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February 1, 2013

How to Clean a Copper Moonshine Still

Cleaning A Copper "Moonshine" Still

While some folks take their stills apart and hide the pieces in random bushes and gullies on the back 40, others not only keep them together, but keep them out in the open for display.  Quite a few folks have asked us how to keep the copper bright and shiny, so we decided to write this "how to" guide.  

First things first, copper is not naturally shiny.  Over time the metal develops a patina (dulls and turns more of a brownish color then black and bluish green)  due to oxidation.   If you want the patina, then all you have to do is wait!  If you'd like to keep your still bright and shiny, read on. We'll present a few easy and inexpensive ways to keep your still looking brand new.

copper moonshine still cleaner

1. Vinegar, salt, and four:  Yes, that 's right a few common kitchen ingredients and a bit of elbow grease will clean copper right up.  Combine about a tablespoon of salt and a cup of vinegar and then add enough flour to make a paste.  Apply the paste to your still and wait.  Leave sit for 30 minutes, wash off, and repeat the process if needed.  Of course, you'll probably need to scale this recipe up for even the smallest still we make, but it's very inexpensive and works well.

2. Ketchup, lemon juice, cream of tartar:  This is another common recipe that utilizes common kitchen ingredients. If you don't have the ingredients listed in the previous recipe, but do have some ketchup and lemon juice, use this recipe.  However, this version of DIY household cleaner is not as effective as vinegar, salt, and flour.

copper moonshine still cleaner

3. Tarn-X:  For the quickest results, consider purchasing an "industrial strength" metal cleaner / tarnish remover.  Tarn-x works well and can be purchased at Lowe's or Home Depot.  It is also fairly inexpensive.  Be warned though, this stuff is quite a bit stronger than vinegar and salt, therefore proper protection is required.  Wear gloves and goggles.  Also, this stuff really smells awful.  I literally wear a voc mask when using it, which actually blocks the smell completely.  

Regardless of the cleaner used, remember to rinse your still thoroughly after cleaning. Any residual acids left on the still will cause it to discolor.  Also, remember that nature will always win and your still will discolor over time.  The best way to prevent natural patina is to apply a sealant just after thoroughly cleaning and polishing your still.  

Hopefully this was helpful information for those of you who want to keep your stills bright and shiny.  Also, consider the alternative: do nothing and let the still develop a natural patina.  In my opinion, the natural route is best.  Stills with patina look cool and require no work to maintain!

Thanks for reading.


Checkout our article on cleaning the inside of a copper still here.


-Clawhammer Supply

  • Thank you for the awesome tips on cleaning your still I much appreciate it, thanks again

    Posted by chris on July 30, 2014
  • Confused ? When you say fill the still with
    One gal of water. Do you mean clean it with
    Just one gal of water ?

    Posted by Tony Mitchell on July 08, 2014
  • Confused ? When you say fill the still with
    One gal of water. Do you mean clean it with
    Just one gal of water ?

    Posted by Tony Mitchell on July 08, 2014
  • Do you need to clean the still after each use?

    Posted by tina on May 01, 2014
  • To clean the inside you need to do a vinegar and water run (1/2 and 1/2) this will clean the chunks. Then you need to do a sacrificial run, use either a wash you made or cheap wine. I used wine that cost 5 dollars a gallon. This will clean what the vinegar missed. Hope this helps those asking in the comments.

    Posted by N Shine on April 24, 2014
  • I’m just wondering what you recommend for cleaning the residue from the solder and flux prior to the first run.

    Posted by Mike Ferris on January 16, 2014
  • I have in the works my own still that I am building. Once built how do I get it all cleaned out due to soldering (flux, etc). Any help will be appreciated!


    Posted by Tim Ware on December 11, 2013
  • Good morning kyle, I was wondering on your web site it shows your ten gallon pot is 5′×12″, is this the overall size, or is this with out the column t t Albert Bongers N.Y.C

    Posted by Albert Bongers on November 15, 2013
  • Clean the inside with a bottle brush and ketchup.Let set for around two minutes rinse and your ready to go.The ketchup has the cling effect where as vinegar will run off fast.

    Posted by scottyboy on September 30, 2013
  • Hey Kyle, I understand on how to clean it, what sealant do you recommend to save the polish. Also ( kind of a no brainier) the sealant burn off while doing a run?, Kyle as always Thank you for all your guidess

    Posted by Rick on August 29, 2013
  • It took me a year to get and figer out the whole thing preduse whiskey,how other than it burnig blue can I tell its good?

    Posted by mark on August 22, 2013
  • when putting a kit together.,how do you clean or get out the flux and soldier out of the insides of the copper pipes were they were soldierd.,? wouldn’t that be bad and make your shine taste bad when you go to distill it?….

    Posted by JOHNNY LEONARD on July 19, 2013
  • just got my still put together,how do I clean the inside I have to put the water lines on it or just let it run.have put about a gallon of vinegar in it but do I put cooling lines on it.

    Posted by madmax on June 09, 2013
  • I ran water and vinegar through my still to clean it.when I to dump out when finished I noticed that the water vinegar mix had a light bluish Tint to it is that normal

    Posted by Jake on April 23, 2013
  • just got first still , how do i make sure it is clean and safe to start running it.

    Posted by willis r davis on March 19, 2013
  • I clean mine at the first run of the year. Vinegar and water works like a charm. 2 gallon water and 1/2 gallon of vinegar. Bring it to a boil and let it run out the worm for around 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water. That gives you a good product throughout the year. If you by some slim chance burn your mash because you got a little corn in your pot (experience talking. Lol.) this method works well too to take out the burned stuff in the bottom.

    Posted by Scott on December 04, 2012
  • My still is built , and I’m ready to run a batch. Should I run a vinegar and water solution first to clean the inside or just run the mash and discard the first couple of ounces ?

    Posted by Ansky on June 07, 2012
  • How do you clean the inside of a new copper still?three gallon.

    Posted by Bob Fredrickson on February 07, 2012
  • Because the still boiler generally isn’t used for fermenting or storing fermented liquid, it doesn’t need to be thoroughly sanitized. It only needs to be cleaned to avoid transferring flavor from one batch to the next.

    I’d suggest rinsing your moonshine still out with water after every use. You might dry it too. If the still little too hot while your cooking, a residue could build up on the bottom. In that case you would definitely want to clean throughly. Try to avoid overheating though!

    Posted by Kyle on June 01, 2011
  • how often would you need to clean a stills inside

    Posted by tim on May 28, 2011

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