Caring for vintage copper

I’ve learned a lot about copper and tin in the course of using and cleaning my vintage pots and pans and I hope my experiences can help you use and care for yours. (If you’re looking for advice on buying vintage French copper, please check out my Buyer’s Guide.)

Cleaning & maintenance

Vintage French copper pots and pans will last for centuries with some basic care. Here are some highlighted posts,

  • I tested homemade copper cleaners — salt, lemon, and ketchup.
  • I don’t like scrubbing my tin-lined pans hard, so when they get carbonized food residue on the inside, I have a technique to soften the residue so it can be scrubbed away more gently.
  • I tackled polymerized oil — residue on the exterior copper that heated up into a hard plastic-like substance and is pretty impossible to remove with just soap and water.

All “Cleaning & maintenance” posts

Here are all the posts I’ve organized into this category.

Stuff I use

These are the products I’ve chosen for my copper. (These are not paid endorsements and any product links in these posts are just normal links like you’d get from a friend.)

  • I use Bistro copper cleaner to remove tarnish from the exterior of my pans.
  • When I actually want to polish copper to protect it from tarnish, I use Simichrome.
  • To protect the cast iron handles from rust, I use Renaissance wax.


Owning and using tinned copper means you might have to retin a piece now and then. Here are a few highlighted posts.

  • I wrote To retin or not to retin? for the process of buying a piece online, but I think it might also be helpful for evaluating tin in general.
  • Picking a good tinner is about just that — questions you should ask when deciding whether to send your copper to a particular shop. (It’s an excerpt from Bad tin below.)
  • Bad tin is a cautionary tale of my experience working with a less-than-professional retinner.
  • A tale of character loved and lost is another cautionary tale about an over-exuberant polishing job.

All “Retinning” posts

Here are all the posts I’ve organized into this category.