A few years back, my stepmom Annie was visiting and her heavy copper cuff bracelet was quite tarnished. Instead of asking me to use my professional jeweler toys (a tumbler, rotary tools, stacks of polishing cloths or crockpot full of hot citric acid pickle) she just opened up the fridge and pulled out the ketchup bottle. Within a few minutes, she had restored its orange copper shine.
Copper is a very reactive metal and tends to tarnish quickly especially when exposed to moisture (like when you leave your jewelry in the bathroom or live near the ocean).
Step 1) Cover your jewelry in ketchup. It doesn’t require a lot - a thin layer will do the trick. You can leave your jewelry marinating in this ketchup for a few minutes if you like, although I haven’t found it necessary with lightly tarnished copper.
Step 2) Rub the ketchup over your jewelry. This is the fun part!
Step 3) Rinse your jewelry thoroughly. Lets face it, ketchup scent is not very fashionable…
Step 4) Dry your jewelry with a rag. This is really important to prevent water marks from forming.
Two of ketchup’s ingredients - salt, (sodium chloride) and vinegar (acetic acid) combine to produce hydrogen chloride (hydrochloric acid!) and sodium acetate. These chemicals are extremely efficient at removing the oxidation from the surface of the copper.
If you prefer to save your ketchup for your french fries, consider other condiments that contain salt and vinegar. Who ever uses that whole bottle of Worcestershire sauce?
You can even make your own special sauce. Combine vinegar, salt, & flour in equal parts to create a paste that is easy to apply.
Tarnish is inevitable, but there are some strategies for preventing copper tarnish from occurring rapidly.
Do you have a home recipe for cleaning copper jewelry? Please share it in the comments below.