Copper pots that need a good cleaning.
Copper pots that need a good cleaning.
©iStockphoto.com/Nathan Reeder

Cleaning the counter, washing the dishes and scrubbing the oven? Easy peasy. Getting the tarnish off those copper-bottomed pots, though? How about peeling the wax off the silver candlesticks?

Kitchen cleaning typically comes to a halt when you get to the tricky metal faucet and stained metal pans, but it doesn't have to. These tasks can seem intimidating because some metal surfaces have a reputation for being difficult to clean.

We've got a few simple tricks up our sleeves that even Grandma would approve of for the way they make silver shine. Follow our easy cleaning tips, and your kitchen will be singing to a whole new tune of clean. First, let's tackle those copper-bottomed pots and pans.

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Copper-Bottomed Pots and Pans

Tarnish on copper-bottomed pots and pans may feel like the final straw in long line of kitchenware that seems to resist ever coming clean. But don't give in; this clean-up is not as difficult as you think.

To remove tarnish from a copper-bottomed pan or pot, turn the cookware upside down, wet the copper surface with white vinegar, sprinkle on some salt, scrub with a clean rag or paper towel and rinse. Didn't get all the tarnish? Just repeat the process until the entire copper bottom shines like that brand-new penny you didn't have to spend to get the pots clean.

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Copper and Brass

The copper and brass trinkets you have sprinkled around your kitchen and home add a wonderful old-fashioned feel to the place -- that is, until they get dirty. Whether it's your bathroom faucet, your grandmother's old tea kettle, or kitchen utensil jars, once they get dirty -- which they always seem to do -- they begin to shout "old and worn" instead of "rustic and charming."

A quick and handy way to do some touch-up cleaning on copper and brass is to slice a lemon in half (cutting it lengthwise will probably give you a slightly larger cleaning surface), sprinkle the flesh of one half with salt, and then, grasping the lemon by the peel, use the salted flesh to scrub away spots of tarnish. Your house will be singing "pleasantly old-fashioned" again in no time.

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Silver Candlesticks

Candles always set the mood, whether at dinner while you enjoy a home-cooked meal, or as you settle back with a nice glass of wine. That dreamy mood lifts right away, though, when you realize the wax drippings of the candle have hardened onto your silver candlesticks and are refusing to come off.

Don't change moods too fast -- wax drippings can be cleaned off silver candlesticks without damage to their finish if you first put them in the freezer. Once the wax freezes, it can be easily peeled away. For any stubborn wax remnants, cover your fingernail or a wooden craft stick with a soft cloth and use it to gently scrape the bits away.

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Metal Faucet

If you have an unsightly white ring (or two) around your faucet, don't be embarrassed. Practically every metal faucet gets these calcium buildups, and they just take a little elbow grease to get out. Don't jump towards harsh and expensive chemical treatments; all you need to chase the rings away is every green-cleaner's best friend: lemon juice.

After juicing a lemon for a recipe or beverage, don't just toss the remnants into the trash. Holding a lemon half (or wedge) by the peel side, rub the flesh over a faucet blemished with calcium (water) stains to remove them. Your sink will be sparkling like new -- and smelling unbelievably fresh.

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Silver

It's Thanksgiving Day. Your turkey is in the oven, the pies are cooling off, and you're setting the table for all of your family to gather around for supper. But when you unpack that nice silver that you only use on special occasions, you're shocked to see that it looks woefully dull and dirty.

Don't panic; this isn't enough to ruin your holiday, because we have a quick trick that we borrowed from Grandma to save the day.

Plain old generic toothpaste (the gritty paste variety, not the fancy gel form) makes a great and inexpensive silver polish. Use it the same way you would use commercial silver polish to restore shine, and you'll have the silver sparkling long before the turkey's ready to be cut.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.