Copper is a staple for making dozens of products, from electrical wiring to vehicle radiators, all the way to kitchen sinks and faucets. The innate durability and longevity of copper are attractive features, drawing many homeowners to this material, especially for kitchen sinks.
The shiny surface of copper ages into a beautiful, deeper hue, creating a dynamic element in your kitchen. The light reflects off the surface, beautifully highlighting the eye-catching centerpiece. However, as pretty as copper is, most folks want a sink that’ll maintain easily and hold up well.
Does copper meet these expectations? Technically, yes, copper is an excellent choice (especially if durability is the name of the game). That said, you should know a few things before committing to a copper sink, so stick around to learn more!
What Is Copper?
While most of us have a foggy memory of the periodic table from science class in high school, that’s where the understanding ends. So, before we dive into the specifics of copper sinks, let’s run through a quick refresher course (we promise it won’t be too technical).
Copper is an essential element in the period table, holding atomic number 29 and the symbol Cu. The shiny, reddish hue is characteristic of copper and unique among all the elements. The metal features a face-centered cubic crystalline structure that reflects red and orange light, absorbing other frequencies in the visible spectrum.
Unlike other metals (except gold), copper is the only metal with coloring different from a natural silvery or gray color.
The metal is ductile, malleable, and works effectively as a conductor of electricity and heat. Due to these factors, copper is a go-to pick for various products, including electrical wiring. It’s also an excellent pick for bathtubs (although copper bathtubs are expensive!) since it conducts heat well.
Are Copper Sinks Durable?
Copper sinks can last for decades if you care for them properly. So, yes, they are durable, but you must maintain a regular schedule to ensure long-lasting durability. High-quality copper sinks should last many years and are resistant to rust and corrosion.
Copper is a softer metal than other popular sink metals, so these sinks can be susceptible to scratching. On a smooth-sided copper sink, the scratches can be pretty noticeable. However, on a textured copper sink, such as a hammered copper sink, the scratches blend in easier.
That said, it’s important to note that lower-quality copper sinks with larger percentages of other metals can be prone to denting and warping. If you decide to buy a copper kitchen sink, we recommend fully committing and purchasing a good quality sink. After all, you typically get what you pay for. We’d rather spend the extra money on an excellent sink than have to replace a low-quality copper sink within a few years.
Are Copper Sinks Solid Copper?
A high-quality copper sink should contain extremely high amounts of copper, usually 99% copper and 1% zinc. These sinks are your best bet, as they generally hold up better under the test of time.
However, while these sinks are typically the superior option, they don’t come cheap. There are less expensive options out there, but the quality generally coincides with the cost. Less expensive copper sinks often contain lead, mercury, or other filler metals, which can lessen lifespan.
Before you buy a copper sink, check the purity of the sink. Look for high levels of copper, ideally around 99% copper and 1% another metal (preferably zinc).
As you shop, you might notice there are different gauges of copper. Like stainless steel sinks, you can find copper sinks in ranging gauges. The gauge refers to the thickness of the metal – the higher the number, the thinner it is (and vice versa).
Thicker sinks are usually your better option (these are the lower numbers). Thin copper sinks tend to produce a tinny sound when water hits their surface and is more prone to damage. So, for a better-quality sink, look for 14- to 16-gauge copper sinks with a high copper percentage.
What Is A Cold-Rolled Copper Sink?
As you browse for the perfect sink, you may notice different terms in relation to each sink, such as “cold-rolled” or “annealed.” These terms refer to the manufacturing process and don’t usually affect the quality or construction of the sink.
However, it’s worth noting that cold-rolled smooth-surfaced copper sinks can be weaker than their hammered counterparts. Hammering cold-rolled copper helps harden the surface, improving its damage resistance. Cold-rolled copper softens quite a bit when it’s welded, so the seams on the sink may be considerably softer than a seamless hammered sink.
In addition, try to avoid sinks with soldered seams; opt for a welded sink instead. Soldered seams tend to be weaker, which can be prone to splitting over time, while welded seams are usually more robust and won’t weaken or break.
If you’re looking at a few annealed copper sinks, pick one with a lower gauge. Annealed copper is superheated, which changes the molecular structure. This makes the metal malleable, so manufacturers can easily hammer it into shape or bend it by hand. It tends to be softer than cold-rolled copper, so try to select a sink with a lower gauge.
Is A Copper Sink High Maintenance?
Copper sinks aren’t necessarily the best material if you want quick, easy cleanup and no maintenance. These sinks require a bit more care than other sink materials out there. Copper might not be your best bet if you’re looking for a low-maintenance sink.
However, that said, copper sinks aren’t exactly high maintenance; they simply require a bit more TLC than other materials out there. Take a few minutes a day to clean the sink and dry it out, and you should be good to go. It’s usually as simple as that.
Copper boasts a living surface, so the color will deepen and change over time. To help avoid bright spots in the beautiful, rich swirl of colors, don’t leave acidic foods on the surface. Copper reacts with acids, so avoid leaving these items on the surface.
Fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, tomatoes, oranges, and pineapple can affect the surface of your sink, so run water when you wash the fruit, and don’t leave pieces in the sink. Also, don’t leave mustard or vinegar on the sink’s surface, as both can react with copper.
It’s not hard – you just need to avoid leaving food scraps and juices in the bottom of the sink. Rinse the sink and wipe it dry once you’re done using it, and you should be good to go!
How Do You Take Care Of A Copper Sink?
Taking care of a copper sink is pretty simple; it just takes a few minutes each day. Simply use a mild dish detergent and a soft sponge for regular cleaning. Use warm water to create suds, then wipe down the sink. Rinse the sudsy residue away with clean water, then wipe the sink with a dry, soft cloth.
If you have a housekeeper or cleaner, ensure they’re educated on caring for copper sinks. Many housekeepers scrub things until they shine, removing the beautiful patina that forms over time. Of course, if you like the shiny, coppery color, scrubbing it is up to you. However, gentle scrubbing with a soft sponge is best to preserve the rich color.
Over time, the patina coating your copper sink will eventually degrade. To slow this process, apply a high-grade wax designed for copper. You should apply high-grade copper wax when you notice water no longer beads on the sink’s surface.
You can choose to apply a lacquer finish to the sink to protect its patina, but this isn’t something you should do by yourself (unless you’re experienced in this field). Generally, you should have a professional lacquer the sink to preserve its patina.
Do Copper Kitchen Sinks Turn Green?
Nope, copper kitchen sinks don’t turn green. Well, they won’t as long as you take care of the metal surface. Avoid using or leaving acidic items (orange juice, coffee, etc.) on the sink’s surface, as copper is known to have a “living surface” that will protect itself from the elements.
This can cause green spots on your copper sink, so it’s best to keep it simple when cleaning. Aside from this, make sure you keep the sink dry. Hard water can leave trace minerals behind on the surface after the liquid evaporates, triggering the reaction.
So, ensure you avoid leaving acidic items on the surface and regularly clean/dry the sink. Remember, the sink has a living surface, so it’ll change over time regardless of what you do.
Pros And Cons Of Copper Sinks
A copper sink is an excellent finishing touch for nearly any kitchen. These sinks are the perfect centerpiece for your kitchen, drawing the eye of everyone who enters the space. Whether you choose to maintain the darker patina or let the greenish hue take over, copper sinks are certainly a statement.
However, before you commit to buying a copper sink, here are a few pros and cons to consider:
- Stunning, timeless appearance
- Resistant to rust and corrosion
- Naturally antimicrobial
- Will last decades with proper care
- Eco-friendly and recyclable
- “Living” surface changes over time
- Large variety of styles
- Requires more maintenance than other materials
- Tends to be pricier, especially for a high-quality sink
- Can be prone to denting and scratching
- Sensitive to certain cleaning agents, acid, and heat