Restoring Copper Pots to New
The problem with buying anything used is that often times, things have been left to rust away in someone's basement for years before they finally decided to part with it. That's also sometimes a good thing like with Copper and Cast Iron. People don't want to put in the extra work to get it back to it's prime so they sell it for cheap based on it's looks. That's where I come in! I don't think a single piece of my Copper or Cast Iron collection was purchased new. To me it's like a game, get something for cheap and see how new I can make it look. Plus Copper prices are forever soring, I see new sets going for thousands! Don't get me wrong, a matching set is pretty but I think mismatching is a style all in it's own. This pan below is a perfect example, I purchased it for just $1 at a Garage Sale because it was COVERED in rust. With some elbow grease and a stainless steel scrubber, it came back and works like new! In the future I will be doing a restoration and seasoning blog for cast iron so be sure to subscribe to our emails!
If you love copper pots like I do then you know that over time they not only tarnish but they will also acquire caked on stains. The copper it self can turn many colors from brown to green, this is called Copper Oxide. The amount of oxidization depends on how long the copper has been exposed to elements like heat and humidity. As you can see in the photo below, there are a few different stages of oxidization going on, this pot went an entire life time never being restored so it's seen better days. These days I hang my pots when not in use which helps prevent oxidization because they aren't sitting in any moisture after being cleaned or humidity in the air.
This is why the Stature of Liberty is green, while the frame of the statue is made of iron, the outside is made 100% of Copper Sheets! Could you imagine what the Statue of Liberty looked like in it's prime before it started oxidizing?! It's said that it started tarnishing to brown just 4 months being built then it began to turn to the greenish color about 5-6 years after being built. As you can see in the picture below, most of the pot is dark brown but there are some green spots showing. For pots and house ware items, it takes a lot of neglect to get it to turn green. I'm going to assume this pot probably sat in someone's basement for a few years before ending up at a yard sale where I purchased it.
(This photo was taken prior to the first time I ever restored this pot)
You could skip all these very simple steps I'm about to go over and use good ol' fashion elbow grease but that would be very time consuming. The reason this is going to be easier is because were going to be using a little science and chemical reactions to do all the hard work for us. Since first posting this blog on my old website, it has been suggested many times that I try ketchup! This idea makes sense as ketchup also contains a lot of salt and vinegar but I have to be honest, I tried it and I wasn't impressed. Not only did it not preform as well but after speaking with a reader she said that ketchup burned her kettle!After taking a closer look at my decorative bowl, the side I used ketchup on has a pint tint to it now. Don't use ketchup!
Below is a decorative copper bowl I purchased also at a yard sale. You can see the blue is very prominent with this piece. I did one half with the vinegar and salt solution and the other with yes you guessed it, plain ketchup.
Here were my findings. I left both on for 15 minutes then started wiping away with warm water, while the ketchup did help some, it wasn't nearly as effective as the vinegar and salt mix. The ketchup wasn't even strong enough to tackle the clump of blue tarnish. I'm not a chemist but I'm going to guess there isn't enough vinegar in Ketchup with all the other ingredients being mixed in.
This was however a more difficult piece being that it has decorative textures making it harder to clean off but all in all I was happy with the results on the right.
Photo above: Ketchup on the left vs. Vinegar and Salt on the right.
I wouldn't say that the ketchup was a totally failed experiment but I will definitely be sticking to what I know works.
This is what my pot looks like now, 7 years after the first restoration. A little oxidized but not nearly as bad as it was.
Next you want to cover the copper as evenly as possible with your paste mix using a paper towel. Of course if your entire pot is copper, you may need to triple this recipe.
After you have gotten it as cleaned as you would like, just rinse it under lukewarm water to wash away any paste residue left behind. You may find that a second coating is necessary. To do this don't skip any steps, wash the first coat off as mentioned, dry really well then apply again and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. I have had to do this with older pots.
I only did half so you could really see the side by side comparison!
There you go, super easy and effective with NO harsh chemicals!
What you need:
6 tsp Flour
4-6 Tsp Vinegar
2 tsp Salt
1. Mix the flour, Vinegar and salt together in a small bowl to form a paste.
2. Evenly spread the paste across the copper using a paper towel.
3. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. More time may be required if you see more oxidization.
4. Test a small patch by rubbing the past away in a small circular motion with paper towels. If copper shines through, continue with a circular motion rubbing the rest of the pots.
5. For caked on stains from cooking, use the rough side of a sponge to carefully scrub them away. Not too hard as not to scratch the surface.
6. Wash any remaining residue away with warm water, pat dry making sure not to leave any moisture on the pot before storing it.
Note: To slow the oxidization process down in the future, dry your copper pots after each wash and hang them in storage if you can.
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