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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.
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.
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.