How to clean a VERY dirty copper pan

How to Clean a Copper Pan

I’ve had my copper pan from Sainsburys for years now – I love it, it’s so beautiful. And a bargain. But I suppose it wasn’t a very sensible thing for someone like me to buy.  A copper pan is definitely not low maintenance: it can’t go in the dishwasher, and it gets “dirty” even if you don’t use it! (By that I mean it tarnishes and loses it’s beauty just by being in air.) I remember that after using my new pan on the hob, it went such a weird pale yellowy colour I actually thought that the copper finish was just some cheap coating which had burned off…cursed Sainsburys! I didn’t realise that’s just what heat does to it, and after cleaning it would look normal again.

Anyway, this is how I clean my copper pan. This method is “the big guns”, a double whammy for shifting some serious gunk. The below picture is my pan before. You probably don’t want to let yours get as bad as this, because it will take a lot more effort to clean. (By the way, let me assure you this is actually clean in a hygienic sense ie: washed after every use with washing-up liquid. The inside food surface is still like new.)

Copper Pan Before

And here’s what I use to clean it:

  • A lemon and some table salt
  • Brasso

What You Will Need

Step 1:

Cut your lemon in half and sprinkle the cut surface with salt. Rub the lemon on your copper item – the item should start to turn a matte, salmony-pink. If not much is happening, add more salt. Every now and then you’ll need to cut a thin slice off your lemon’s cut surface to “refresh” it.

Lemon and Salt

Here you can see the effect that my lemon+salt is starting to have on my seriously burn-mottled pan:

Applying Lemon and Salt

Here’s a closeup before-and-after of this step, after I’d got all the effect possible from the lemon:

Before (Closeup)

Before cleaning


After Lemon Closeup

After using lemon + salt

As you can see, the lemon and salt removes the general discolouration, but not the really stubborn heavy duty bits that come with a cooking pan which gets daily use.

So if you were asking yourself: Why not just use Brasso? Or just lemon and salt? Well, I find the lemon/salt and the Brasso do very different jobs. The lemon+salt removes the general discolouration quickly, cheaply, and using natural ingredients, which is great. But I’ve found that the colour it gives it very matte and salmon-pinky. It doesn’t give that beautiful gleaming coppery shine – that’s what the Brasso is for. And, in the case of a pan with serious ground-in burn marks or grode like mine, the lemon and salt will not get that off – that’s what the Brasso’s for!

So, on to:

Step 2.

Break out the Brasso. If you’re cleaning a tarnished decorative item, this will just take a few swipes, and a quick polish with a soft cloth to finish. If you’ve left it a year since you last shined your pan’s copper surface, and your husband has cooked eggs in it every single morning, and when the eggs are cracked on the edge of the pan they sometimes run down the copper side and then get burnt on…well, this is going to take a little longer, and quite a sprinkling of elbow grease :) But the good news is, you can do it while watching tv.

And the other good news is, after all your effort you’re left with this satisfying before and after (or in the pic below, After and Before):

Before and After

Remember to give your pan a good soapy wash before cooking with it again (even if you were careful not to get Brasso on the food surface). A couple more before and afters…

Before Closeup

Before cleaning

After Closeup

After lemon+salt, and brasso

Having just been cleaned the pan is quite a light, pink toned colour but it quickly settles into the classic deeper, more orange toned copper.


Before cleaning

After Cleaning

The finished result – comes up lovely!

As you can see, there are are some really cooked-in marks on the base of my pan. They would’ve come off if I’d spent more time on it, but life’s too short to spend that kind of time on achieving perfection with the bottom of a pan which is going to get flamed again the next day!

Here’s an image to demonstrate the difference between uncleaned / cleaned with just lemon+salt / cleaned with lemon, salt and Brasso:

How to clean a very dirty copper pan

Until next time x



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