How to clean copper pots and pans without tarnishing their timeless aesthetic

Experts share their tips for keeping your copper pots and pans looking as good as new

Three images of kitchens with copper pans
(Image credit: Devol / Polly Eltes / Future)

Copper cookware, known for its timeless allure and exceptional culinary benefits, demands a unique approach to cleaning and maintenance. 

With copper acting as an amazing conductor, evenly distributing heat across the entire surface, these  it one of the best induction pans. As a result, many chefs and home cooks will use copper pots and pans over alternatives.

It’s crucial to notice that copper pots and pans need special precautions about cleaning, as they can run the hazard of oxidizing and tarnishing if no longer nicely maintained. 

How to clean copper pots and pans 

Copper pots and pans are prized for their heat conductivity and aesthetic appeal, but maintaining their luster can be challenging. Below is a simple, effective method to keep them sparkling: 

1. Gather Your Supplies

devol kitchen with chrome lacanche range cooker and navy paneled backsplash and cabinetry

(Image credit: Devol)

You don't need shop-bought cleaning supplies to care for your copper pans – it's possible to get them shining again with common household items and ingredients from your pantry. 

'Look around your kitchen for mild dish soap, like the kind you use for washing dishes by hand,’ says Angela Rubin, owner of Hellamaid. ‘Make sure you have a soft sponge or cloth; nothing abrasive that could scratch the copper.’ 

For a natural cleaning solution, grab a lemon from your fruit bowl, and you can use regular table salt or baking soda from your pantry. If you prefer, you can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice. Lastly, have a soft towel ready for drying. 

Angela Rubin
Angela Rubin

Hellamaid is an award-winning cleaning company in Canada that's been featured on multiple global media brands. 

2. Wash it gently

Fill your sink with warm water and add a squirt of dish soap. Give your copper pot or pan a nice bath, using the soft sponge or cloth to wipe away any grease or food residue gently. 

Don't scrub too hard, just enough to get it clean. Try using Scrub & Throw Scrub Sponges from Amazon. These eco-friendly, all-purpose household natural sponges are non-scratch and are biodegradable when you are finished with them. Once it's all sudsy, rinse it off well with clean water.

3. Make a Natural Cleaning Paste

French country kitchen tiles

(Image credit: Future)

The next step is to create a cleaning paste. ‘Take that lemon and cut it in half. Sprinkle some salt or baking soda on one half, or directly onto the copper surface, says Tara Steffen from French copper cookware manufacturer Mauviel. ‘Then, use the lemon half to rub the salt or baking soda all over the pot or pan.’

Alternatively, mix equal parts of lemon juice or vinegar with salt or baking soda to make a paste. This mixture helps to remove any tarnish or discoloration. Next, take your soft cloth or sponge and gently scrub the paste all over the copper. 

Pay extra attention to any spots that look dull or stained. The acidity of the lemon juice or vinegar combined with the abrasiveness of the salt or baking soda helps to lift off any grime and restore the shine.

Tara Steffen

Mauviel's exceptional pots and pans are the result of almost two hundred years of craftsmanship. Famous around the world for their copper cookware, the French heritage brand – which has been manufacturing in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poêles since 1830 – also makes stainless steel, non-stick, and induction copper pans that lead the industry standard. 

4. Take care of the insides

Aga in a kitchen of an old home with copper pans hanging above

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Some copper cookware has tin interiors. To clean the inside of these pans, you can use a soft sponge, brush, or washcloth, along with some dish soap. Gently scrub to remove any residue. 

If there is food stuck to the pan, you can let it soak in hot, soapy water for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing again. After cleaning, dry the pan thoroughly, especially the copper exterior, as moisture can cause tarnishing.

5. Drying and polishing

French country kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

According to Mac Kohler of Brooklyn Copper Cookware, if you're keen on making your copper cookware shine like new, you can use a special copper polish such as Wright's Copper and Brass Polish and Cleaner Cream from Walmart

Just follow the instructions on the bottle carefully. Usually, you'll apply the polish with a soft cloth, let it sit for a bit, and then buff it off to reveal a beautiful shine.

Mac Kohler
Mac Kohler

Mac Kohler is a Director at Brooklyn Copper Cookware, who specialize in the art of crafting copper cookware. They also run cookery classes and schools across Rutland and other cities in Vermont.

While the patina (the natural aging process of copper) can add character, some prefer copper cookware to maintain its original look. The key is regular, gentle cleaning without harsh chemicals. By following these personalized and professional methods, you can ensure that your copper items continue to serve both practical and aesthetic purposes in your kitchen. 

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.