Thrifty Vintage Copper and How to Clean It!

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My thrifty vintage copper collection and how to clean it

By now most of you know I love to decorate as thrifty and budget friendly as possible. I love to “get the look for less”. One element I love incorporating into my home decor is copper. I think many assume you have to spend a lot of money on copper, so today I want to share with you my thrifty vintage copper collection and how to clean it!  

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Why I love decorating with vintage copper

White cottage kitchen filled with fresh lilacs

Copper is timeless and gives off such an old world feel. As much as I would love to cook with copper, I can only afford copper to display. Most of my pieces were very affordable, primarily  because they are very thin and some are even damaged.

I love the wear and tear that old copper pieces have, and thinking about the stories these pieces must hold! Copper just so much character and I love the fact that it ages beautifully into a lovely patina. 

Why I love decorating with vintage copper!

I am not a copper expert at all and not claiming to be. From what I have researched though, copper became popular in terms of cookware during the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s. Those original pieces are very expensive and understandably so. They are very thick and heavy, and usually they have a sturdy brass or cast iron handle.

None of my antique copper pieces are of that quality. The majority of my pieces are probably from the mid 1900’s when copper became popular again for cookware. One way to tell that the difference between the newer and older copper is to check for a rolled edge, which is usually a sign that the copper is thin and probably not quite as old.

Collecting vintage copper

Where to find affordable copper

My copper collection was mostly found in antique and thrift stores. I love digging through the pots and pans in the kitchen sections and finding these treasures.

Fall Kitchen Decor

In order to tell if the piece you find is real copper, you should first consider that copper will tarnish over time. It won’t be super shiny orange and pink in color. Some will even have some green patina which is a great sign of real copper. Another tip is to carry a magnet with you, if the magnet sticks to the piece you are looking for, it is not real copper. 

The rest of my copper has come from antique stores which is where you will most likely be able to find most of your pieces. You will usually pay more, but not always. For example, I only paid $10 recently for the beautiful copper pan that hangs against my stone accent wall. It has a stamp that says “made in Germany” which I absolutely love!

Fall decor

Another thrifty antique store copper find is this double boiler with brass handles. It is such a unique piece and the lining is in almost perfect condition. The best part? I only paid $20 for it! It is definitely a newer piece because it is thinner, but nonetheless another favorite of mine. 

Anitque shopping for copper!

This past year I went antiquing with my mom and we found a super cool set of copper pitchers and I was able to get all five for $40! They are so pretty scattered throughout my kitchen.

The heaviest piece I own is this copper tea kettle that was my grandfathers. He gave it to me a long time ago when he first moved up closer to our family. I also have another copper kettle from his home and both are very special to me. 

Copper tea kettle - decorating with vintage copper

How to clean vintage copper pieces

So once you obtain your collection of thrifty antique copper, how do you clean it? I have tried several different techniques that have all worked. 

One method I have tried using is lemon juice and salt. All you do is cut a lemon in half and sprinkle salt on it and rub the piece with the surface of the lemon. It cleans right up. This process is super easy and smells fresh too!

Decorating with vintage copper


Another method I have used is ketchup, I am assuming the acidity is what works, but I ended up using a lot of ketchup so I probably won’t try this again. I simply put ketchup on the copper piece and wiped it down with a paper towel. 

My favorite way is using Bar Keeper’s Friend. It is not as natural, but it’s probably the fastest and most effective way to get your copper clean and shiny. 

A new vintage runner in our galley kitchen!

Any of those methods will work when cleaning your copper, but I personally like it when the pieces have more patina and are more tarnished. It just adds another element of character for me that I love. 

Well I hope you have enjoyed learning how to find thrifty vintage copper and how to clean it! What copper pieces do you have in your home or what pieces are you hoping to find in the near future? Let me know in the comments below!

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My thrifty vintage copper collection and how to clean it

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9 Comments

  1. I love this post Andrea! I’ve always wondered about your copper because I know you must find it cheap 😉 or at least not nearly as expensive as I see at antique stores. I have found a few copper pieces and I’m definitely looking to collect more! I have found a colander and a mini sauce pan, and I love the warmth and old world feel they add to my kitchen! Thanks for sharing your copper tips!

  2. Andrea!! I was reading this post and the whole time I was like, yup, yup, me too, yup!! Haha Tried the natural ways to clean my copper then…bar keepers friend! Now it’s the only way I clean it haha I love all your copper!! Beautiful!

  3. does the Bar Keepers Friend remove the green tarnish? I have a set of copper canisters (I know they are copper because I did your magnet trick!) but they are heavily tarnished with green and dark spots. Will the BKF clean that up? I rent a space in an antique mall and would like to sell them, but I’m not sure they are sellable in their current condition. Thankyou..

  4. Hi! I found a few small vintage copper pieces while out with my fiance for a date day today. 😁 We were in a thrift store and also found a cool white wooden shelf piece with three levels and a rope at the top. The copper pieces are right there with other things on that. 😁 I think my heart beats a little shabby chic. Lol!!!!

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