Your Guide to Copper Sink Cleaning and Care
Many people make the assumption that a copper sink is difficult to care for and high maintenance. While a copper sink is very unique and different than a stainless or porcelain sink, it is not any more difficult to maintain. You clean your porcelain sink, right? You get food and build up in your stainless sink, right? The same goes for copper. There are, however, some tips and extra steps that you can take with copper that make cleaning and care a little easier. But, before we get into the details about care, it’s important to review the nature of copper. Copper is a very different material than those used in most sinks and has some very unique qualities.
Understanding Copper and Patina
Copper has a “living finish.” This means that the color and tones of your copper sink will continue to change and shift over time – that’s just the nature of copper, whether it’s in a sink, a penny, or the Statue of Liberty. Now, this doesn’t mean that your copper sink will change from a coppery tone to a purple, green, or yellow! It simply means that certain areas of your sink may shift from a lighter copper tone to a darker copper tone. This is completely normal and it’s what gives copper it’s unique rustic design qualities. This shifting in tones is known as the patina process.
The patina that develops on the surface of copper (and other metals like bronze) is a natural process of protection. The darker tones that develop over a shiny new penny is the copper’s way of protecting itself from the harsh elements. So, naturally, with the heavy use that your copper sink will encounter, you can expect the patina process to occur.
What Affects the Patina
Because the patina process of copper is natural, many things can affect how your copper sink will patina. Certain things will affect how quickly the patina will develop and other things can cause the patina to strip. Either way, your copper sink is not being harmed – it is only the patina that is being affected. Spotting in the patina of your copper sink is not indicative of the health of your copper. Patina is natural and your copper sink will last a lifetime – whether the patina strips or not. When the patina strips, you will see a coppery shine in the surface of your copper sink. Don’t worry! Over time this shiny bright spot will patina and blend in with the earth tones on the rest of your kitchen or bathroom sink.
Below is a listing of several items that can strip the patina from your copper sink:
- Acidic foods (like citrus, tomatoes, ketchup, pepperoni, soda, oils / oily food like chips, etc.)
- Cosmetics (toothpaste, make-ups, shaving cream, etc.)
- Abrasive chemicals (avoid bleach, drain unclogging chemicals, etc.)
- Even oil from your fingers can affect patina (particularly on a naked copper finish)
If you expose these items to your sink, don’t worry! First, try to remove them and their residue as quickly as possible. If you leave them on for an extended period of time, they will strip the patina. That’s okay! Don’t panic! Just take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and let the patina process take over. Over the course of several days, you’ll notice that the bright, shiny copper is returning to the rich tones you see in the rest of your copper sink.
Some people love the mixture in tones that develop as a result of the patina process; some people prefer a more consistent tone. Patina is a natural process, so it’s not completely within our power to control it, but there are some steps you can take to keep as consistent of a tone as possible.
Embracing the Patina
If you love the changing of tones, then you’re only step to care for your sink is to clean it regularly. When cleaning your sink, make sure to use a mild soap, warm water, and a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive chemical cleaners, metal scrubbing pads, or steel wool.
Just like a pair of jeans, a leather jacket, or a sturdy pair of work boots, a copper sink will age based on how much you use it. The integrity of the copper or the structure of the sink will never fail on you (because of this, all Sinkology sinks come with a lifetime warranty), but the finish and the colors will fade, darken, or brighten over the years. This look is what so many copper sink owners love. Like denim or leather, a copper sink gets better with age.
Helping to Control the Patina
If you would prefer a more consistent tone in your copper sink, there are some steps you can take to help control the patina. This does not mean that you can completely control what happens with patina and your copper sink – patina is a naturally occurring process that can sometimes be out of your control.
- The first step is to clean your copper sink regularly. When cleaning your sink, make sure to use a mild soap, warm water, and a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive chemical cleaners, metal scrubbing pads, or steel wool.
- Next, you’ll want to apply a coat of protection on your sink. Sinkology has developed Copper Armor that is designed to prevent water spots and help protect your sink from other spotting. Using Copper Armor is especially important if you have hard water that could lead to mineral deposits. Sinkology Copper Armor is available for both kitchen and bathroom copper sinks. Get the Copper Armor as part of the Copper CareIQ Kit here.
- If you own a Sinkology copper kitchen sink or copper bathroom sink, you can receive a free Sinkology Copper CareIQ kit by posting a photo of your installed sink to our Facebook or Instagram. Simply post your copper sink photo to our feed with #showusyoursink, and direct message us your home mailing address.
- On an ongoing basis, you’ll want to rinse your sink out after each use and never leave food or dirty dishes sitting in the bottom of your sink. Certain foods have qualities that will strip the patina away and bring out the natural shine of your copper sink. If you’re in the kitchen, you’ll want to avoid leaving citrus or acidic foods in the bottom of your sink (things like tomatoes, ketchup, pepperoni, etc.). In the bathroom, you’ll want to avoid leaving toothpaste and other cosmetics in the bottom of your sink.
- To help you keep your copper kitchen sink basin free from food and dirty dishes, Sinkology has developed our exclusive line of bottom grids. These bottom grids (available on select copper kitchen sink models) are designed to complement the tone of your copper kitchen sink and are coated in a thick vinyl to ensure they last. See our listing of copper kitchen sink bottom grids here.
- Sinkology also provides a way to keep your dirty sponges and dish wands out of your sink with our Sidekick Sponge Assistant. Attached by a simple magnet system, the Sidekick will keep rags, sponges, dish wands, gloves, or any other products out of your way and off your copper surface.
Other Care Tips
Regular cleaning and care should resolve most of the issues you would run into, but under a few circumstances, you might find you need a little extra help.
- Bright spots – If you see a small bright spot appear on your sink from a leftover piece of lime or forgotten blob of ketchup, don’t worry! The area will re-patina back to a darker tone with time. To help it fade more evenly in with the sink, clean the area with water and a mild soap, and then consider using a stiff bristle to wear off some of the darker patina around the edges of the spot. This will allow the area to blend better with the rest of the sink as it ages and darkens.
- Green spots – Overexposing your sink to moisture for prolonged periods of time could cause some green spotting. This is just a mineral build-up that can easily be removed with a soft cloth or even a fingernail. This will typically occur around the faucet, drain, or other area where water pooling can occur. To prevent this, keep water from gathering and sitting in these areas. If it does occur, don’t worry! It’s very easily to wipe off or scratch off with your fingernail (avoid scratching it off with anything metal or too hard). Some soaps may cause green spotting if it is left to sit on the sink’s surface for prolonged period.
- Brown film – Sometimes there may be build-up of the patina in certain areas of the sink where water can collect or pool (similar to green spotting). Any brown film build-up can easily be wiped off with a cloth or scraped off with a fingernail.
Summary: Do’s and Don’ts
Here is a brief but important list of Do’s and Don’ts.