5 Things that Cause Copper to Tarnish

Copper pots and pans.

Copper can tarnish over time, which can leave behind a nice patina, but it does not add value to everything. Copper tarnish on antique hardware looks great, proves age, and adds character, but copper tarnish on a pot is unsightly and makes it look very unclean. Knowing what causes copper to tarnish is the first step to stopping the process from happening.

1. Oxygen

    The air around us causes copper to tarnish, and it can happen overnight. The Statue of Liberty is made out of copper and is green from years of exposure. They did not know then what we know now, but we can now restore copper to its original brilliance and then seal it so it will not tarnish again. The ions in the copper react to the ions in oxygen, which causes a chemical reaction that leads to the formation of tarnish.

    2. Moisture

      When it comes to copper pots and pans, they will get wet. Copper hardware on the exterior of the home will also tarnish, as will any exterior light fixture made out of copper. The same ions found in oxygen are somewhat enhanced by the moisture. Instead of rusting, the copper will tarnish, eventually turn green, and then crumble. Do not let the copper dry on its own when it is wet because this will increase the potential of tarnish forming. Instead of allowing the copper to dry on its own, use a towel to wipe off the water and then buff the copper. This will remove the water as well as remove any residue that may remain on the surface.

      3. Human Touch

        Your skin has natural oils. After you are done talking on the cell phone, look at the screen, and you will see remnants of this oil. It is this that causes fingerprints on glass. This oil will also cause copper to tarnish. You obviously cannot stop yourself from touching copper pots and doorknobs if you are going to use them, but you can clean them more often. Failure to clean the oil off of the copper will, over a short period, tarnish the copper. To prevent the tarnish from showing up, clean the copper regularly with a good copper cleaner.

        4. Dust

          Every day dust and dirt contains particles of skin, hair, and debris from both humans and pets. This debris contains a myriad of chemicals that can cause breathing problems. Dust will also cause tarnish to form on copper if it is left unchecked. The easy solution is to dust the copper regularly.

          5. Chemicals

            You need to be very careful when using chemicals on and around copper. There are special chemicals made specifically for copper, and these are the products you should use to clean it. Other chemicals may contain ingredients that create undue moisture that will cause the copper to tarnish. You can also use natural cleaners like vinegar and lemon juice to remove copper tarnish.