How To Clean A Copper Pan

Keeping your copper pans clean is crucial for performance and appearance. Whether you're dealing with just-finished cooking residue or tackling tougher challenges like tarnish and burnt spots, knowing the proper cleaning techniques can make all the difference.

This guide will walk you through the essentials of cleaning copper pans, ensuring they continue to look and function beautifully. We’ll cover everything from daily cleaning routines to more intensive methods for removing tarnish and addressing burnt-on food. Plus, you'll learn how to do all of this without damaging the delicate copper surface.

Sous Chef’s cookware and pan experts:

In this guide, you’ll hear from Sous Chef buyer Kristin Lohse, who has many years of cookware experience. Sourcing, testing and reviewing the very best cookware, from some of the world’s best kitchens. Plus food editor Holly Thomson, who spent several years as a shopping writer, reviewing cookware and pans for BBC Good Food Magazine.

In this guide we’ll cover:

Shop all copper pans here, and learn more about cooking with copper in our buyer’s guide to copper pans.


What is the best way to clean copper pans?

Copper, being a soft metal, is susceptible to scratching easily. It's common for copper pans to have slight scratches on their bases from the final polishing process. 

To minimize further scratching, avoid dragging the pan across surfaces, such as moving it from one part of your work surface to another.

To prevent warping, refrain from rapidly changing the temperature of your copper pans, such as plunging them into very hot water or vice versa. Over time, copper will develop a natural patina. To restore its warm glow, occasionally use a copper polishing paste.

When cleaning copper pans, hand wash them with warm, soapy water. For removing traces of oxidation and fats from the inside of the pan, use white vinegar.

  • Daily Cleaning
  • Removing Tarnish
  • Dealing with Stuck-on Food
  • Polishing
  • Maintenance

Daily Cleaning

Use a soft sponge or dishcloth with warm water and a mild dish soap. Wash the pan gently to remove any food particles and grease. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry immediately with a soft towel to prevent water spots.

Removing Tarnish

    For light tarnish, use a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda. Apply the paste with a cloth, rub gently, then rinse and dry. For heavier tarnish, a commercial copper cleaner is effective. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

    Dealing with Stuck-on Food

      Soak the pan in warm soapy water to loosen the residue. If you are using a stainless steel-lined pan, then you can treat it as any other pan. However, if you are using a tin-lined copper pan then use a wooden spatula to gently scrape off the food without scratching the surface.

      Polishing

        For occasional polishing, mix equal parts vinegar and salt. Rub this solution with a soft cloth, then rinse and dry. Alternatively, ketchup can be used due to its natural acidity. Smear it over the surface, wait a few minutes, then rinse and polish with a dry cloth.

        Maintenance

          Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that can scratch the copper. After each wash, dry the pan immediately to maintain its shine and prevent oxidation.

          What to clean copper pans with

          Cleaning copper pans correctly is essential to maintain their shine and functionality. Most modern copper pans are lined with stainless steel. However, traditional copper pans are lined with tin. With proper care, they will last for years and become a firm favourite in your kitchen

          Copper pan and cleaner

           Here’s what you should use to clean your copper pans:

          • Soft sponge or cloth: Always use a soft, non-abrasive sponge or cloth to avoid scratching the surface.
          • Dishwashing soap: You can use any common dish soap to clean your copper pans.
          • Vinegar and salt paste: For tarnished spots, a paste made from equal parts vinegar and salt can work wonders. Apply, let sit for a few minutes, then rinse off.
          • Lemon and salt: Another effective natural cleaner is a cut lemon dipped in salt. Rub it on the surface to brighten the copper.
          • Commercial copper cleaner: Copper cleaner isn't for actually cleaning, only for polishing the pan and removing tarnish. You don't use it on the inside of the pan. Rather, use it to buff up the exterior and bring back that shine.

          Using these materials will keep your copper pans clean and in good condition without damaging them. Regular maintenance ensures lasting beauty and performance.

          How do you get baked-on grease off a copper pan?

          Start by sprinkling baking soda over the affected areas, then add vinegar to create a bubbling reaction. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a non-abrasive sponge. For stubborn stains, make a paste with equal parts salt, flour, and vinegar, apply it to the pan, and let it sit for an hour before scrubbing. With a little patience and elbow grease, your copper pan will look good as new!

          How to clean copper pans without scratching

          • Use the Right Tools
          • Choose Gentle Cleaning Agents
          • Apply Soft Cleaning Motions
          • Rinse Thoroughly
          • Dry Immediately
          • Polish Regularly

          Use the Right Tools

            Always opt for a soft sponge or a microfiber cloth. Avoid using steel wool or any harsh scrubbers that can scratch the copper surface.

            Choose Gentle Cleaning Agents

              Use a mild dish soap with warm water for routine cleaning. For tarnish removal, a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda is effective and gentle.

              Apply Soft Cleaning Motions

                Clean with gentle, circular motions rather than abrasive scrubbing. This approach helps preserve the pan’s finish while removing buildup.

                Rinse Thoroughly

                  After cleaning, rinse the pan thoroughly with warm water to remove any soap or cleaner residue which might cause stains if left to dry.

                  Dry Immediately

                    Use a soft towel to dry the pan immediately after washing. This prevents water spots and contributes to maintaining the pan’s lustre.

                    Polish Regularly

                      To keep the pan looking new, apply a non-abrasive copper polish. Follow the instructions carefully and use a clean, soft cloth for application.

                      Kristin adds: “If you like the tarnished look that copper gives over time, you don't have to use the polish/copper cleaner at all!”

                      How do you clean badly tarnished copper pan

                      dirty cast iron pan

                      If your copper pans have become badly tarnished, restoring their shine may seem daunting, but it's quite manageable with the right approach. Here are effective steps to clean heavily tarnished copper:

                      Vinegar and Salt:

                        Create a paste with equal parts white vinegar and salt. Apply this mixture to the tarnished areas with a soft cloth. Rub gently in circular motions to lift the tarnish. Rinse with warm water and dry immediately.

                        Lemon and Baking Soda:

                          Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut side. Use the lemon as a scrubber, working the baking soda into the tarnished spots. This method is particularly good for lighter tarnish but can be repeated for tougher spots. Wash and dry after treatment.

                          Ketchup Application:

                            Smear ketchup over the tarnished areas and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. The natural acids in ketchup help dissolve the tarnish. Rinse off with warm water and dry thoroughly.

                            Commercial Copper Cleaner:

                              For severe tarnish, a commercial copper cleaner can be a quick and effective solution. Follow the instructions on the product for safe and effective usage. You can try De Buyer’s Copper Cleaner.

                              Boiling Water with Salt and Vinegar:

                                For extensive tarnish, you can submerge the copper item in a pot of boiling water mixed with a cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. Let it soak until the water cools, then wash with soap and water, and dry immediately.

                                Regular maintenance after these treatments will keep tarnish at bay. Always dry your copper items thoroughly after cleaning to prevent new tarnish from forming. 

                                Image below is the after cleaning version of a copper pan!

                                after cleaning copper pan

                                How to restore copper pans

                                “You shouldn’t really need to restore copper pans, apart from potential shining after oxidation,” explains Kristin. However, you may want to re-tin old pans, if that’s the finish on your copper pan.

                                • Removing tarnish with lemon juice or baking powder
                                • Consider regular re-tinning
                                • Polish regularly, if you favour the shiny look
                                • Store in a dry place

                                  For light tarnish on the copper exterior, use a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda. Apply with a soft cloth, rub gently, rinse, and dry. For severe tarnish, a commercial copper cleaner works best. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

                                  Polishing

                                    Buff the pan with a soft cloth and a copper polish to restore its natural shine. This step helps to protect the copper from future tarnishing.

                                    Retinning (if necessary)

                                      If the tin lining of your copper pan is worn out, it should be retinned to safely continue cooking with it. Look for a professional retinning service.

                                      Maintenance

                                        Regularly clean and polish your copper pans after use. Store them in a dry place to prevent oxidation.

                                        Browse our copper frying pans here, or copper saute pans. And read more about cooking with copper in our guide to copper for induction hobs.



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