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!

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Mary Beth @ The How to Home
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

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3 of 4 questions
  • Linda Linda on Sep 13, 2019

    what can i use to clean brass?

  • Charlotte ettorre Charlotte ettorre on Aug 27, 2020

    will this work on pots in the kitchen?

  • Joanie 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!


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2 of 49 comments
  • Dale Dale on Aug 15, 2021

    Bar Keeper's Friend does it completely & with much less mess.

  • P P on Aug 15, 2021

    I use my French grandmother's method - salt & lemon juice - I use the lemon rind with salt on it to rub the mixture around on brass or copper - Revere-ware pots, tea kettle, candlesticks, a brass lamp - etc. Doesn't turn my fingers black or green like brass polish - instead it softens & exfoliates skin of my hands! Just be sure to get ALL the salt off - I use dish detergent & water to wash item & dry it well.