afterwards!

3. Acetone

Copper is a gorgeous and versatile metal that’s found in kitchen and household products across the board, but over time its surface may become discolored due to exposure to heat, certain cleaning products or chemical compounds that react with it. Luckily, cleaning copper with ingredients you might already have at home is easy!

One of the easiest and simplest ways to remove tarnish from copper items is using a vinegar and salt mixture. Simply combine equal parts of each ingredient in a container that’s large enough to contain your copper item, let it soak for 30 minutes, and scrub gently using a soft-bristle brush before rinsing with clean water and drying thoroughly afterwards.

Natural methods of copper cleaning include using a solution of equal parts lemon juice and water, where its acidity helps loosen tarnish and grime build-up. This method is particularly helpful for items which cannot be effectively cleaned with other chemicals or solvents.

If your copper is heavily tarnished, it may require stronger chemicals to break down its oxide layer. Acetone is an ideal solvent used for nail polish removal that can also help break down any oxidized particles on it. When using it on copper however, ensure your workspace has adequate ventilation as acetone can produce toxic fumes that could linger.

Care must be taken when using this chemical on copper pieces to avoid scratching or denting them, so be sure to cover your item in cloth or rag and apply the solution with a soft bristled brush. Once your tarnish has been eliminated, rinse and dry the item using a fresh towel or cloth before storing away for future use.

4. Hydrochloric acid

There are various chemicals available to you for cleaning copper surfaces, ranging from everyday household items to professional cleaners. Most of these solutions contain mild acids which react with copper surfaces to form soluble copper salts which can then be washed away easily.

Citric acid is an organic acid that’s great for copper cleaning. Found naturally in many fruits like lemons, it can be used either whole or cut up to rub against an object containing copper to remove tarnish marks and restore its shine.

Vinegar is another natural solution to cleaning copper. Vinegar contains acetic acid which, when applied directly to copper surfaces, removes any oxidized patina and cleans it effectively – thus explaining why many copper cleaners contain vinegar as one of their components.

Hydrochloric acid is a strong chemical used for cleaning copper surfaces. You may find this acid in various household cleaning products and it’s very effective at eliminating tarnish and corrosion on copper surfaces, however excessive use could damage it permanently. It should only be used sparingly as this may harm its metal structure instead.

To avoid tarnishing of copper, it’s essential to wash it regularly with non-metal cleaning items – this will help avoid dust particles sticking to its surface and leading to its tarnishing. Metallic objects may scratch it; alternatively you could invest in one of our World CopperSmith products with sealed finishes which protect long-term while making maintenance simpler.

5. Tartaric acid

Copper is highly reactive to water or acidic substances and will stain easily, especially if in direct contact. Therefore, it is necessary to frequently clean copper items that come into direct contact with these elements such as kitchenware and drinking vessels, in order to preserve its durability by uncovering unreacted layers of copper metal.

Though some prefer leaving their copper items to tarnish on purpose for an aged appearance, most will want their items looking bright. Luckily, there are numerous chemicals available for cleaning copper without harming its material; most can be found within homes while some require special equipment for proper usage.


Vinegar is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remove tarnish from copper surfaces, due to its acetic acid. By reacting with any oxidized residue that forms on it and breaking it down through chemical reaction, this method provides a clean surface and leaves your items looking their best. Especially useful for smaller items like rings and bracelets which can be immersed into this liquid for rapid cleaning results.

Reichert advises using equal parts of lemon juice and salt mixed into a paste to clean copper items, especially small patches of tarnish that need removing quickly; however, prolonged exposure could pit copper materials over time.

Other acidic substances like ketchup and baking soda are effective ways of cleaning copper. Mix three parts distilled white vinegar with two parts salt or baking soda (it will fizz), apply this paste directly onto an item for several minutes, wait a bit more and wipe away using a damp cloth – this method works particularly well when dealing with larger pots and pans but should only be applied externally.