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How to stop copper tarnish

Updated February 21, 2019

Clean, polished copper gleams, but it only takes a little tarnish to mar that shine, and it can leave copper looking dull and lifeless. More than that, tarnish -- the result of a corrosion process similar to that which causes rust -- can eventually damage copper if it isn't taken care of. Luckily, you can remove tarnish from copper, and applying a coat of lacquer can go a long way in preventing tarnish to begin with.

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  1. Wash the copper piece with warm, soapy water using a mild dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge. Opt for dish soaps that are bleach- and fragrance free. Rinse the piece off well to eliminate any residual soap that may have left behind a film.

  2. Dry the piece off thoroughly with a soft, clean, dry towel.

  3. Address areas of tarnish with a paste comprising equal parts table salt and white vinegar. Rub this gently onto the tarnished areas to remove the tarnish, and rinse the area well. Dry the area with a soft, dry towel.

  4. Apply a coat of lacquer to the piece per the manufacturer's instructions for the specific type of lacquer you're using. Work in a well-ventilated area, or outside if the weather permits.

  5. Allow the lacquer to dry completely in a cool, dry place.

  6. Tip

    Lacquered copper pieces should be washed with warm, soapy water and dried immediately to avoid cracking it.

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Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Clean cloth or sponge
  • Soft, dry towel
  • Table salt
  • White vinegar
  • Lacquer

About the Author

Melynda Sorrels spent 10 years in the military working in different capacities of the medical field, including dental assisting, health services administration, decontamination and urgent medical care. Awarded the National Guardsman’s Medal for Lifesaving efforts in 2002, Sorrels was also a nominee for a Red Cross Award and a certified EMT-B for four years.

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