How To Remove Paint From Copper

Copper is used in appliances, decorative elements, and door fixtures. To remove paint from copper, you will need to use a specific approach and take care not to scratch or damage the metal surface. We have researched methods you can try for removing paint from copper and share them in this post.

You can employ mechanical or chemical methods to strip paint off copper fixtures. However, applying olive oil and mineral spirits is the most effective technique when dealing with stubborn layers of paint without harming the underlying surface. You can follow these steps:

  1. Put a few drops of olive oil onto the paint and let it sit for a minute.
  2. Scrape the lubricated surface with a plastic putty knife wrapped in a rag.
  3. Dampen the rag with mineral spirits and apply it to the remaining paint. If it is dripping, squeeze out the excess fluid.
  4. Wipe the paint from the copper in a circular motion using a dry rag or terrycloth fabric.

Read on to learn about other methods and products you can try for removing paint from copper. We will share details so that you can fully understand the removal process. 

a man is painting a metal railing with copper varnish, How To Remove Paint From Copper

How Do I Remove Paint From Copper?

Before you start the removal process, you need to find out what type of paint has been applied. The methods in this post should work well for removing enamel and acrylic paints. If done incorrectly, some methods might be too harsh, damaging the copper piece or altering its color.

Oil-based paint is the most common for copper because of its durability and ability to prevent the metal from tarnishing. For removing enamel paint, it is most effective to lubricate the metal with olive oil and then apply mineral spirits. You don't want to risk denting the underlying metal you're trying to protect.

Sanding radiator -Preparation radiator for painting


Applying a few drops of olive oil first is essential for lubricating the underlying copper surface. The lubrication will protect the underlying copper surface from abrasions while removing the paint. Allow the oil to sit for at least one minute before you start scraping.

Use A Plastic Putty Knife

A plastic putty knife is a perfect paint-removing tool for softer materials such as copper. Cover it with a rag at the wide edge and scrape the loosened paint after adding olive oil. The rag can prevent unintentional damage while removing dirt and old paint.

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Mineral Spirits

You can use mineral spirits to remove stubborn paint and paint in cracks and cavities. This paint remover is gentle and suitable for malleable metals, making it perfect for copper. 

For application, apply a small amount of mineral spirits on the areas where you want to remove paint and let it sit for a few minutes before scraping using the wrapped knife. Repeat this process until you remove the multiple paint layers.

You can also put an adequate amount of mineral spirits on the rag that's on the putty knife. If there is too much saturation in the rag and you notice dripping, wring out the excess fluid before using it on the copper. Then, you can apply the rag to the surface to remove traces of leftover paint.

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After doing all the tedious work, use a piece of terrycloth fabric to clean and wipe out the loose paint. Wiping in a circular motion will prevent your copper from developing abrasion patterns. 

Other Options

There are other methods for effectively stripping paint off copper. However, you must use extra caution in employing these techniques as they may damage or corrode the copper. You can remove paint either by chemical or mechanical means.


pure acetone solution in brown glass amber bottle inside a chemistry laboratory

Acetone is an excellent paint-removing solvent for metals. But it can be hard on copper and may alter the color or luster of the metal if used excessively. To avoid damage, do a test on a small hidden area of the surface.

Remember that acetone tends to evaporate and quickly dries when applied to metals. That is why it is better to wrap the copper piece with a plastic cover to prevent it from evaporating.

Let it sit for the chemical reaction to take place for 10 to 15 minutes to have effective results. Once done, wipe it with a soft rag in a circular motion.

Paint Thinner

The old paint brush has been used and then soaked in a clean container with a thinner can

Like acetone, paint thinner is a commonly used solvent used to remove paint effectively. Excessive use can lead to corrosion because of chemical reactions. You should be careful when applying paint thinner on the malleable metal. Simply follow these steps.

  1. Apply a generous amount of the solvent to the target area and let it sit for about half an hour.
  2. Wipe the surface with a soft cloth or a sponge.
  3. Use a wire brush or metal pads if stubborn or unreachable paint remains. Since copper is sensitive to abrasion, scrub as lightly as possible or use a scraper wrapped in a rag to minimize scratches.

Paint Burning

For copper pipes, plumbers prefer the paint-burning method because it easily loosens the paint's adhesion to the surface of the metal. So if you intend to remove a large portion of paint, this method is convenient.

Since the pipes are usually not installed in a prominent area, the alteration of copper color and scratches are not an issue. You will need a blow torch and sandpaper, and then you're good to go. Be sure that you know how to use the torch safely and employ this technique.


Boiling is the best option for small copper metal pieces, such as small decorations and utensils. Bring the water to boil with the item in it, and let it boil for about 10 minutes until you notice the paint starting to peel.

Remove the item from the water and let it cool down. You should then be able to easily scrape or peel off the paint. 

You can also add baking soda or vinegar to the boiling water for better results. Make sure to use a pot not intended for cooking food because there might be residue after boiling.


Sandblasting can also remove the paint but is limited to thick copper surfaces. It is the least recommended among the methods because the sand particles can cause scratches and dents on the surface of the delicate metal.

You can do a follow-up light sanding to even out the metal surface if there are any nicks or abrasions.

Does Vinegar Remove Paint?

Repainting a copper metal with paint

Vinegar is slightly acidic, which is why it is one of the cost-effective, natural alternative solutions for removing paint from metal, such as brass and copper. It is a gentle solvent that will remove old paint without damaging the metal surface or any material surrounding it.

You should heat half a cup of vinegar in a pot, or you can microwave it, but make sure not to boil it. Apply the vinegar to the paint and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape the paint when it is loosened.

Wrapping Up

a man is painting a metal railing with copper varnish

Copper is used in radiator and plumbing pipes, decorative elements, and fixtures. Enamel paint is often applied to copper because it bonds well to the copper.

Lubricating with olive oil and then applying mineral spirits is the most suitable way of removing paint from copper, considering the metal's sensitivity to scratches and dents.

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