Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Page 2

I was told that a pressure canner made out of copper would make my canned food taste better. Does anyone use copper in pressure cookers, and where can I find one?

Copper cookware has been the choice of chefs for generations because of its unsurpassed ability to transfer heat efficiently and evenly. Keep in mind though that the food contents are typically isolated from the copper vessel by either a tin or stainless steel coating. That's because some foods, particularly acidic ones, can react with the copper causing either an unwanted taste or discoloration. Pressure cookers and canners are specialty items usually made from stainless steel or aluminum. Some enhance their cooking ability by using a copper-clad bottom or a copper disc base. One product that takes advantage of this feature is made by Prestige and marketed in the USA under the name of Mantra. Another is Butterfly of India which makes a copper bottom product for its export market. There may be others, too.

Can you suggest where I can find books on copper coloring?

Here's a link at that may have some useful publications.

I want to buy sheets of copper - preferably thin - for a home decorating project. Any ideas where to get it?

You should be able to find what you're looking for at one of the large hardware stores, like Home Depot, Lowes, etc. It will probably be sold as coils of flashing in 12-inch width. If you can't find it there, seek out a roofing or building supply distributor in the yellow pages.

I recently returned from abroad with a collection of copper pots and pans. They are not lined and do not appear to be treated with anything. Is it safe to cook in these pots?

Except for whipping cream, you may not want to use the copper pots and pans for cooking until you have them lined. Depending on what you're cooking, copper can sometimes discolor food or leach into food. Most copper cookware is lined with tin. There are many jobbers who do retinning, and you should be able to find someone in the yellow pages (depending on where you live). Many are now available online. For reference, you may wish to check out this Retinning site.

I am looking for copper material for a railing project. It is a railing, balusters, and newel posts and are all made of copper. This is for decorative purposes only and is going on top of a mansard style roof. Can you assist me with this?

Copper tube would make a lovely outdoor rail and baluster for your rooftop. Consider using type L (Type K is heavier and could also be used if necessary). Design, tube dimensions and anchoring should be determined by your contractor to ensure safety, code compliance and an appearance that's pleasing to you. You might consider 3-inch diameter for the the newels/posts, 2-inch for the rails and 1- inch for the balusters. Properly sized fittings and soldering would complete a long-lived unit. A new product called PermaLynx from NVent provides a press-to-connect solderless fitting that could be used. Also, if your contractor has a T-drill tool (usually used for fire sprinkler installations), he could assemble the structure without having to use fittings at all. Consider letting the copper weather naturally, rather than coating it with a finish. Any finish you apply outdoors will probably have to be replaced in a few years to maintain appearances. Natural weathering would provide a nice look and no maintenance concerns.

I have installed two-inch rigid copper tubing as stair railing. What recommendations do you have about finish? We like the aged patina, however normal aging tends to leave residue on the hands. We are also considering polishing the metal, then applying linseed oil or simply laquer. Can you give us some interior copper finishing options?

If your copper railing is inside, you would not get very much "residue," if any. The natural aging of interior copper is usually a darkening along with the impressions which may be left by handling from skin oils. If you wish to preserve the shiny look, I suggest a thorough cleaning with Twinkle or equivalent, a thorough washing and drying, and then a few thin coats of lacquer. An alternative might be torching the rails briefly. This brings out many varied colors such as greens, purples, blues, browns, and then you can finish with lacquering. Whatever you do, experiment with the same material to see what happens after a couple of months before you attempt treating the railings. Depending on what you do, how you do it, and what the environment is like where you're at, a wide range of results can be expected. Using just linseed oil would leave you with a kind of slimy surface, not very nice to clothing or handling.

I'm doing a science fair project for my school. My question for the fair is, "What material cleans pennies the best?" So I was wondering if you had any tips to help me out. For my first experiment, I'm going to, in a jar, put a dirty penny in some vinegar. Hopefully, it will clean it. I welcome any suggestions you might have.

Vinegar, lemon juice or ketchup (which has both) will all work. Be sure to rinse and dry after cleaning. Also, other products that could be used include Twinkle, Brasso or other commercial cleaners...many of which include ammonia, but which are much safer to use.

My mother recently sent me a set of copper cookware that she has had for many years. This cookware, stainless steel lined, has never been used. When she originally got it she was given the option of having it sealed from tarnish if she was going to use it for decorative purposes only. The original, and now missing note regarding this finish, said that should she ever want to cook with it that the sealant would need to be removed first. I am hoping you may have a suggestion of how I can remove it because I would like to use this cookware for cooking.

It's likely that whomever sealed the cookware used some type of lacquer, similar to the protective finishes used for brass hardware and fixtures as well as other decorative copper pieces. Although there are other approaches, one choice is to use the Gillespie Brass Refurbisher Kit. It's a powerful metal cleaner designed especially for brass, copper and bronze. It will remove tarnish, grime and grease as well as old clear finishes and paint. The kit Includes refurbisher, neutralizer & protector. If you use it, follow the directions carefully in a well-vented area and use gloves.

Would you please inform me of any negative effects regards to cement and copper piping. Could the cement cause leaks over time, and if so, how long does it generally take to see the effects?

In spite of numerous myths regarding the acceptability of copper in contact with concrete, it is completely acceptable to bury/embed both hard drawn and annealed copper water tube in concrete. Decades of satisfactory service experience with the use of copper tube for in-floor radiant heating systems, water distribution systems and snow melting systems attest to the compatibility of copper tube embedded, encased or in contact with concrete. It is also acceptable to run a copper water tube through a concrete floor or wall, provided that allowance is made for the lateral thermal expansion and movement of the tube and protection of the tube from abrasion. This can be done by insulating the tube where it passes through the wall or by wrapping the tube with an approved tape (to avoid abrasion) and installing it through a sleeve. Please refer to your local plumbing code for specific requirements regarding the protection of pipes and tubes passing through concrete and masonry floors and walls. Both of the protection methods outlined above and the requirements listed in most plumbing codes are simply to protect the copper tube from the fatigue and wear caused by thermal expansion and movement. These protective measures are in no way dictated by the interaction of the concrete and the copper tube. Also, the interaction of copper with either dry and wet concrete should not cause a corrosion concern. However, copper should be protected when it comes in contact with concrete mixtures that contain components high in sulfur, such as cinders and fly-ash, which can create an acid that is highly corrosive to most metals including copper. One of the most prevalent myths regarding the use of copper in concrete is that lime in the concrete will have a negative or corrosive effect on the surface of the copper. In fact, a screened soil/pulverized limestone mixture is actually recommended as a selective backfill for copper tube to help eliminate corrosion concerns. There should be no concern regarding the interaction of the copper with lime in the concrete.

I am a jewelry maker and am interested in using 18 or 20 gauge copper wire to make rings Is there anything to either stop the wire from turning black or let it age then put something on it so it doen't run off onto the finger of the wearer?

You may wish to lacquer the wire in your jewelry or even consider copper electroplating. I'm sure you'll be interested in a recent article on wire jewelry in Copper Topics #97.

I have just put up a ceiling of uncoated architectural copper sheeting. In the process I have some fingerprints and other blemishes. What do you recommend for cleaning?

When working with copper sheet, it's a good idea to use cotton gloves. Otherwise, the oils from your skin will discolor the copper, as you have seen.

You might want to try using Twinkle a copper cleaner/polish found in most grocery stores. It's a paste that comes in a small plastic container that is usually boxed. It is usually promoted to clean copper cookware. There are other, similar products as well, which identify themselves for use with brass or silver (and sometimes aluminum) as well as copper. Whichever you use, be sure to rinse the copper thoroughly after you use it, otherwise the cleaner, itself, will discolor the copper.

I am looking to install some copper on the exterior of my house. Both on the roof eaves and on several bump outs, I'd like to put caps on. Can you advise where I can get help, a good installer, and ideas or examples?

Our Web site should help you locate a contractor who may be able to help you. Please visit the section on Installation Contractors. Then follow the directions for a search of listings for NY State.

Although, you will not be installing the copper yourself, you may find it interesting to look through CDA's Copper in Architecture Handbook.

Do you have any information about healing power of copper, along with research results and/or data on why copper is one of the best metals for human health?

There are several items on our Web site that may be helpful to you. Among them:

Copper in Health: Information on health benefits of copper. There are also several articles discussing research results at our Innovations section.

I seem to recall that copper cannot be touching other metals for long periods of time due to the possibility a bimetallic reaction that would eventually cause the copper to pit and leak. Should I be concerned about this?

Galvanic corrosion can occur when dissimilar metals touch; however, because copper is the more noble metal, it is the steel that would suffer, not the copper. In your case of copper tube touching steel ductwork (probably galvanized steel), there is little, if any, cause for concern about corrosion. This is why copper is such a good metal for roofing, flashing, wiring and plumbing applications: it is highly corrosion-resistant.

Of more importance to you, perhaps, is minimizing vibration noise or condensation. If there's room, you might try putting a thin foam insulation sleeve on the copper tube. It's available at most hardware stores and is usually used to insulate hot water lines. If there's no room, then slipping a slim piece of plastic between the pipe and duct and taping it in place should do the trick.

I have a great deal of copper cookware and decorative pieces. Are these kinds of pieces acceptable for recycling? If so, where and how?

Frequently, a state's department of natural resources will provide a listing to help residents find out where to dispose of their recyclables. For instance, the state of Ohio provides a list of scrap dealers in Ohio. Another possibility is the yellow pages under "scrap dealers" and another might be on a Web search engine under "(State) scrap dealers" or "(State) recycling facilities." Copper is one of the most recycled of metals because of its value for reuse.

And, don't forget that copper products not only retain value for their copper/brass content, but may also have increased value because of the item itself. To that end you may also wish to explore the value of your copper products by talking with an antiques dealer, consignment shop or even E-Bay.