Have you just moved somewhere new or are you redecorating your home and your copper pipes are looking a little dull? There are a few things that you can do, you can either look into painting them or you can give them a good polish to make them clean and shiny. Another good reason for giving your pipes a good cleaning is that if they are left dirty and grungy, copper can actually start to corrode which is definitely not what you want. Regardless of your reasoning, it is important to learn how to properly clean and shine up your copper pipes and, in this article, we have covered the 2 best DIY copper pipe cleaning hacks that you can do at home.
Best Copper Pipe Cleaner
In truth, there are a few different lotions, potions and chemicals you can use to shine up your copper pipes. Some polishes can be bought but if you want something a little more friendly to the environment, there is even a solution that you can make at home from simple things that you are likely to already have in your cupboards.
Firstly, a good quality metal polish will help you get those pipes gleaming and there are so many to choose from, that you may have a hard time finding the right one. The best metal polish for cleaning copper pipes and one that I cannot recommend highly enough is Brasso Metal Polish (amazon link – opens in a new tab). Brasso is a liquid polish that is non-corrosive and with a little elbow grease, you will see excellent results.
How to Clean Copper Pipe With Brasso
Brasso has been around for many years, and it is extremely easy to use. You will be surprised by the result as even the dullest and dirtiest copper pipes can be restored to a mirror shine.
What You Need
- Ultra-Fine Steel Wool
- Brasso Metal Polish
- 2 x Clean Dry Cloth
- Towel or Rag
Step 1 – Prep
The first thing to do when completing any job around the home is to prepare your work area. Make sure that you have plenty of light available to ensure that you are working safely and can see what you are doing properly.
It is a good idea to lay a towel or rag down on the floor to catch any spills and splatters that may occur. As well as this, make sure the floor is clean so when things do get a little messy, it doesn’t mean mopping up later will be more difficult than it needs to be.
Step 2 – Rub Down with Wire Wool
Now Brasso can be used straight onto the dullest of copper pipes and bring it up to a nice shine but if you are looking for the best mirror finish; before using Brasso, we recommend giving the pipes a good clean with ultra-fine steel wool.
This can be quite a laborious job but if you have some kind of drill, dremel tool or electronic polisher that you can use with the steel wool, this will make things much easier.
Step 3 – Polish with Brasso
Brasso comes in a wire squeeze bottle and is very easy to use. Simply apply a small amount directly onto your cloth, polish it into the copper pipe until you have covered all areas that require cleaning then leave it for around five minutes before buffing with another clean dry rag or towel.
You will be amazed at how well this little bottle of liquid metal polish works and it is definitely one that we highly recommend.
How to Clean Copper Pipe with a Home-Made Cleaning Paste
If you’re looking for a greener option instead of a store-bought metal polish to clean your copper pipes, there is always the option of making up your own paste from common household ingredients.
What You Need
- Ultra-Fine Steel Wool
- Towel/ Rag
- 100g Flour
- 100g Salt
- 100ml White Vinegar
- Cloth or Sponge (for application)
- Clean Dry Cloth (for buffing)
Step 1 – Prep
In much the same way as above, you will want to prep the area you are working on. That means laying down a rag or sheet to keep things clean and prevent your paste from getting onto the floor or furniture.
Step 2 – Mix
Mix together all of your ingredients in a bowl until you have made an even paste. The ingredients are in 3 equal parts so you can mix as much as you need depending on the job at hand. If you mix more than you need, simply store any excess in an airtight container ready for when you need it again.
Step 3 – Rub Down with Wire Wool
In the same way as using metal polish, if you want to polish your copper to a mirror finish, it is best to first give it a good rub down with ultra-fine steel wool.
Step 4 – Apply
Apply the paste directly onto your copper pipe using a cloth or sponge. Ensure that you cover all areas of the pipe including any nooks and crannies so it can be thoroughly cleaned. Leave this for between 60 to 120 minutes before rinsing with water.
Step 5 – Buff
The final step is to buff the copper pipe with a clean dry cloth until it shines. You should see immediate results and for those who want a more environmentally friendly option, this recipe really does work wonders.
Other Household Items to Clean Copper Pipes
There are a few other things that you can find around the house that will also do a great job of cleaning copper. Some of them may surprise you too.
Lemon juice is great and like vinegar, it is a mild acid that will really get into the dirt and grime on your copper. It can actually be used instead of vinegar in the paste outlined above and it smells better too.
When nothing else is available; use ketchup! Yes, it does sound strange, but tomato sauce will remove the tarnish from copper very quickly. Mix with a little bit of baking soda to thicken the sauce and there you go.
Coca-Cola is known for being quite a good cleaning agent. So much so that I do not let my children drink it. As the copper is best left submerged in the colas for it to really be effective, this may not be the best solution for your pipes, but it works great for other smaller objects.
In this article, I have discussed the best ways to clean copper pipes so that they are shiny and new once again. All of the techniques mentioned above take a little elbow grease but not any more than a regular person can handle. Personally, I like to use the first option which is wire wool followed by Brasso but how you decide to do your copper pipe cleaning is up to you. I have also provided a few other household items that can be used to clean copper pipes if you do not have anything else at hand.
Plumbing Wizard Tips
“Ensure you use ultra-fine wire wool as anything much coarser will damage and scratch your pipes!”
“Use our copper paste recipe above if you want clean and shiny pipes in the greenest way possible!”
“If you are having new pipes installed, give them a good clean up beforehand. They may only little a little touch up afterwards!”
“A good clean every once in a while will keep your pipes shining like new. I wouldn’t recommend using any kind of lacquer on the cleaned pipes either!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does copper tarnish over time?
Copper tarnishes due to its reaction with oxygen in the air, leading to the formation of a greenish layer called patina. This can also be accelerated by exposure to other elements like sulfur or salt.
What household items can be used to clean copper?
Common household items like lemon, salt, vinegar, and baking soda can be effective in cleaning and shining copper.
How can I use lemon and salt to clean copper?
Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on the cut side, and rub it on the tarnished copper. The acid from the lemon and the abrasive salt will help remove tarnish.
Is vinegar effective for cleaning copper?
Yes, mixing equal parts of vinegar and salt creates a paste that can be applied to tarnished copper. After rubbing the mixture on the copper, rinse with water and dry thoroughly.
How often should I clean my copper items to keep them shiny?
It depends on the item’s exposure to elements and its usage. Decorative items may need cleaning once every few months, while frequently used copper cookware might require more regular cleaning.
Can commercial copper cleaners be used for all copper items?
While many commercial cleaners are effective, it’s essential to read the label to ensure they’re safe for the specific copper item you have, especially if it’s used for cooking or serving food.
How can I prevent my copper items from tarnishing quickly?
After cleaning, you can apply a thin layer of lacquer or wax to protect the copper from air and moisture. However, this is not recommended for cookware or items that come into contact with food.
Is it safe to use abrasive scrubbers on copper?
It’s best to avoid highly abrasive scrubbers as they can scratch the copper surface. Instead, use a soft cloth or sponge for cleaning.
What’s the difference between patina and tarnish on copper?
While both are results of oxidation, tarnish is a black or green layer that forms on copper due to exposure to elements. Patina, on the other hand, is a coveted green-blue layer that forms over a long time, often seen on historical copper structures and is sometimes desired for its antique look.
Can tarnished copper be harmful or toxic?
Tarnish itself is not harmful. However, if copper cookware is not lined and has a greenish residue, it could be a sign of copper leaching, which can be harmful if ingested in large amounts. Always ensure copper cookware is lined with tin or stainless steel for safe cooking.
Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.