What Chemicals Clean Copper Best

Copper pots and pans hanging from a wooden rack.

There are several chemicals on the market that can clean copper. The good news is that these chemicals are usually found in homes. Here are some of the best chemicals that clean copper.

Acetic Acid

Perhaps the most widely used chemical to clean copper is acetic acid. Many people may not know it, but this chemical is commonly found in homes, but called by another name: vinegar. Vinegar is actually acetic acid. This acid is quite weak, but it does a good job in cleaning the stains, tarnishes and oxidized residue on copper surfaces.

To use this chemical to clean copper, it is usually mixed with salt, baking soda, flour, or cream of tartar to form a paste. As soon as the vinegar works its wonders, it reveals a shiny smooth surface on the copper material.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is another organic acid that is used to clean copper. It is not a very strong acid, but it does have the ability to remove oxidized copper elements. Citric acid is commonly found in nature in the form of citrus fruits. The best source of this chemical is lemon. Lemon contains not just trace amounts, but large quantities of this acid. Either the juice is mixed with baking soda to form a paste or cut in half and used as a sponge along with salt to rub away the stains on the copper.

Citric acid is also found in common soft drinks such as Coca Cola. These drinks make use of citric acid and, therefore, can be used to clean copper materials as well.


Acetone is also an organic compound that is usually used as a solvent. Nail polish remover products use this chemical as the main ingredient. This compound easily evaporates so it requires the user to apply it speedily on the copper surface when cleaning. Acetone may also be used to submerge the entire copper material. As the copper is submerged in this chemical, oxidized particles are stripped away from the material to leave only pure copper.

Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid is usually used in combination with acetic acid to form a strong paste that cleans away copper stains or blemishes. Tartaric acid can be found in cream of tartar. Although it may not be used alone, it does provide help when cleaning tough copper stains.

Hydrochloric or Muriatic Acid

These acids are very strong and corrode numerous oxidized elements and other materials. Although they are not the most recommended chemicals to be used when cleaning copper because of the hazards associated with improper use and handling, they do provide very effective stain removal. Copper turns green when it is oxidized. When the green substance builds up, it can be cleaned thoroughly using a solution containing hydrochloric or muriatic acid.

These are the best chemicals for cleaning copper. You can see that there are natural options as well, so you don't have to worry about using harmful chemicals on your cookware.