Last week, while video chatting with my cousin, I noticed a beautiful, shiny copper jug on her table.

Hey, is that a copper water jug behind you?”
 “Ohh isn’t it beautiful, di?”

It sure is! …Now question is, when did you last shine it?”
“Di, why are you suddenly talking like mom!”

Go ahead, answer me… I have a reason…”
“Hmmm… someone gifted it to me nine months back. I cleaned it a couple of times with dish soap… never needed to shine it though. It’s been like that from day one. Why do you ask?”

The reason was  that I had come across that exact same jug before! Loved both the hammered flowing antique design and utility of it. I had bought it earlier… And, had returned it three weeks later!

The reason? It was always shiny.

If you have any such magical pot, too, then keep reading, this post might be of use to you.

Many people in India like to use pure copper water jugs for health reasons. The metal is also commonly used for making pooja-archana items. In many of Swamiji’s Sadhnas, copper pots are recommended as well.

In the West, for baking (whipping egg whites), triple-ply or baking cookware (for good conductivity) and metal-lined vessels like Moscow Mule mugs are used. In metal-lined vessels (called kalai in India), the separate inner coating is clearly visible and is done to prevent acids in food/drink from reacting with copper .

With some of the food grade copper vessels that I bought in the recent past in India and abroad, I noticed that they remained ever shiny… never turning brown or developing patina.

This was different than what I had observed as a child and what was taught in the high school chemistry class. Pure copper reacts with the air, moisture and acids to develop variations of copper compounds: Oxides/Sulphides/Sulphites/Carbonates, etc., which will lead to change in exposed surface colour.

A bit of research revealed that these days, sometimes even food grade items are coated with transparent coating of lacquer or polyurethane, to keep it shiny while on the shop shelves. This is fine for a decorative item, but for food grade vessel not only it defeats the reason for using copper but also it will leach those toxic chemicals into food and water.

So how to find out if it’s copper and nothing but copper?

  1. Reputable Seller — Buy from a reputable source and confirm that it’s pure copper and not a copper coated item. You can scratch a bit to see if underlying surface is also copper but then it might mar the vessel so not advisable
  2. Use Magnet — Pure copper will not stick to magnets and vice versa
  3. Glow not Shine — A clean vessel should have a subtle pink-orangish glow not a shiny glossy finish. Better yet ,buy the one that is already brownish and dull, and shine it yourself
  4. Colour Change — Once home, remove the plastic and sprinkle some water in it and leave it for a few days. It should not turn grimy, dusty without changing colour
  5. Depending on moisture and usage, for an exposed pure copper item, the colour variation at room temperature will go from:
    Subtle glowing orangish-pink (new/cleaned) -> Dull dark orange (in a couple of days) -> Dull Brown (in 2-3 weeks ) -> Green —Patina/Colour of the Statue of Liberty (in a few weeks or months)


After 1 week

Now, if you have already bought a lacquered one, the good news is you have a beautiful flower vase now 🙂 Or you can go  here .

Disclaimer: I have not personally used the steps in the link above so cannot vouch for its efficacy. I prefer returning the item to using my elbow grease on a questionable product.

Easiest way to clean uncoated copper items:

Lemon and Salt: Take a piece of lemon and dip it in table salt. Rub it on the object. Squeeze lemon juice as needed. It’ll clean the object in seconds. Wash with water and dry thoroughly with clean cloth.

Sharing the above info with the hope that it might be of some use to someone. If you have any additional pointers please feel free to add.

Image courtesy: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash