Copper is one of the most long-lasting materials for use in homes. The metal can endure for years, making it an especially good choice for surfaces that get a lot of use such as sinks, roofs, and exterior decor. However, copper undergoes a naturally occurring change that can tarnish its look. Learning how to keep your copper surfaces looking new will help you to maintain your fixtures and adornments throughout the years.

Over time, copper turns green and forms a tarnish called patina. While there are ways to make patina into art or to create your own patina, there are also ways to remove patina to retain your copper’s original finish. But before you start cleaning, you’ll need to find out if the copper has any special finishes that affect your cleaning methods.

Determine if the copper surface is lacquered. If it has a shiny, glossy surface, then it’s probably been lacquered and should be cleaned carefully using warm soapy water and a gentle cloth. If the copper is not lacquered, you can use natural materials such as lemon and vinegar to remove the patina.

One simple way to remove patina is to use fresh lemons. Rinse the copper material with water and sprinkle salt over it evenly. Then cut them lemons in half and rub them over the copper surface to remove the patina. Continue using lemons until the patina is completely removed.

Even if the copper is not lacquered, it should still be cleaned gently. Using rough cloths or scrubbing sponges can scratch the surface. Other natural cleaning material mixtures are also good for cleaning and maintaining copper. Vinegar and salt make an effective cleanser, as do lemon juice and baking soda, and ketchup. To use these other cleansers, place the copper item in a pot, add the cleaning mixture, and use a toothbrush to clean it gently.

For copper jewelry, combine 1/2 cup of lemon juice and one tablespoon of baking soda to form a paste. Apply the paste with a toothbrush and clean the jewelry, then rinse it well. To clean a copper pot, place it in a larger pot with a mixture of one cup of white vinegar and one tablespoon of salt and boil until the copper appears clean. Copper sinks, however, should be cleaned with only soap and water. Even natural cleansers can damage the surface.