Crusty Copper to Showstopper: Reviving a Copper Display Bowl

I LOVE copper! If you take a look at some of the photos of my house on this site, you'll see it popping up time and time again! I have a few copper items and I'm a bit of a devil with the copper spray paint, but it can be expensive to buy copper pieces, especially shiny new ones! So I found this big display bowl at a second hand store for €20 and I immediately thought that's a good deal - usually I find things for well over €50.

You can see here the other random find from the second hand store that I'll do something with eventually!

The copper bowl was tarnished and dirty; all copper items react to the oxygen in the air eventually and need regular cleaning to keep them looking nice. So I'll have to keep up the maintenance with this one.

I knew I could bring the shine back again with a copper cleaner as I've done it before with an old kettle I bought from an antiques store once.

Now I'm not about scrubbing everything I buy so it looks all shiny and new again; in fact I'm usually the opposite, looking for the most worn and aged things I can get my hands on. But, I am about bringing back the beauty of an piece where I feel appropriate.

So for this clean up I donned my rubber gloves and got out some copper cleaner; you can pick this up at any supermarket and a bottle will go quite a long way. There are some homemade ways for cleaning cooper (ketchup and salt(!) and vinegar and salt) which I'll use for maintenance, but when something is this dirty I'll bring out the big guns.

I spread out a good amount of the copper cleaner onto the surface of the copper bowl with a cloth; it's a bit like a body lotion consistency so it's not very thick. I let it sit for a few minutes, but if the tarnishing is not too bad it can work immediately if you give it a rub.

It took quite a lot of elbow grease to get this clean and I used a sponge with some metal scouring thread running though it to help - I did this gently at first as I didn't want to damage the bowl, but there were no problems there so I continued to give it a good scrub. I washed out the sponge every now and then as it was getting pretty dirty, and added some more squirts of copper cleaner as and when needed.

I rinsed the whole bowl off with water and dried it with a soft tea towel. It was already looking pretty good! Now there are still some marks and tarnishing left over, but I'm totally fine with that; it's an old piece and it's important to keep the character there!

I also wanted to do something with the handles which were brass coloured and not coppers, so I decided to use some Rub 'n' Buff on them which is a pigmented wax essentially. I usually apply this with my finger, but there were a few tight spots that made a brush a more useful too, also the rivets used to attached the handles were copper and I wanted to carefully paint around these to keep their colour.

I masked off some areas of the bowl with masking tape to make sure I didn't accidentally get any gold colour on the newly cleaned copper. A little of Rub 'n' Buff goes a long way, so even though it's a small tube you need so little, it will last a long time. So I painted it on and waited a few minutes to give it a 'buff' with a clean cloth as I found if I buffed right away the wax wasn't sticking so well to the handles.

Now I'm sure there are other types of pigmented wax you could use for this kind of thing and I've only tried the Rub 'n' Buff in Antique Gold, but it's worked great so far :)

So once the Rub 'n' Buff was on and buffed I was finished! I removed the masking tape and et voila! A shiny (but not perfect!) copper display bowl - I love it! So glad I picked it up :)

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