Well, we've exhausted silver for now, so let's turn to copper, that rich orange metal that graces so many kitchens and great rooms. Some people hate it because it turns that dull, dusty brown color when left exposed. But there are some mighty easy methods for keeping it shiny and gorgeous.
1. FIRST CHECK FOR LACQUER - In general, those items meant to come into contact with food will not be lacquered, but it's well worth the time and trouble to check for lacquer before you try cleaning copper because, while lacquer keeps the copper from tarnishing, it also prevents you from achieving a high shine on the copper. So, if you like that middle-of-the-road look, you can just leave your copper alone. For me, the bright shine is the beauty of copper.
The best way to determine whether your copper is lacquered is to look at it. If it never tarnishes, it's lacquered. Also, if you look closely, a lacquered piece will have black spots here and there, everywhere the lacquer has been compromised or has worn off.
2. REMOVING THE LACQUER- Lacquer is easy to remove, and you can always re-lacquer the piece if you change your mind. Take if off with nail polish remover or the active ingredient in nail polish remover, acetone. Acetone is way cheaper than nail polish remover, and you can buy it at any hardware store. Just saturate a cloth with it, remove the lacquer by rubbing, wash the copper piece in hot soapy water and dry thoroughly.
3. CLEANING THE COPPER- There are three great and easy ways to clean copper, and you don't even have to leave the kitchen to do it!
A. Lemon juice and salt- Cut a lemon in half. Insert a fork into the skin side. Dip the cut side into a dish of salt and just use the fork as a handle to wipe the lemon/salt mixture onto the surface of the copper. You won't even have to rub it. When your copper is sparkly and bright, rinse it and dry thoroughly. I demonstrated this to my brother's housekeeper on some of his flea market finds and now she thinks I'm a magician!
B. Worcestershire Sauce- Apply this straight from the bottle and rub it on with a cloth or a soft brush. Rinse and dry. And you can use the rest of the sauce in the bottle on steak!
C. Onions- Boil a few onions in water. Use the water to clean the copper. It works on brass too. Use the onions to make a nice soup. Waste not want not!
4. NOW WHAT?- If the copper items you've just cleaned will not be used with food, you can slow the tarnishing process down by giving the object a protective seal. When the copper is perfectly dry, spray it with hairspray, making sure to completely coat it. Then let the piece air dry before storing it.
5. A WORD ABOUT COPPER AND FOOD- Copper pots meant for use with food are commonly lined with tin (some aren't, but I'll get to them in a minute). The tin is there to prevent a problem called verdigris, which literally translated from the French means "green gray". This is a poisonous substance, so you have to be sure that the tin lining in your pots has no cracks or breaks. If the tin gets worn, you must have the pots re-lined by a professional. Now, some pots come unlined. They are okay to cook with, but only if you are using low acid foods - no tomato sauce or wine. These pots are usually used for things like melting sugar. If you see any green or gray inside the pot, do not use it for food until you have completely removed the verdigris!
Enjoy your beautiful copper!