How to Clean Copper Cookware


Curt asked: How do I clean copper pans? My Revere ware copper has burnt food stains.

Copper pans are used as decoration in some kitchens, and as actual kitchenware in others. When used for cooking, there are some precautions that need to be taken during the cleaning process. Copper is toxic and cannot be exposed to the actual food items that are being cooked inside. To prevent exposure, the pans are lined with a metal coating, usually steel or tin, that forms a barrier between the copper and the food. Ensure the cleaning methods do not damage this layer or the barrier will become damaged and the pans will no longer be usable. Here’s a safe and effective cleaning method to remove the burnt on food from your pans.

You Will Need:

  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Sink or dish tub
  • Plastic scrubber
  • Copper cleaner or
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • White vinegar
  • Flour
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Clean Copper Cookware:

  1. Fill a sink or dish tub with warm water.
  2. Add dish soap and agitate the water until suds begin to form.
  3. Place the pan inside of the water so that all of the stuck-on food areas are under the water.
  4. Allow the pan to soak overnight. The dish soap and water together will soften the burnt on food so that it can be cleaned away.
  5. The next day, remove the pan from the water.
  6. Add additional dish soap if needed.
  7. Use a plastic scrubber (or other non-abrasive cloth/scrubber) to scrub away the burnt food items.
  8. Repeat if necessary until all of the food has been removed.
  9. Wash the pan as normal.
  10. If there are areas of discoloration (which is common when heat is applied to copper), simply clean them away with a copper cleaner.
  11. If no cleaner is available, cut a lemon in half, cover it with salt and rub it along the surface. This is an easy way to make a simple, homemade cleaner for copper.
  12. Another homemade copper cleaner can be made by combing equal parts of salt, white vinegar and flour.
  13. After applying the cleaner – commercial or homemade, wash the pot in hot, soapy water.
  14. Buff with a soft cloth to make it shine.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Do not use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers on copper pans.
  • Clean copper utensils using the same method as above. If utensils become tarnished, add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup of vinegar to a pot of boiling water. Place the utensils in the water and allow them to boil for 2-3 hours. Remove and wash as normal with soap and water. Dry immediately.
  • Ensuring there is always liquid or fat/oil in the copper pan BEFORE placing it on the burner will ensure there is no scorching.
  • Though cleaning and polishing the copper makes it look beautiful, the discoloration does not affect the product’s performance and does not have to be removed.
  • Other, less traditional (but still effective) cleaners for copper include ketchup, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire and Bar Keepers Friend. Any of these items can be rubbed on the surface and then washed off to keep your copper shiny and looking great.


  1. I need advice on removing burned-on matter on the outside of the copper pot, which accumulated over time. Bar Keepers Friend and other copper cleaners are not effective. I would appreciate your assistance in bring these pots back to life.

  2. After cleaning copper (decorative) pots, what product is available to stop the pots (there are 14 of them hung on the wall) from tarnishing or oxidation?

  3. Howard,
    There are products made to prevent tarnish on copper – there’s an anti-tarnishing wax and also liquid tarnish preventer. You can find either product online. You may not want to coat the part of the pots that touch the wall, as it is possible that there could be a residue deposited on the wall from either product. As an alternative, you could cut a piece of thin cardboard/poster board to the size needed to rest between the wall and pot. (Or just don’t worry about it and paint the wall in the future if that’s even needed). Also, you may want to try the product on one pot first and see if there is any smell that needs to dissipate, if it does dissipate, etc. since you have so many pots to coat.

  4. I bought some very old copper pans and want to use them for cooking. What is the best way to clean them?

  5. I recently purchased a set of copper pans and prior to using, put them in the dishwasher. They now have really bad marks all over the outside that I can’t seem to remove; they look like splash marks. any ideas?

  6. Use plum vinegar.

  7. I’ve recently purchased some copper pans and want to keep them looking like new. I had cooked a pan of beef stew the other day and it left my pan with really bad marks on it. After looking at the suggestions above, I decided to try the half lemon with salt on. Feeling undecided about using this method, I carried on and to my surprise, it worked a treat! The pans are shining like new.

  8. I have had no luck with the lemon/ salt combo, nor the flour, salt, vinegar option. What else can I do?

  9. Dawn,
    Try some of the suggestions in the Additional Tips section, such as ketchup or Tabasco sauce. Another option is to use a commercial cleaner for copper cookware.

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