How to Repair Decorative Copper

What You'll Need
Magnifying glass
Soap and Water
Lemon or Vinegar
Copper Lacquer
Soft toothbrush
Distilled Water

The shine of decorative copper can add some beauty to your home. This may come in the form of an intricately carved copper chime hanging over your patio, picture frames or the hammered copper backsplash you installed to match your coated pots hanging overhead. Decorative copper that has lost its luster can simply be dusted and polished. Most decorative copper items even come with a lacquer finish and these do not need polishing. The tarnished ones or those that are attacked by “bronze disease” or the bluish green spots are a tell-tale sign that they need some attention. Read on to learn about the simple repair process.

Step 1 - Clean and Examine the Decorative Copper Piece

With a clean rag, wipe off all the dust from the decorative copper piece. Rotate it around your hand and make a thorough check for any signs of black spots or bluish green spots. If necessary, use a magnifying glass and probe on all areas so no spots would be missed.

Step 2 - Wash the Decorative Item

Wash the copper item with warm water and soap. For the decorative copper sheets, use rags soaked in soapy water and wipe all over. Rinse well with water and wipe dry.

Step 3 - Remove the Tarnish

Lay out old newspapers on the table where you intend to work on your tarnished copper piece. Make a paste out of equal parts of salt and lemon or vinegar. Rub this paste on the tarnish and the rest of the decorative copper item until the tarnish is removed and the shine is restored. Rinse with soap and water, and dry with clean rags. If there is no bronze disease present, jump over to Step 5; otherwise, proceed to the next step.

Step 4 - Remove the Corrosion

Warm some vinegar and dip the soft toothbrush into it. Scrub off all the bluish-green powdery substance on the decorative copper piece. Wash with soap and warm water, and check again using a magnifying glass. Repeat this step until all the spots are removed.

For more stubborn spots, soak the copper item in distilled water until corrosion loosens up and can be brushed away. This can take from a few hours to several days, depending on the severity of the corrosion. Replace the distilled water every 3 days. After all spots are removed, wash with soap and warm water and rinse well. Dry with clean rags.

Step 5 - Spray with Copper Lacquer

Bring your decorative copper piece outside and place some old newspapers over your work area. Check to make sure that the item is not moist, especially in its crevices. Spray a thin and even coating of lacquer on the item to protect it from further damage. Follow the instructions on the copper lacquer spray bottle as to the number of coats required, allowing to completely dry in between coats.

Any kind of moisture, even the damp air, can cause the copper to oxidize and this is what damages your decorative pieces. If left to itself, the corrosion can weaken the copper the way rust does to iron. After taking the steps to repairing your decorative copper items, keep these cleaned frequently to prevent future tarnishing or to spot the corrosion at its earliest stage.