How To Clean A Copper Lamp

How to clean a copper lamp

The short answer is that cleaning a copper lamp depends on the type of coating or corrosion affecting the copper surface.

I’ll break down the cleaning steps based on the type as you’ll see below.

How do you remove oxidation from copper?

how do you remove oxidation from copper

When copper is exposed to air, water, and sunlight, it oxidizes, leaving a black or light green patina across the surface. It can be discouraging to see your brilliant and burnished copper objects turn dull and change color.

The good news is that you likely already have everything you need to do it on hand.

Lemon and Salt

One of the most popular methods for removing oxidation from copper uses lemon and salt.

  1. Take a lemon and cut it in half. Then dip the flesh of the lemon into a pile of table salt and apply it directly to the copper surface.
  2. Rub the lemon in small circles across the copper to scrub off the oxidation stains, dipping it back into the salt pile as needed. This method applies the acid from the lemon with the grittiness of the salt to buff away the stains on your copper objects.

You can also make a paste from the lemon juice, salt, and cream of tartar for a less hands-on approach. Apply the paste to the copper surface and let it sit for 30-60 minutes, occasionally scrubbing it with the leftover lemon or a soft cloth.

Once the time is up you can rinse off the paste and dry the copper.

Baking Soda

Spots with particularly dark or difficult-to-remove stains might benefit from a little baking soda. Try sprinkling the baking soda directly on the bad areas and buff them using warm water and a damp cloth or clean sponge.

You’ll want to be careful with this method as too much pressure on the baking soda granules can scratch your copper.

No matter which option you choose, it’s important to remember that regular maintenance is the key to keeping copper glowing.

How do you clean corrosion off of copper?

how do you clean corrosion off of copper

To clean corrosion off of copper look no further than the ingredients inside your kitchen cupboard.

Salt, Vinegar, and Flour Paste

Another paste option you can try:

  1. Combine equal parts vinegar, flour, and salt.
  2. Apply the paste over the affected area and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. To remove the paste rinse it off with warm water and dry it immediately.

This combo is perfect for objects with severe corrosion or oxidation stains.


The natural acidity from the vinegar and tomatoes in ketchup is excellent for cleaning the stains from oxidation and corrosion off of copper.

Simply rub ketchup over the copper’s surface and let it sit for 20-30 minutes. Rinse with warm water to remove the ketchup and dry immediately with a soft cloth to prevent additional oxidation.

Will SOS or scouring pads scratch copper?

will sos or scouring pads scratch copper

SOS pads and scouring pads are very abrasive and can easily scratch a copper finish. The best thing to do instead is to use cloth or soft towels for cleaning, buffing, and polishing your copper.

What can you use to prevent copper from becoming tarnished?

what can you use to prevent copper from becoming tarnished

It’s not really possible to completely keep a copper lamp from tarnishing. However, you can apply a seal to protect it from air, sunlight, and oils from your hands.

A spray can of acrylic lacquer works well for this. After cleaning and polishing your copper lamp to a glorious, warm shine, follow the instructions on the can of lacquer to apply an even coat over the surface. Most spray-on lacquers take up to two hours to dry completely.

If you don’t have lacquer on hand, you can also wipe a coat of baby oil over the copper surface as soon as you’ve cleaned it. This approach it will seal the copper for a time and slow down the tarnishing process.

How do you clean light fixtures and candle holders with copper finishes?

how do you clean light fixtures and candle holders with copper finishes

Light fixtures and candle holders with copper finishes often have an existing lacquer coating to keep them from tarnishing or oxidizing. You can tell if this is the case based on whether or not your light fixture or candleholder is perpetually shiny or if it loses its luster over time.

If your light fixture has a copper finish on it, you won’t need to use the combinations discussed above to clean it:

  1. Dip a soft cloth into a bucket of warm water and mild dish soap and wipe it over the item to remove dirt and accumulated dust.
  2. Once it’s clean, dry it immediately with a clean cloth to prevent water spots or rust.

On the other hand, if your copper finished candle holders or light fixtures are tarnishing, the lacquer finish on the top has been damaged or worn away. If this is the case, it’ll be necessary to strip the lacquer from the copper entirely using acetone nail polish remover or commercial lacquer thinner from the hardware store.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »