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How to Remove Lacquer from Copper

3 Simple Ways to Remove Lacquer from Copper Cookware and Decorative Objects

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Many factory produced copper products, even cookware, are coated with lacquer to prevent tarnishing. While this simplifies cleaning and care, you might want to remove lacquer from copper for numerous reasons:

  • A vintage lacquered piece is peeling or bubbling.
  • You plan to use the copper item for cooking or serving.
  • You prefer the soft gleam of polished copper to glossy lacquer.

There are several ways to remove lacquer from copper. Each involves some elbow grease, but the processes are fairly simple.

In all three processes, you should wear gloves to protect your hands from chemicals.

Boiling Water and Washing Soda

  1. Add washing soda to boiling water, no more than one teaspoon per cup of water.

  2. Immerse the copper object and let it boil for at least 20 minutes. You should start to see some scum on the surface of the water. That means the lacquer is softening and starting to peel.

  3. Remove the object from the boiling water.

  4. Scrub under warm running water with a nubby dishcloth to remove the softened lacquer.

  5. Use a nylon pot scrubber or soft bristled toothbrush, if needed, to remove from stubborn spots and crevices.

  6. Wash thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

  7. Dry completely with a soft cloth.

  8. Buff with a second dry cloth, using circular motions.

  9. Clean and polish copper as needed.

Acetone Nail Polish Remover

  1. Dip a cloth in acetone nail polish remover.

  2. Rub copper until all lacquer is gone.

  3. Wash thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

  4. Dry completely with a soft cloth.

  5. Buff with a second dry cloth, using circular motions.

  6. Clean and polish copper as needed.

Commercial Lacquer Thinner

If the first two methods don’t get the job done, you may have to use a commercial lacquer thinner from the hardware store. It’ll be a pumped up version of your nail polish remover, probably containing acetone and other solvents.

  1. Follow all instructions on the commercial lacquer thinner.

  2. Wash thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

  3. Dry completely with a soft cloth.

  4. Buff with a second dry cloth, using circular motions.

  5. Clean and polish copper as needed.

Once you’ve remove the lacquer from your copper piece, it will tarnish. If you like the pinkish-orange tint of untarnished copper, you’ll need to clean and polish it regularly.

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