1. The Salsa Method
While ketchup is frequently recommended for copper cleaning due to its acidity, Salsa Valentina, the famous Mexican staple hot sause (and the favorite chips topping) is not mentioned that often, but we stumbled upon a an interesting article about a Chihuahua state Department of Culture: their staff discovered a surprising, cheeper, quicker way to clean the brass statues using this famous Valentina hot sauce. Their discovery was rather accidental, they say. However, if we take a look at the active ingredients that both ketchup and Valentina have, we find two that take all the credit for the copper and brass cleaning, that are definitely not surprising: acetic acid and salt.
You will need:
- Ketchup or Salsa Valentina
- Good, sturdy pair of rubber gloves
- Soft piece of cloth for cleaning
- Old kitchen towel that you don't mind staining
- A clean, non-abrasive and well-absorbant kitchen towel for drying
Place a small portion of the sause on the soft cloth. Important: don't use any linen, rugged cotton or regular kitchen towel, because copper is a soft metal and can get scratched easily. All materials that you place in contact with copper need to be non-abrasive. Place the copper piece that you are cleaning on the old kitchen towel to avoid scratches against the counter/table surface. Use a corner of that same kitchen cloth to hold the piece in its place - don't use your hand or the rubber gloves as they will leave new prints on copper that you need to clean in addition to whatever stain you are attacking.
Start wiping the copper serfice using the sauce and the soft cloth. Work on a portion by portion of the surface at a time. Press firmly and use circular movements. Be patient and fast. The gloves are there to protect your hands of ketchup smell or the hot salsa burning effect (learned this the hard way).
You will notice that the copper surface is becoming lighter quickly, achieving a salmon pink tone. Rince. Continue with another portion of the copper piece until you cleaned the whole surface.
Even if you see the stains only on one portion of the copper item, we recommend you clean the whole piece. Otherwise, the clean portion will be lighter and the rest of the item will stay darker.
Use soft sponge and mild soap for removing the remains of the sauce from the item. Rince thoroughly.
Dry immediatelly with a clean, absorbant kitchen towel until all the water drops are removed (otherwise, they will leave the stains and you'll have to do it all over again).
- Non-toxic - excellent option for cleaning the kitchen utensils and pots that are used for food preparation.
- Dirt cheap - you can use the small bags of leftover katchup from pizza delivery; a liter (2 pounds) of salsa Valentina costs like 30 pesos ($1.5 USD) and can cover loads of stained copper cleaning (plus you can use it on fruit, chips or popcorn - yummy).
- Readily available in most homes, no need for trips to the shop.
- Removes dark stains from copper pores - the acid and salt from the sauce manage to remove the dark remains from the uneven (non-smooth) copper surfaces, unlike Brasso that leaves the pores darker.
- Color - the tone of pink that we achieve this way is very light (for those of us who like the rich, dark coral tones of copper, this may not be ideal). However, that is a temporary issue - after a a while, it will reach that nice copper patina.
- Shades - if you leave the sauce on copper for a while without rincing it meticulously and quickly, it will leave the surface stained in different shades of pink (not nice). In addition to this, if the copper piece is not in frequent use, after some time it will start showing darker and lighter shades, as a consequence of using thicker/thinner spreads of sauce on the surface. One way to avoid this is to wash the copper piece with mild soap and soft sponge several times, and rince thoroughly.
- No shine - the copper item cleaned this way may not have the characteristic, copper glow for a while, depending on how long the cleaning process was (shorter cleaning of light stains may leave the item shiny, but longer, more detailed process will produce a dull surface).
Advice: combine this method with the #3 for best results.
2. The Tequila Method
The two necessary ingredients for copper cleaning, salt and acid, are available in many shapes and forms, and some of the best available in nature are the same that accompany the favorite Mexican inebriant: lemon and salt.
Knowing that the copper surface can easily be scratched, it is wise to use the finest, smallest salt grains you can find, and even so, try to disolve them in the lemon juice first.
You will need:
- Lemon juice (the amount will vary depending on the surface you need to cover). Remove all seeds and pieces of peel.
- Finest salt grains you can find (or produce using a grinder)
- Rubber gloves
- Soft cloth that will be in contact with copper
- Kitchen towel to place under the copper piece to avoid scrathing with the surface you're working on
- Soft, clean cloth for drying
Let the salt melt in the lemon juice first.
The rest of the steps are the same as in the Salsa method.