Copper mugs are so shiny when brand new out of the gift box that we naturally want to keep them that way. We want them to glisten and catch the eye up on the shelf alongside our son’s basketball trophies, and we want them looking brand new when we bring them out for parties. But the only way to do that is to learn how to clean copper mugs.
The good news is that cleaning copper mugs is not hard, but it can be counter-intuitive. Once you know how to do it right, you’ll keep your copper mugs looking as new as they day you bought them with little effort.
The first thing you should learn before you invest in a set of copper mugs is how to keep them clean. This will save you money down the road because you won’t have to continually buy new mugs. Copper mugs do require care. They are not a “set it and forget it” item. But like everything in life, if you buy the best and look after them (shoes, watches, etc.) they will last a lifetime.
How to Clean Copper Mugs
The golden rule of cleaning copper mugs is to never put them in the dishwasher. Do you know why copper mugs aren’t dishwasher safe? Many Moscow Mule mugs .” with nickel or stainless steel (prevents copper leaking into your beverage) that can become cracked or chipped due to dishwasher use.
Discoloration or “patina” on copper mugs is easily reversible, however, if the lining is flaking off after a run through the dishwasher, the cup is pretty much a goner. Without the dishwasher to help, you will have to go the low-tech route and roll up your sleeves and get working to keep them shining.
Luckily, when thinking about how to clean copper mugs, you won’t need much: Here’s what you’ll need:
- A soft sponge or dishcloth – better than a brush as the bristles might damage the surface
- Regular dishwashing soap – nothing with strong chemicals, no need to get nuclear
- Warm water
- A dry towel
Keeping Them Shining
Even if you are fastidious about keeping your copper mugs clean, they can still lose their luster over time – so you’ll need something extra. The good news is that it’s not time to throw them in the bin or sell them at a garage sale just yet. You can not only salvage them but have them looking like new. If your copper mugs look tarnished, you have two options to restore them back to their past glory:
Clean Copper Mugs Options #1: The Frugal Method
Cut a lemon in half and rub the flesh across the copper to bring out the shine. Add some salt or baking soda to the lemon if you want to get serious about fighting those tough stains. If you want to take the homemade cleaning method to the next level, you can make your own paste, which will get rid of any discoloration or “patina”. Here’s how:
- One cup of white vinegar
- One tablespoon of salt
- One tablespoon of flour
- Mix the above ingredients together until they form a thick paste
- Apply the paste to the discolored parts of the mug and rub with a sponge using soft, circular motions
- After rubbing, let the mixture sit on the surface of the mug for 15 minutes to interact with the copper. If the copper mug is particularly old, you might want to leave the mixture on for longer than 15 minutes or repeat this step again
- Wash the paste off the mugs and dry them with a soft cloth.
I guarantee you’ll be able to see your face in the mugs after these 4 steps. If you don’t have any lemons or limes in your kitchen and you are rushing to get your copper mugs ready for the party that evening, you could try…
Cleaning Copper Mugs Option #2: The Swiss-Army Knife of Condiments
Ketchup can be used to make your burger a bit juicier, and it’s nice to dip your fries in, but did you know that it can also be used to breathe life into copper pots that you thought were stained and tarnished beyond repair? Here’s how to use ketchup to clean your copper mugs:
- Apply a bit of tomato ketchup to the problem areas on the copper mug
- Use your fingers to rub the ketchup into the surface of the mug where the patina has formed
- Rub with a sponge using a circular motion
- Rinse the ketchup off thoroughly with warm water
Important: Only apply ketchup to the copper on the outside of the mug, never on the inside, which usually has stainless steel lining.
If a combination of common household ingredients and some elbow grease can’t shift the stains, you’ll have to try something more potent, such as the next option – how to clean copper mugs without a doubt!
Cleaning Copper Mugs Option #3: Copper Cream/Cleaner
Invest in some kitchen-grade copper cleaner – most people usually have copper cleaner in their house for their pots and other ornaments. While regular copper cleaner is usually used for copper pots and pans, it will work just as well on your mule mugs.
Of the two methods, many people prefer the homemade version with natural ingredients due to the chemicals used in the copper cleaners. However, that fear is largely unfounded, as people have been using copper cleaners to clean their pots and food preparation surfaces for centuries.
Apply the following steps when cleaning your mugs with copper cleaner to minimize mess and waste:
- Pour a small amount of cleaner to the tip of a clean cloth
- Spread the cleaner onto the surface of the mug
- Leave for 20-30 seconds then buff with a second dry cloth
Bear in mind that while washing your copper mugs with soap and warm water needs to be done after every use, cleaning to remove stains and restore shine should only be done when necessary.
How to Clean Copper Mugs Properly
There you have it. No need for fancy polish or expensive lacquer. With a few cheap ingredients, you can keep your copper mugs going for decades. Or just grab a copper clean. Either way – how to clean copper mugs isn’t complex. The only danger is that the will be so clean and shiny that you’ll be unwilling to use them to make Moscow Mule cocktails.