The Secret Sauce for Cleaning and Polishing Copper Effortlessly

2 Materials
1 Hour

I inherited an antique copper boiler/wash tub when I was in my early 20's. It had an amazing patina but for years I wanted to polish it to see what was hidden beneath the surface. I tried so many different products but nothing worked until one day, I tried something that I thought would never work but it did, like magic!

Here is a view of the copper boiler before I attempted to clean it. It's dented and well-used but I love it. It was my father's mother's and she used it to wash clothes in it. I cannot (thankfully) even imagine what that entailed. She had 8 children and washing that many clothes in a boiler???? It makes me appreciate it even more knowing that that is what this was used for.

So now, for the secret sauce so to speak. Ketchup. Basic, inexpensive ketchup. When I first read the tip over a decade ago, I blew it off thinking there is no way it would work. I instead tried so many chemical concoctions but after trying and failing, I remembered ketchup and gave it a try.

I almost could NOT believe the difference!

And here is the gorgeous after! It still has some patina in the bottom creases but overall, I love the pink glow. Like a giant new penny. You can see the entire post including tips for the process on my blog in this post at The How-To Home. I hope to see you there!

Resources for this project:

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Mary Beth @ The How to Home

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Linda
    on Sep 13, 2019

    what can i use to clean brass?

  • Charlotte ettorre
    on Aug 27, 2020

    will this work on pots in the kitchen?

  • Joanie
    on Aug 27, 2020

    Well it is a Wash Tub you could display in your Laundry room with an Old wash board, clothes pins, soaps or maybe just a clothes hamper.... maybe use for a cooler for drinks, I'm an inside house plant lover.......I may place 2 big plants inside it.(plants in their own pots) I wish I knew how big it is? I know for sure I WOULD display is beautiful. Let me know your solution to this beauty!

    • Joanie
      on Aug 27, 2020

      That's a nice size tub. When I was a wee tiny, little goil, I remember, my Mom bathed me and my baby brother in 2 of these. My Daddy was building our little cement block home. We had electric, but we had a well and sink pump. She filled that up, put the square heater into it and it heated them both. Baby first, me second. He did finish the house with running water. We had a coal furnace..I lived in PA. That was our heat source. My Daddy had gotten out of the army, met my Mom and I showed up. :)) He was from a family of 14, the oldest son, so they were not poor, but canned, had chickens, beef, smoke houses and lived off the land. I guess you might call them farmers. Yes!! I learned so much on how to survive with essential means. I guess I started with gettin' bathed in the tub......I'm sorry.....I love tellin' my was hard for my parents, but it was great livin'..... No problems.....I was so happy!

Join the conversation

2 of 41 comments
  • Merelyn sale
    on Aug 27, 2020

    I truly hope so to thanks

  • Jan french
    on Aug 27, 2020

    My mom first told me about cleaning shining copper with ketchup in the 70s and happy to say it has worked on numerous copper items that I have purchased at garage sale, antique stores and thrift stores! Glad it’s continuing to spruce up new ideas!

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