How to Clean Zinc

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Zinc is used as a material in many things—in countertops, decorative items, jewelry, and more. How to clean zinc is different from how to clean other metals and materials. 

Its unique properties make it a bit different to clean up and maintain. Depending on how you want your zinc to appear will have different care tips. 

How to Clean Zinc

Learning how to clean zinc is simple if you know what you want your zinc to look like and know the proper tips on how to clean it. 

What Is Patina?

Zinc is a living metal. Over time, natural patina forms on unsealed zinc. It’s a coating of material on the surface of zinc. 

Clean zinc countertop in a restaurant

It is easy to remove, but a lot of people like the look of a patina. Depending on the rest of the furniture or kitchen, it can give a rustic or industrial feel to any space. 

The patina is never the same on any piece of zinc, so it also can give a unique feel to a piece. You know that no one else has exactly what you do! 

Patina can change in color as it develops and in design. Unsealed zinc will age and have more patina on it over time. 

Is Patina Safe For Countertops?

So, zinc is a living, reactive metal that has finished growing on it. Is that really safe for a countertop? The answer is yes! Zinc is a food-safe metal and is also anti-bacterial. 

Even though it is continually changing, aging, and adding patina, it is a good metal for countertops.  In fact, zinc is fourth in the line of the most widely used metals in the world

It is used not only for countertops, jewelry, and home decor, but for galvanizing, alloys, and more. It’s also necessary for health—it works in tandem with the immune system and can help your body heal wounds. So, it’s definitely safe for countertop usage! 

How to Clean Patina Finish on Zinc Without Removing the Patina

Now that you are clear on what the patina finish is on zinc, you may want to preserve it. It takes a while—up to a year—to develop the patina. 

Unfortunately, if you use the wrong products on your zinc, the patina can be removed quickly by accident. We’ll walk you through how to clean your zinc countertops or pieces without removing the patina. 

1. Daily Cleaning

Zinc does not require harsh chemicals to clean up—in fact, it is important not to use chemicals such as bleach. 

They can react with the metal and cause permanent damage to your zinc! So, put the bleach away and instead pick up some Windex or mild soap. 

Materials

To implement a daily cleaning routine on your zinc, you should always have these materials on hand:

  • Windex
  • Mild soap
  • Clean cloth or rag
Person holding a Windex spray

Having these will ensure that you can quickly and effectively get your daily cleaning done. Cleaning daily is the best way to keep your zinc in top shape. 

Method

Cleaning your zinc daily should not take you long at all. Follow these steps and add them to your daily cleaning routine:

  1. Spray Windex or a soap and water solution on the countertops
  2. Wipe the liquid up with your cloth or rag
  3. When your cloth or rag shows dirt on it, replace it with a new one

And that’s it! A simple way to make sure your countertops or other zinc materials are clean every day. 

If you are working with jewelry, or reusable straws, you can use a cloth or rag or even an old toothbrush if you want to get in the grooves of the piece. 

2. Deep Cleaning 

Deep cleaning patinated zinc can seem like a mystery. It’s crucial not to use harsh chemicals on zinc to avoid a reaction, and you want to make sure to keep that patina in place. 

We have two options for cleaners that will allow you to clean your countertops, jewelry, or anything else that has patinated zinc without removing the patina. 

Materials

To clean your zinc, you will need gentle cleaning agents. We have two options we like best:

  • Baking soda
  • Toothpaste

These will allow you to get an efficient clean. Depending on how large your zinc item is, you will want something that can clean it—such as a rag, or a toothbrush if it’s jewelry. 

Baking Soda Method

If you are using baking soda to clean up your zinc item, follow these steps:

  1. Use a bowl that is big enough to create a paste for your item you are cleaning. Pour in baking soda and slowly add water and stir
  2. You will want to mix this well until a paste forms
  3. Dip your cleaning tool (cloth, toothbrush or other brush) in the paste formula you made and rub it on the zinc
    1. Make sure not to use a hard-bristled brush on your zinc
  4. Use a damp cloth to clean up the surface after you are done

And, there you have it! A clean item without any of your patina being removed. 

Zinc countertop

Toothpaste Method

For cleaning with toothpaste, you can follow these steps:

  1. Apply the toothpaste to areas you are cleaning
  2. Rub in with your cleaning tool of choice
  3. Wipe up with a damp cloth well 

Compared to cleaning smaller items like cloudy plastic and snorkel masks, cleaning something large like a countertop might take a lot more toothpaste than you anticipate. You can spot clean larger items with toothpaste, but we don’t recommend this method for an overall clean.  

What About Scratches?

Scratches and dents are to be expected on zinc. Zinc is a softer metal, compared to wrought iron, so it will show scratches and buffs. 

However, with the patina as well, this helps it’s rustic (or industrial) appeal. You can sand down scratches on a larger surface, like a countertop, but this will remove the patina that has built up as well. 

Other Maintenance Tips For Patina Zinc Countertops 

Taking care of your zinc is important to keep it happy. For countertops, in particular, you should follow these basic tips to make sure your countertops stay in the best shape possible:

  • Use a cutting board for cutting: Zinc countertops aren’t like butcher blocks. They aren’t made to be a built-in cutting board. Cutting acidic fruits, like lemons, directly on your counter can actually remove the patina. Also, zinc can damage knives as well! 
  • Do not place hot items directly on the countertop: It is best practice to use hot pads or trivets for any items coming off the stove or out of the oven
  • Clean promptly: If you spill on your countertop, make sure to clean it up as quickly as possible to avoid the zinc developing rings or spots from the liquid.  

How Do I Remove the Patina?

Are you looking to completely remove the patina? We can help you with that, as well. Patina can be easily removed with the right material.

Materials

There are two options to clean off the patina from your zinc. The options are as follows:

  • Vinegar
  • Lemon

Vinegar Method

To clean the patina from your zinc item, you can create a diluted vinegar solution and scrub. You can follow these steps to clean it:

  1. Create a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar
  2. For small items like jewelry, you can actually soak it directly in the solution
  3. For larger items, you can use a spray bottle and cloth
  4. Use a cloth or a small brush and wipe up the solution in a circular motion

The patina should come off easily with this method.

Dozens of lemons

Lemon Method

Using a lemon is a very natural way to clean the patina off the zinc. Depending on the area you have, you may need more than one lemon! Follow these steps:

  1. Cut the lemon in half
  2. Hold the outside of the lemon and move the lemon over the zinc in a circular motion 
  3. Continue on the entire surface of the zinc, squeezing more juice and replacing your lemon when needed
  4. Clean up afterwards with a damp cloth, or Windex

Remove the patina doesn’t even have to require a brush if you use a lemon. 

How Do I Remove Scratches from My Countertops? 

Remember, if you want to keep the patina, we do not recommend that you try to remove scratches from your zinc. If you already have the patina removed, then you can follow these steps to remove scratches. 

Light Scratches 

If the scratch is light, you can simply use a scouring pad. You will want to move in circular motions around the scratch, and it will be gone in no time. 

Deep Scratches

Deep scratches can occur on zinc because it is a softer metal. Don’t worry—this can be fixed. You can get some sandpaper to sand out the scratch. 

Most often you will want to use a sandpaper with fine grit (150-180) to tackle this job. You don’t want to use anything medium or coarse because this can further scratch your countertops. 

Once you are satisfied with how the scratch looks, use a scouring pad to buff in circles to make the finish match the rest of the countertop 

How Do I Remove Rings from Zinc Countertops?

If your countertop had a spill and it wasn’t cleaned up quickly, it can possibly leave a ring behind. 

You can remove rings using a mixture of water to vinegar with a ratio of two parts water to one part vinegar. This will remove the patina if you use vinegar—so keep that in mind before you begin. 

Using a scouring pad, scrub in your mixture to the countertop gently, and the ring will be removed. Spray Windex after to clean it up. 

Conclusion

Zinc has specific care instructions—but once you know them, it is easy to maintain. If you like the patina look of your zinc, it is easy to clean and maintain with the proper steps. Remember to never use bleach on your zinc to avoid damage.