How to clean copper with tomato ketchup

Miss Thrifty11 May 29, 2011

clean copper with tomato ketchup I was pleased to discover that tomato ketchup can be used to clean copper. I don’t like using those relatively expensive, stinky, finger-burny cleaners. I usually rub copper with lemon halves dipped in salt to remove tarnish, but it’s sticky and time-consuming (aka I am lazy).

Fortunately, due to aforementioned laziness, there is only one copper item in the Thrifty Household that requires regular cleaning. It’s a copper saucepan, steel-lined and with a very thick bottom. I love it and we have used it daily for about 10 years, but every now and then I look at it and recoil at all the tarnish. Dreamy to cook with; a nightmare to keep shiny and nice.

So for this tomato ketchup experiment I dug out the pan’s seldom-used lid from the back of the cupboard. Here’s the before shot. I reasoned that if tomato ketchup can clean this horror, it can clean anything:

copper saucepan needs cleaning


1. Decant your tomato ketchup into a small pot.

2. Apply a liberal coating of tomato ketchup to copper.

3. Leave for 10-20 minutes.

4. Wipe clean and rinse in warm water.

How easy is that? I applied the tomato ketchup to the copper saucepan lid with a silicone pastry brush (top picture), but any brush or balled-up cloth will do.

I also found that I needed far less tomato ketchup than I had thought. I slathered the saucepan lid with the same-sized blob of ketchup that you’d serve with a portion of chips. If you’ll excuse the pun, this makes the ketchup-cleaning method as cheap as chips: I used value ketchup from Morrisons, which costs around 19p a bottle. Far, far cheaper than a chemical cleaner – and even cheaper than lemons.

Here’s the result, after 20 minutes:

clean copper saucepan

Not bad, eh? It isn’t an even finish – if you look closely, you can see the brushstrokes – but it’s clean. Another slathering of ketchup, a little thicker this time, should do the trick.

Overall, I’m impressed.

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11 Responses to “How to clean copper with tomato ketchup

Dee says:

Would the tomato ketchup work on cleaning brass too,do you know?

Love getting your emails!

May 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Miss Thrifty says:

Thanks Dee! I’m really not sure about brass. The handle on the saucepan lid in the picture is brass, but it must be lacquered as it doesn’t tarnish, and the tomato ketchup didn’t do much to it.

I’d do a patch test with the teeniest blob of ketchup on a brass item. If it works, let me know…

May 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm

angela says:

How cool is that – I use the lemon and salt trick which works a treat. However I usually use one that has been already squeezed for salads or cooking ( I keep them in a dish in fridge). Will be trying this as well.

May 31, 2011 at 7:30 am

Miss Thrifty says:

@Angela I love the used lemons idea! If you try the tomato ketchup method, let me know how you think it compares…

May 31, 2011 at 9:46 am

Popbabe7 says:

Would this be because of the vinegar in the tomato?

May 31, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Who knew! Luckily I don’t have much copper – except a huge copper boiler my grandma used to heat wash water. I’d have to go outside to cover it in ketsup and the bugs would love that!

Any tricks for silver?

June 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Emily says:

Wow! That’s a brilliant tip!
Don’t forget you can eat the 19p tomato sauce with chips too… although obviously not after you’ve cleaned brass with it!

June 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Barney says:

I shall now have all the plumbers mates, polishing copper pipes on our central heating systems.

July 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Chris says:

Ketchup is a good idea for cleaning copper.

We have a copper mailbox and as you can imagine it gets severely tarnished. I’ve read about ketchup but its really the acid that cleans it. I experimented and found that you can use vinegar also (main ingredient in ketchup), but you have to mix it with flour to make a paste so that it sticks to your copper. If you live somewhere where lemons are freely available, you can use lemon juice as the acidic ingredient also.

April 26, 2012 at 3:36 am

christine bishop says:

Thanks for the ketchup idea. I used it on an old wash basin to make into a bench for a farmer. He is in live with it now

June 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm

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