Hate my copper sink

chinchetteDecember 17, 2011

Okay, its actually a bathroom sink, but I think that there may be someone here that can help me with this. We got one of those vanities that come with a sink and faucet. It wasn't inexpensive, but I suspect that the quality of the copper is poor. Maybe its made in China... I don't know.

The sink never looks good because water has stained it. If I try and scrub off the water stains, it just looks scratched and blotchy. There are green spots all along the edge of the sink and on the faucet, behind the faucet. It doesn't look like nice patina. It just looks dirty. I'm ready to throw in the towel and take the sink out and then go through the hassle of trying to fit another sink in the existing hole for the vanity.

All the threads regarding copper sinks are positive, with everyone loving their sink. Do I just have a bad China egg?

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My guess would be that copper is copper whether it's from China or Chile. If you want a patina to develop, you have to stop trying to make it look new. Like an awkward adolescent, it has to go through an ugly stage before it looks good again. I might add that I would never have the patience to go through this and would probably pitch it.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 9:56PM
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Sophie Wheeler

You just don't have the right expectations, or care routine. or both.

Copper is a living finish and changes it's look constantly in reaction to substances that come in contact with it. You can cut down on those changes by changing your care routine, but you will increase the care time, and you will not completely eliminate the changes. If you don't like the fact that some areas will have more patina than others, and some areas will be shinier than others, and those areas will change over time, then copper isn't for you, period.

Changing how you care for it can help, but not eliminate the "splotchiness". Wash the sink thoroughly, then do a baking soda paste and cover it over the whole thing. That will give it a subtle brown patina. Rinse the baking soda off and dry. Then wax it. That will keep the the patina. A lot of bath care products may remove the wax and patina, so you may have to do this fairly often--or not. It will depend on the (ab)use that you give it. Waxing the copper is the key to keeping the reactive substances against the base metal.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 10:02PM
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Thanks. I picked up the idea that it may not be a good quality off a site that was linked on another copper sink thread. They said that some are made of mixtures and the ones made in China can have lead in them. I don't know if that was a pitch or not.

Do you all think that the routine would be the same if there is some sort of varnish or lacquer or factory finish? I don't think I have a raw copper. I really think it would be a different story if there wasn't some sort of lacquer on it preventing it from truely being a live finish.

How long to you leave the baking soda on? How do you get hard water stains out? I've never actually used anything on it besides mild dishwashing soap. I did have another one that I tried bar keepers friend on. Same sink- cause the first vanity came in damaged, I had two sinks to play with.

1 Like    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 10:48PM
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"They said that some are made of mixtures and the ones made in China can have lead in them."

Are you drinking out of the sink?

The lead has no real effect on the copper for establishing 'patina.'

There is no surface finish for metal that will stand up in a sink very long before peeling off.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 11:10PM
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Circus Peanut

Chinchette, do you have a photo of the sink? When you say that your hard water stains it, what exactly do you mean? Are there white chalky spots, spongy green spots, black or brown spots ....? What did it look like when it was brand new?

(I put raw copper countertops in my whole kitchen and have learned quite a bit about dealing with the metal over the past few years.)

One option: get the sink to the exact state you want it in -- use BarKeeper's Friend to scrub it back down to raw shiny salmon copper, for instance, or all brown with your chemicals of choice -- then lacquer it with a special coating like EverBrite. The lacquer will last a few years or more and might leave you loving your copper again.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 12:18AM
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My new copper farm sink has been installed about six weeks now; and somehow, some way we got a scratch in the apron part :((( It is about 2-3 inches long, but just a thin line .... like maybe a ring, belt scratched it.

I emailed Coppersinksonline right away/sent pics .... and she said eventually it will darken. But you know, you have to be standing in the correct light to even see it .... I'm not letting it bother me.

But, i LOVE this sink .... it is the star of my kitchen!!!!

We now have a few spots that are *bright/shiny* in the sink area ... I"m sure from a bit of ketchup left in there. They are fading. I do have wax, but was wondering, IF I wax it (again), will that keep the copper from oxidizing back to the brown finish???

circuspeanut: I was advised to use ONLY dish soap to clean the sink with, and I know you have the copper countertops, would you recommend the BarKeeper's Friend for copper??? All those online copper stores, stress to ONLY use dish soap and/or the wax (bought from them ~ which is very inexpensive).

Hope you find a way to LOVE your sink again!!! I truly love mine, even with the scratch!


    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 12:31AM
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You know this is really dumb, but tonight for the first time, after looking at a lot of pictures of copper sinks, started to think it is not copper. It was billed as copper, but I think it may be an antique brass. I have a copper coffee table, and they are not the same color. Its more yellowish.

The stains are where the water dripped out of the faucet, pooling on the bottom of the sink. The drain has whitish marks. there are green spots elsewhere. When it was new it was one even color.

I do use wax on the sink and have the same question about that as jjean.

On my first sink, I scrubbed away with BarKeeper's Friend, but never got an even finish.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 12:51AM
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Copper can be cleaned perfectly with a paste of vinegar and salt or you can use copper cleaning powder. Both require a lot of arm action but will restore the original color and remove all the patina unless that is blocked by wax.

But the problem, IMO, is the application. A copper sink should be fine in a powder room where it gets limited usage. But it would be very high maintenance in a normal bathroom. If budget permits, I'd switch it out. Don't know about you but I have enough to do without babying a bathroom sink.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 9:09AM
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Circus Peanut

NO, I would not advise using BarKeeper's Friend on your copper sinks! Commercial copper sinks are coated with a lacquer specifically intended to keep the factory-created finish (whichever you chose, dark or light, hammered, verdigris etc) protected. The use of anything other than soap/water will begin to break down that coating.

My suggestion for BKF was for the scenario where the original lacquer had been rubbed or worn off and you wanted to get the entire sink down to the bare copper.

Actually, if you wanted to do that, in order to start ALL over, acetone is what the manufacturers of the copper lacquer recommend to dissolve and remove it entirely. This is to start all over again with raw copper, mind you, which you'd need to either accept as a living finish or else lacquer it.

People sometimes don't understand that the color the sink arrives in, unless it's bare copper, is an artificially-created color that's been coated to protect it. If you scratch a commercial copper sink, you're cutting through to the raw salmon-colored copper beneath the patina and its protective coating. Copper naturally darkens (oxidizes) when exposed to air, so that's why the sink makers say it's best just to wait for scratches to patinate on their own. It may never darken to match the original factory patina, or it may darken differently.

Jjean: yes, if you wax it, you're protecting it from the air (oxidation) again, and it won't darken until the wax wears off.

Chinchette - brass? Interesting. Here's a shot of my counter with some pennies to compare. Your sinks may have come in any of the many patina shades you can see in naturally-aged copper:

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Yeh, brass. Has to be. I don't know why I didn't twig on it before. I guess I thought the color was a "factory artificially created color"as you described above.

The main problem area is faucet which is attached to the sink, and the hard water stains in a drip line from the faucet. When I put on a thick wax coat, it does look a lot better. The faucet area has green uneven areas on the base of the sink where the faucet is attached.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2011 at 10:38PM
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That countertop is gorgeous, circuspeanut. Our custom copper kitchen sink was just installed: lacquered apron front and raw inside bowl. I hope our bowl goes through phases as good looking as that!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 2:46AM
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Pure copper by definition is the same no matter the source.

I have never seen a pure copper sink from China,Mexico or India.

They use recycled copper that can have more than lead impurities.Touching such metal can cause a transfer of such impurities from sink to your body.Rarely in quanitities to cause poisoning to normal healthy persons without allergies or specific vulnerabilities but adds to your daily intake that can be compounded by other sources.

Impurities result in imperfections in the look of the finished product.That is why most imported sinks are hammered and/or treated with fire/chemicals to hide imperfections. To say nothing of the thinness and strength of the material that can cause it to bend or lose shape.

Lastly, the sink manufacture has to consistently make the floor of the sink with the correct slope to drain properly. IMO if a manufacture or dealer tells you to wax or dry a sink walk away. Really dry and wax a sink?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 3:47AM
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...stumbled across this thread as i was searching the web for copper sinks...interesting reading...

actually found several sinks online at decent prices after looking at them in the stores--- but like the original poster stated -- we are also interested in a rustic style vanity (that has a sink already or one where we can put a vessel on top...)

anyone know where these can be bought affordably? they are all over the net so i imagine that they either come out of Mexico or this is one big supplier.

if they come out of Mexico -- has anyone ever gone down there / heard of anyone going down to a factory to buy a load of furniture? I have no clue where to start - but i doubt a rustic furniture store is going to tell me who their supplier is


    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 2:31PM
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What is your definition of affordable?

Most things you could buy in Mexico are available on this side of the border for pretty much the same price if you are not an importer. Shopping here is a lot safer than driving a truck into Mexico since Mexican border cities are among the most dangerous places in the world right now. I used to shop in Mexico all the time and live within relatively easy driving distance, but would not even consider it now.

Most copper sinks are made in Michoacan which is a long way from the border so even ignoring the safety factor, your expenses would erase any savings.

I ordered my copper sinks directly from the manufacturer in Mexico, they arrived by UPS within days and shipping was free and in perfect condition. I found them on ebay, perhaps you can find someone who will do this for you.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 2:55PM
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...i guess the "importer" aspect is what i would have an issue with... i probably couldnt even drive down there and bring them back...

we found some sinks on ebay as well at "affordable" prices. i consider affordable to be half price of what everyone else is selling them at...we have seen some websites selling dropins for less than $100 and found a nice vessel or two on ebay for about $175...course that doesnt include drains (faucets) which drives the prices up...

there are some vanities that already have the sink installed that are at a minimum - eye catching...and those we havent found really less than in the mid-$1000's...

by saying you ordered them from the manufacturer - i guess you just had to filter through all the sellers - you didnt know the seller going in when you started searching?

if there was an easy answer everyone would be doing it.. :-) .. we are looking to furnish an entire house...sigh.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 4:16PM
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To order the sinks I just used the ebay feedback and standard research you can find on the web and it worked out great. I have not ordered furniture though.

We are just a few hours north of the border and have Mexican import shops all over town so I knew what the local prices were and that I could get exactly the sink I wanted for less money.

Those copper topped vanities are gorgeous, but you do pay for that.

If the license plates at the local mall are any indication, the Peso is still strong against the dollar so don't expect bargains from Mexico any time soon.

Just a note, If you have a separate question it's best to start a new thread so others can find it and make suggestions too.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 10:26AM
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I spent weeks researching before I purchased a copper sink. I read several comments on garden web, plus other sites. Almost all the copper sinks I found were imported and required drying after each use and occasional waxing. No wonder some folks hate their copper sinks. We ended up with a Rachiele copper sinks and could not be happier. These are made in the USA by a small company in Florida. The owner seems to be very knowledgeable about the properties of copper. They age the interior of every sink with vinegar. Sounds weird, but my sink came and we were amazed at how beautiful it was. We use it all the time and there is no maintenance at all. We just wash with dish soap. Whe we first got the sink we were so careful, worrying about hurting the patina. We have teenagers and they are nothing but tornadoes in the kitchen. Nothing has hurt our sink, including bleach, my husbands goop that he manages to bring in from the garage on his hands, etc. Now we have gotten to the point that we call it our bullet proof sink. No worries, just fun. My original search on Google brought me to a very informative site called about coppersinks.org. I then called the copper development association to verify what I read on the Rachiele web site. (I am not a trusting person). Claims were made that Rachiele sinks were antimicrobial and that most others were falsely making the same claim. I spoke with a gentleman by the name of Adam Estelle at the Copper Development Association. He verified the claims made by Rachiele. He also warned me about the potential for lead and other dangerous impurities that might be found in imported copper sinks. By the way, the photos on the Rachiele web site do not do justice to the product. Our sink was far and away beyond our high expectations. They have an artist that does amazing Latinas on the apron portion of the sinks. We got a rustic patina with greens, blues, browns and oranges that matches our flooring perfectly.

Here is a link that might be useful: About copper sinks.org

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 6:58AM
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"Touching such metal can cause a transfer of such impurities from sink to your body."

Except that you still need to get them into your body.

Like suck on your finger before washing it.

Or touch a cigarette and then burn it past that spot.

Did you now that excessive copper is poisonous?

And the reason old copper pans had a tin lining?

When the tin lining wore away, you had the pan 're-tinned' for many more years of use.
Modern copper pans typically have a stainless steel lining bonded to the copper. It cannot be repaired if you ever managed to wear through.

Some candy pans are bare copper since it effects how sugar cooks in the pan.

Unless you have full time staff to clean and polish a copper basin daily you are not going to keep it shiny like a 'new penny.'

Depending on what it is exposed to it can turn anything from deep brown, to almost black, to all sorts of shades of green (typically copper chloride) or even blue (copper sulphate).

You can use table salt to speed up the green, but you still have to be careful to not clean off the patina.

Any type of acid (even lemon juice) will strip the green off (and a lot of brown) almost instantly.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 4:51PM
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Where do you get your information?
Just because a sink is imported, that does not mean that it is impure. Where does this information come from? Ingesting too much copper can be poisonous, but using a copper sink or bathtub is not poisonous. Copper pipes have been used for household plumbing forever. The lead in the solder would be the only negative to having copper pipes. Copper naturally kills germs and bacteria. Check out copper.org for more information.
Copper pans have tin linings so that certain foods can turn bitter when cooked in a copper pan. People have been cooking in all copper cazos for years.
Copper bowls are the best for whipping egg white.
Yes, copper sinks in shiny will start to darken with the oil from hands. They do not need daily care to maintain the shiny appearance. A wax or oil can be applied to keep them shiny longer. I have both that I bought from Copper Sink Care.com.

Here is a link that might be useful: Copper Sink Care

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 7:05PM
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The most amazing thing about information on copper sinks, is anyone can say anything. I clicked on the link above and it looks, at first, to be part of copper.org. As I read it, I see that it is really a site owned by Dino Rachiele, the guy who sells copper out of Florida. I have purchased a copper sink directly online and I love it. It is Mexican hammered copper and I use it and abuse it. Of course his site is going to bad mouth all other copper manufacturers...shame on him and his staff for trying to scare people out of buying from anyone but him...

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 8:18PM
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Circus Peanut

I am also a bit perturbed about the claims made above by the new poster hawking Rachiele copper sinks in every post. I have no doubt that Rachiele sinks are high quality and am all in favor of buying American made products wherever possible, but you cannot make a scientific claim about "purity" based upon a vague presumption about other manufacturers' metal quality. That's just marketing flimflam.

If it's got copper, it's got antimicrobial qualities, full stop. A higher admixture of lead or any other element in the metal will not cancel that property out. If you lacquer over the metal, it loses that quality entirely.

I encourage people looking for copper sinks to check out Rachiele; their product is really gorgeous. It's true that by not lacquering the working interior of their sinks, they make them easier to care for -- no scratches to a lacquer-protected patina. This is the state of my copper counters -- the raw metal morphs and changes with use, and it slowly develops a lovely dark brown tone. But this tone WILL change and blotch with the many different acidic materials used in a kitchen. Either you accept that and love it, or else I encourage considering a different metal. But it IS indeed bombproof in the sense that you never need to carefully dry or polish it -- you can be as blithely neglectful with uncoated copper as you want.

Rachiele does put many layers of lacquer on the outside of their apron sinks, for what that's worth. It protects the patina they've created and will last for years before needing renewal - but it cancels out the antimicrobial nature of that surface of the sink.

... but honestly, if you're making your decision for a sink based on some presumed micropercentage more or less of "antimicrobiality", you should either be living with Howard Hughes or up your dosage of Risperidone.* Just sayin'. ;-)

*disclaimer: comments made regarding mental illness are pure hyperbole; no aspersions are intended towards those truly suffering from schizophrenia. I use the humor full knowingly, having someone with this illness in my own family.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 10:25AM
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I've never known this form to be PC. Self-deprecating, yes, but PC? No.

I laughed at the assumption that copper sink is behaving in a manner the OP didn't like. that = bad. bad = Chinese. Huh?
What about India where the water from the Ganges will practically eat your skin? Hammered copper (hammering covers impurities, remember?) or other metals are cooled in water that's extremely far from pure. Even if it isn't from the Ganges, their idea of pure would give us dysentery until we pooped ourselves stupid. (BTDT in Algeria.)


Forcing an element to behave the way you want, ignoring its properties, is futile. It's like buying an oak tree and trimming it into bonsai. Why not buy a dwarf or miniature tree so bonsai doesn't fight its nature so?

I don't think copper is for the OP, and if it's brass? That, either. I suggest porcelain (watch the hard water stains!) or steel. Of course, there are other mediums that would work and not change like metal.

(Circuspeanut. I wrote "change like mental" first and laughed at you."


    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 10:56AM
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Actually, this is the part I found risible:

They have an artist that does amazing Latinas on the apron portion of the sinks.

You gotta love spell check! It even capitalized it!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 11:23AM
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"hammering covers impurities, remember?"

How does that work?

Hammering copper simply works the metal and actually makes it harder and stronger.
It does not affect the material composition any way (good or bad).

New copper plumbing leaches copper until a coating forms inside the pipes from solids dissolved in the water.
Luckily we are not all that copper sensitive, but using non-tinned copper pans routinely has resulted in copper poisoning. Any acidic food that 'cleans' the copper is releasing copper into the food being cooked.
Short term is rarely a real issue, long term can be.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Circus Peanut

LOL Angie, I saw that too. Wondered exactly what that might be ...

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 9:44AM
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I have two copper sinks that appear to be heat treated. Is there any way to get the colors uniform? We purchased these directly from Mexico and were really disappointed. So, we ordered two more, which we love, and have had no problems. Ideas?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2015 at 1:06PM
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Just have to say, LOVE my two copper sinks! (Though I realize they are not for everyone.)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2015 at 6:34PM
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