How To Clean A Copper Sink (Step-by-Step Guide)

How To Clean A Copper Sink

When I first saw a copper sink, my mind was blown. It looked so elegant, and yet so delightfully steampunk. I loved its style, but at the same time, I was a little perplexed. I wondered how the person who owned it was able to keep it looking coppery, instead of green and mossy like the Statue of Liberty. As it turns out, there are cleaning methods you can use for that purpose.

To clean a copper sink, begin by filling a bucket with warm, soapy water. Wipe down the sink using a sponge. For heavier stains, use apple cider vinegar or baking soda paste to erode stains. Once finished, use wax or copper cleaner to polish the sink. Avoid any abrasive products such as bleach or CLR.

A copper sink is a rare sight these days, and part of the reason for that is the high demand it has on the owners in terms of cleaning. Cleaning a copper sink the wrong way can destroy it, even if you only make that mistake once. Here’s what you need to know if you’re going to have one of these in your home.

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What Should You Avoid Using When Cleaning A Copper Sink?

Before we even begin talking about the cleaning process, let’s discuss what you should not do with a copper sink. Copper is a remarkably delicate material for a sink, primarily because it’s so easy to make tarnish. Here’s a quick list of what you should never use on copper:

  • Bleach. Do you want to ruin a sink? Because this is how you ruin a copper sink. It’s only really safe to use on raw copper. If you don’t know if your copper is “raw,” then don’t use it.
  • CLR. Cleaning agents like CLR and copper sinks don’t mix. This cleaner is far too caustic for copper.
  • Abrasive Sponges. Copper can easily be scrubbed clean off the sink’s surface. All those little cuts make it far easier for copper to tarnish.
  • Steel Wool. Steel wool is extremely abrasive, which can destroy a copper sink’s patina and also cause cut marks throughout the bowl.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Though this is a great cleanser, it’s shockingly abrasive and can wreck a carefully crafted patina.

Are Copper Sinks Supposed To Change Color?

If treated well, then you should start to see your copper sink change hues. Copper is what’s called a “living material,” in the sense that it slowly will change its own color based on the environment around it. It could turn green, purple, or even a bright yellow. This is called a patina, and it’s totally normal. Don’t panic if you notice your sink changing.

Why Is My Copper Sink Turning Green?

Different elements will alter the appearance of your copper sink’s patina. When your sink is exposed to high levels of water, moisture, or humidity, your sink will start to turn green. This is why the Statue of Liberty is known for her bright green complexion. If you don’t like green, you can change the color.

This involves controlling the patina through gentle scrubbing and applying a sink protectant to it. Some even go so far as to add other substances to their sink so they can change the color to something else. However, many people find this to be a fairly complex process that’s not worth it.

Can Copper Sinks Rust?

While copper does have a reputation for being easy to ding, rusting is not something you should worry about. Most copper sinks are extremely durable and rust-resistant. So if you live in an area with salty air, you shouldn’t let that get in the way of letting you have the copper sink of your dreams.

How Do You Clean A Copper Sink?

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s talk about what you should do in order to keep your copper sink clean. To make things a little easier, we’re going to break it down by purpose.

Regular Cleaning

If you own a copper sink, you’re going to have to clean it at least twice a week. Here’s how to do this:

  • Step 1: Use a sprayer and your sink’s water faucet to wet the sink, then grab a sponge. Apply a little bit of dish soap to your sponge, and run it under the water. Squeeze so you get a little foam out of the sponge. Make sure you’ve chosen a gentle, non-abrasive sponge for this.
  • Step 2: Take the sponge and use it to wipe down all sides of the sink. If you have a small splotch of something left on the sink, scrub it away in small circles.
  • Step 3: Use your spray bottle to rinse off the soapy water from the sink. A couple of spritzes should be enough. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ve gotten rid of all the soap, run a finger on your sink to feel it out. Soap will (obviously) feel slippery.
  • Step 4: Grab a dry towel and use it to dry off your sink. Because water can be damaging to the copper sink’s patina, you will need to towel dry the sink. Don’t skip this step.

Removing Pesky Stains

Sometimes, we might end up leaving stuff on the sink that can be a little rough to remove with such a gentle cleaning method—like toothpaste, for example. You also might have some tarnishing. This method below can help cut down on that and even remove gunk completely!

  • Step 1: Take baking soda, place it in a bowl, and mix it with water. You want this to have a pasty consistency that’s just a smidgen thicker than glue.
  • Step 2: Apply the baking soda paste to the spots that need serious cleaning. Let the baking soda paste sit for three to five minutes if you’re really concerned about the stickiness.
  • Step 3: Use a gentle sponge to buff away the stain. Scrubbing in light circles will do the trick in most cases.
  • Step 4: Rinse with water from a spray bottle, and towel dry. This will basically always be the final step.

Thorough Maintenance

Along with regular cleaning and spot removal, you’ll also need to maintain your sink a little more thoroughly. Here’s how you need to do this:

  • Step 1: Go to your local hardware store and find copper cleaner. This will be in the plumbing aisle or the cleaning solvent aisle.
  • Step 2: While you’re at the store, pick up a copper protectant too. This will usually be right next to the solvents. If you can’t find it, ask a sales rep where you can find it.
  • Step 3: Go home and use the copper cleaner on your sink. Copper cleaner solvents can have differing instructions, so the best way to use it is to follow the instructions you find on the back of your solvent.
  • Step 4: Next finish with a copper protectant layer. The protectant is a must in order to maintain the high shine that makes a copper sink so beautiful.
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Related Questions

Do copper sinks dent easily?

This all depends on the thickness of the sink. Pounded copper sinks that are made of low-gauge copper are very thin and therefore more prone to being dented. If you are concerned about denting, it’s best to invest in a thicker gauge copper sink. Thicker sinks will be heavier and less likely to dent on impact.

Can you stop copper sinks from turning different colors?

If you love the current color of your copper sink’s patina, you can always choose to “freeze” it. Freezing the patina means that you will apply a coat of patina-freezing clear lacquer to the sink. Without any new exposure to the elements, the patina will remain its current color for as long as you own the sink. However, this is a totally permanent decision. Don’t freeze your patina unless you’re sure you want to do it.

How does a sink’s patina change over time?

Usually, a sink’s patina will turn dark brown at first. As the sink is exposed to other elements, it’ll pick up different hues. Water will turn it green, while acids like ketchup and vinegar will bring out brighter hues like yellow and orange. Most patinas will start to have colors blend as the elements they get exposed to start to mix up.

Can you use ketchup to clean a copper sink?

Surprisingly, ketchup can be used to clean a copper sink. To do so, add ketchup to the dirty parts of your copper sink and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, get a soft sponge and use it to rub the sink’s interior. Then grab paper towels and wipe away the ketchup. Rinse your sink thoroughly once the ketchup has been removed. Due to the messiness of the red stuff, we suggest this for spot cleaning only.

Is verdigris toxic?

Technically, the greenish-blue growth that you see on copper pennies and extremely poorly-kept copper sinks is toxic in high levels. However, you shouldn’t worry about this if you are a copper sink owner. After all, it’s not like you’re licking the sink.

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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