Cleaning Copper with Ketchup (Video)

Jewelry and Coffee with Rena
Video Episode 20

by Rena Klingenberg.

See my experiment with ketchup on copper – will it remove the oxidation from rustic earwires and a metal tag?

Transcript of This Video:

Today’s episode should almost be called “Jewelry and Ketchup with Rena” because I’m going to show you an example of what happened when I cleaned some copper jewelry with ketchup.

Ketchup is something you can use to remove dirt and oxidation from copper, and the reason why it works is because it has both vinegar and salt in it.

Cleaning Copper with Ketchup Tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

Now, you can do a straight up vinegar and salt mix that will actually work faster than ketchup, but to me the benefits of using ketchup are that it smells a lot better than vinegar – and you don’t have to mix anything. It’s already all mixed together.

All you have to do is squirt some out of your ketchup bottle, put it in a little bowl, put your jewelry or whatever items in the ketchup, let them sit for an hour or two – and come back to find them clean!

So come along, and I’ll show you what happened when I did this experiment:

oxidized rustic copper earwires

This is a pair of very rustic, oxidized copper earwires.

I’m going to use ketchup on one of them and leave the other without ketchup so you can see the difference.

oxidized copper tag

This oxidized copper tag came with some stone beads I ordered.

I’m going to use half of this to put ketchup on, and leave the other half without ketchup so we can see how it changes.

cleaning copper jewelry in ketchup

I’m putting the ketchup in this small ceramic bowl that was made by a local artist.

I got the ketchup out of my refrigerator and squirted about 1/4 cup of it into this bowl.

Then I placed the copper tag and one of the copper earwires partway into the ketchup.

So they have part sticking out and part buried in ketchup.

Then I left it alone for about an hour while I worked on some other things.

When I came back, I pulled them out of the ketchup and washed them off under running water in the kitchen sink.

You can tell which part of this earwire was buried in ketchup; it got nice and shiny clean:

copper earwires cleaned with ketchup

And the top of the earwire that was out of the ketchup still has all the oxidation it started out with.

Although I only used copper in this demonstration, you can also ketchup to clean and remove tarnish and oxidation from brass.

And here’s how our copper tag turned out:

oxidized-copper-tag-clean-1

I think you can tell that the end with the hole was the end that was dipped in the ketchup, and the other end still has all the oxidation it started out with.

But here are some copper and brass items that I would NOT put ketchup on:

  • Metals that you want to keep their oxidization or patina.
  • Jewelry with stones.
  • Jewelry with glued components.
  • Antique items.

So even though now on a lot of metal jewelry the trend is to have antique finishes, oxidation, and patinas – I think there’s still a lot of room to have shiny metals too.

For instance this chevron ring that I made recently out of brass:
Brass chevron ring by Rena Klingenberg

I was originally intending to do a really cool patina finish on it.

But then when it was finished, I really appreciated the shine that it had. And I thought it really went along with the look and style that I wanted for it.

So I left it shiny instead.

So this is one that I will be cleaning with ketchup probably sometime in the next few months when it starts to get dull and dark!

I want to thank you for coming in today, and I’d like to hear any of your adventures with cleaning jewelry by ketchup or any other means.

I’ll see you soon!

The Jewelry Rena’s Wearing
in This Video:

green-and-brass-jewelry

Carved Petroglyph Pendant by Stephen Lee.

Czech Glass and Brass Wire Earrings by Rena Klingenberg.

Brass Chevron Ring by Rena Klingenberg. See the tutorial: Adjustable Brass Chevron Ring.

Want to Learn the Basics of
Designing Your Own Wire Jewelry?

Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components Class In my Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components video class, you’ll learn how to get great ideas for wire jewelry designs – and then follow my easy system for turning those ideas into successful pieces of jewelry.

By the end of this online video class, you’ll be designing and making your own artistic earwires, clasps, connectors, and pendant bails.

You’ll also learn my tips for making wire jewelry more easily, with more professional looking results.

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this video, Rena. I’ve had many customers to who like their copper clean and shiny. They don’t seem to believe me when I tell them about ketchup (or lemon juice)- I guess because it’s so simple and easy.

  2. Never heard of this. How simple can it get? What happens if you put stones in the ketchup?

  3. HI Rena,
    Thanks again for a much informative video. I LOVE your newsletter.

    I do repair of jewelry and have a friend who has an antique shop. She is often asking me to do some repair. I recently did a replacement of rhine stones in a beautiful cuff of round and baguette stones. The stone repair worked well but the bracelet was very dull looking and not exciting. How to fix this?

    I took a small jewelry cleaning cloth and just buffed the whole bracelet. Not only did the metal com alive but the rhinestones were absolutely stunning in their sparkle. I had no idea that this small tip would work so well!

  4. Hi Rena,

    Thanks for this demo. Being a “mad scientist” type myself, I already knew about salt and vinegar to clean copper. I hand paint coins, and have used this to clean copper pennies and foreign coins made of copper. I especially liked using it for the amazing coins from Australia with a kangaroo on them. Makes them look brand new!

    Like you, I hate the smell of vinegar, so using ketchup sounds really appealing. Never thought to do that. Also, the vinegar and salt version is very fast and you can easily overdo it and ruin the coin (which I have obviously done).

    So, once again thanks for sharing what you know. I have already learned so much from you, and appreciate having you and your website as a great resource.

    Ann

  5. Thanks for your lovely comments!

    Nelson Gemstones, I haven’t experimented with dipping stones in ketchup. But I always recommend caution when doing any sort of cleaning or treatment on jewelry that has stones, since porous or fragile gems often can’t take treatments that work on metal. I would test it first on a stone you wouldn’t mind ruining just in case it doesn’t weather the treatment well! 🙂

    Ann, thank you! 🙂 And great tip about keeping a close eye on copper while it’s in vinegar and salt. I knew it worked faster than ketchup, but I didn’t realize it could be that fast.

  6. Thanks for the information, Rena! I never knew that I could use ketchup (or salt and vinegar) to clean copper–I have lots of copper that needs shining!

  7. Thank you for the great tip.

  8. Joanie S says:

    thanks for putting a written transcript of your videos. a lot of the time when I see your newsletter, I’m at work and can’t always catch the video!

  9. I have a dutch oven pan with a copper bottom. So I spread a light layer of ketchup all over it and left it for a couple hours. WOW! Effortless cleaning.

  10. Thank you for letting me know you’re finding the transcripts helpful, Joanie! 🙂

  11. That’s cool to know, Nelson Gemstones! Thanks for sharing that with us! 🙂

  12. Thanks for the video, Rena.

  13. WillieMae says:

    Morning Rena,
    That was my mother’s name, I enjoy having coffee with you. Amazing things we can do with food. A friend gave me bags of things that I could use to make jewelry from and some of them need to be cleaned so this is a good time to try out your method.
    Thank you. And keep up the great work.

  14. Hi Rena,
    Love using ketchup for cleaning copper. It’s inexpensive and works like a charm. I just spread the ketchup on the copper with a finger, rub it in , let it set for about 10 min. then wash with warm soapy water. I tell everyone who buys my copper pieces about using ketchup as a cleaner and I get some great responses.

  15. Hi Rena thank you for all this info.
    Went you clean use stones put warm water on the dish and baby shampoo,let
    staid for 30 minute rinse, put on top of paper towel,to drain.You have a brand new stones to play.

  16. MaElena says:

    Found an old copper bracelet made of soldered pennies, wanted new and shiny finish, was told about cleaning with lemon juice and salt. It worked but left a matte finish instead of a shiny one. Sill enjoyed it and glued some flatback crystals on each penny. thanks for your tip, I like it better.

  17. How cool! Ketchup can do it? I am going to try. Thanks Rena. Dita.

  18. Excellent site and content issues
    Grateful
    from iran

  19. Thanks Rena
    I am on my way try this out on an old antique serving platter. I am a great believer that we all need more brains than just one and I appreciate all feedback. There is no better way to learn!

  20. Luz Urena says:

    Great tip!! Thanks so much!!

  21. Stephanie Florie says:

    If it’s OK – I’d like to add a few thoughts to this. 1st though – it doesn’t take hours in ketchup to clean copper – a few minutes will do just fine! The longer it’s in the ketchup, the more the acid from the tomato eats into the metal. To stop the Acid, items should be rinsed in a very mild baking-soda and water solution, and then dried as thoroughly as possible.
    Copper-cleaned items that aren’t rinsed properly tend to tarnish a lot faster than items that were polished with more “traditional” items.

  22. Stephanie, Thanks so much for sharing those additional important tips! I appreciate that. 🙂

  23. Lorelei56 says:

    Great tip! Soy sauce also makes copper shine almost immediately. Not sure how harsh it is on the metal – I rinse it off right away.

  24. Great tip! Thank you!

  25. Peter Mitchell says:

    An interesting tip re ketchup, but vinegar and salt is much cheaper but needs to be watched.

    As a former lapidary, common stones that should never be cleaned with household agents or commercial cleaning solutions, because they are porous and their oxide finish will be stripped: lapis lazuli, malachite, chrysocolla, azurite, opal, are a few. Natural ‘stones:’ pearls and oral.

  26. If you use vinegar and salt on items with stones, is that safe for the stones? If not, what can you use?
    Rena, these tips and comments are priceless! Thanks for sharing.

  27. Hi Julia! I haven’t experimented much with vinegar & salt on stones. To find out how a procedure might affect jewelry components, I always recommend testing on a scrap or specimen that you wouldn’t mind messing up. And remember that different stones may have different results due to porosity and other factors. 🙂

  28. I laughed when I saw your post because I just tried this yesterday on a copper cuff! To keep it a little less messy, I just rubbed some catsup with my finger. It worked great.

  29. Kathi, great jewelry minds think alike! 🙂 I like your less messy method – thanks for sharing that tip.

  30. Thanks for the tip, Rena!
    I’ve never used ketchup to clean copper with. I will have to try it. I did find that a very quick way to clean silver is with aluminum, baking soda and boiling water. You put aluminum on the bottom of the bowl, add silver jewelry and then about two tablespoons of baking soda, add the hot water and then polish with a clean dry cloth. Rinse and you are done!

  31. Thanks, Monica! 🙂

  32. Really loved this tip, Rena. Thank you. Because I am so new to all of this but I like working with copper I have a question. Would I use this method to reduce the darkening of copper after liver of sulfurr treatment?

  33. Sue Shade says:

    Well who would have guessed! Thanks for the tip.

  34. omar meyer says:

    (Comment translated to English):

    Your tips are very suitable. I clean copper and brass performed with just the lemon juice. Squeeze an adequate amount of lemon juice in a ceramic bowl (do not use metal bowls) and then immerse the jewelry copper or brass for 15 minutes or half an hour or more depending on the oxide having and finally washed with water and a little dishwashing gel and now. Citric acid attacks fine copper oxide. The garments can be submerged with stones or other objects. Experiment and see the results.

    (Original comment in Spanish):

    Tus consejos están muy adecuados. Yo la limpieza del cobre y el latón la realizo con simple jugo de limón. Exprimo una cantidad adecuada de jugo de limón en un cuenco de cerámica (no usar cuencos metálicos) y luego sumerjo las joyas de cobre o latón por 15 minutos, o media hora o más dependiendo del oxido que tengan y al final lavo con agua y un poquito de gel de lavaplatos y ya. El ácido cítrico ataca muy bien el óxido de cobre. Las prendas pueden ser sumergidas con piedras u otros objetos. Experimenta y verás los resultados.

  35. a soak overnight in cola works too, but both the ketchup and cola contain sticky sugars. I have always used the vinegar and salt or the foil and baking soda methods. I also like the large Aussie pennies, but finding them now is like hens teeth. We don’t use them anymore! I have one! Our gold $1 and $2 coins are just as pretty and have many different designs now! If anyone wants a few give me a shout, I would be happy to trade for some Darice gold and silver wire! LOL!

  36. Karla Neilsen-Cassar says:

    Hi, I was told one way to clean copper up was with worcestershire sauce. Placed one coiled wire link bangle chain into a shallow dish, covered with worcestershire sauce, and in mere seconds it had transformed back into its shiny former self. I find coiled wire links come up very well, as the whole component is submerged. Wash carefully afterwards with detergent and water of course. The usual care should be taken with porous stones or shell components. Another thing I’ve sometimes used is a very soft toothbrush with toothpaste, to gently bring all kinds of jewellery settings back to life. Rinse and gently dry. Keyword: gently.

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