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There are two kinds of admirers of old copper cookware: those who like their pots and pans buffed to a high sheen, and those who prefer the natural patina that develops over time. If you fall into the former camp, how do you polish copper pans? There are several all-natural ways to do it.
Do You Really Need to Polish Copper Cookware?
Not if you like the weathered look. A natural patina will develop on copper cookware no matter what you do, so if you get tired of maintaining that mirror finish (or are just into wabi sabi), you can stop.
You’ll want to clean off any actual food that might drip and dribble down the outsides of your pot or pan, of course; best to wipe them up immediately before they can dry on.
But if you like the look of lived-in copper, leave it alone. Not only will it not harm you, but according to Brooklyn Copper Cookware’s care instructions, patina is “a desirable property (it improves the metal’s already exceptional thermal efficiency).”
They also note that “home polishing will always leave a bit of patina (which we love).” And many Chowhounds agree that patina is part of the charm and beauty of copper cookware.
Calphalon Tri-Ply Copper Cookware 10-Piece Set, $273.11 on Amazon
Make peace with the fact that it will tarnish over time.
Related Reading: Our Favorite Cookware Sets of 2019
If you want to hang on to or revive that brand-new, bright copper shine, though, there are several ways to go about it.
Commercial Copper Polish
There are various copper polishes you can purchase; Copperbrill is made by French copper cookware manufacturers Mauviel (in business since 1830), but another highly-rated option on Amazon is Wright’s Copper Cream.
Wright's Copper and Brass Cream Cleaner, 8 ounces for $4.19 on Amazon
Over 1,000 ratings with an almost 5-star average.
Some Chowhounds prefer a two-step process for a super-shiny look; kaleokahu uses an acid solution like Tarn-X followed up with a metal polish.
But if you prefer more natural cleaning solutions, you still have several options.
The all-natural copper cleaning method that seems most popular based on how often it appears is also a great potato chip enhancer: salt and vinegar. Simply sprinkle your pots and pans liberally with salt, then pour on white vinegar, let it sit for just 10-15 seconds, and the tarnish should come off with a scrubbing sponge and a bit of elbow grease! (Don’t use super harsh scrubbers like steel wool, which can damage the finish.)
Chowhound BiscuitBoy prefers a mixture of ketchup and baking soda—and if you think that sounds suspicious, Martha Stewart reps for ketchup cleaning too. Sticking to the condiment aisle, Mr. Maid prefers Worcestershire sauce as the “least aggressive” copper cleaner. Even simply wiping down your copper with acidic tomato juice before rinsing can help restore its shine, though not to the same level as scrubbing and soaking.
Lemon juice, cream of tartar, and baking soda are also good natural copper cleaners.
How to Keep Copper Shiny
No matter how you create a gleaming, glossy finish on worn copper, the patina will reappear fairly quickly, especially if you use your copper pots often. One way to help delay the patina from appearing, per Martha Stewart, is to rub a light layer of baby oil into the exterior once it’s cleaned and dry. It also helps to store your copper cookware away from heat, moisture, and sunlight.
Related Reading: The Best Ways to Store Your Pots & Pans
Header image courtesy of Laura Reid / Moment / Getty Images