I bought what I thought was a rusted teapot recently, treated it with an environmentally friendly rust remover, cleaned it thoroughly, and only then realized the bottom says "chrome on copper". The inside surface is pretty rough copper (not patina), so I'm just wondering whether that's a reason not to use it for tea.

  • Please post a picture (if possible) Conventional wisdom would suggest to throw/recycle the corroded/rusty teapot. – Max Feb 15 at 12:49
  • Copper is no problem, but that missing chrome is a huge red flag. Don't ingest heavy metals, or the salts of heavy metals. You have a decoration, not a utensil. – dandavis Feb 15 at 19:11
  • @dandavis You could use the same argument for an iron or aluminium pot. Please provide references rather than alarmist statements. – l0b0 Feb 15 at 19:31
  • Sorry, what alarmist statement? Your body needs copper. If the chrome was all on the outside, then you don't have to worry about ingesting it... – dandavis Feb 15 at 19:59
  • You were implying that by using this teapot I'm "ingest[ing] heavy metals, or the salts of heavy metals," and that the teapot is unusable. – l0b0 Feb 15 at 21:09

It is currently a matter of opinion, not science, whether or not cooking hot foods in an unlined copper vessel leads to unheathy amounts of copper in the diet. Many health authorities caution against the use of pure copper even for cold drinks. However, it is demonstrably true that many, many people use pure copper vessels for cooking various foods and have done so for centuries, and Ayurvedic practitioners even consider water from copper pots to be healthier. And most of us have copper pipes, at least for hot water, and don't worry about it even though copper leaching from acidic water in pipes is a widespread health problem.

I was able to find lots of opinions on whether or not to use unlined copper vessels and kettles. This Fine Cooking article is typical of all of them. What a literature search does not turn up is any kind of actual science. National and regional health authorities seem to take it for granted that copper kettles leach toxic amounts of copper, and don't bother to test it, and everyone else seems to ignore them.

As such, as long as there's no history of Wilson's Disease in your family, I'd leave it up you. If you really like the kettle, use it. If you don't, then use something with no doubts attached -- and much easier to clean -- like stainless steel or ceramic.

Since this is a teapot and not a kettle (per comment), you do need to be careful of the acidity level of the teas you brew in it. Strongly acid teas will cause the kettle to corrode, and whether or not that results in unhealthy copper leaching (again, no science on this yet) it will discolor the pot and make it impossible to clean.

(And yes, copper is a nutrient in very small amounts. However, like many minerals, what's beneficial in tiny amounts is poisonous in larger ones. For example, as a ceramic artist I have to be careful with copper glazes in their raw form.)

  • Excellent answer! Basically, opinions are divided. Since this is a pot for brewing and not cooking it should be plenty safe in that case. – l0b0 Feb 16 at 6:38
  • Oh! I didn't pick that up; I assumed you were talking about a kettle. If tea is going inside, you need to be careful of acidity levels. Will add to answer. – FuzzyChef Feb 16 at 18:36

I would recommend not to use it as it might be toxic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_toxicity.

It should however not be too difficult to get copper cleaned up nicely again, the following article gives some good recommendations on how to accomplish this https://www.popsci.com/story/diy/best-way-clean-copper/

  • The Wikipedia article doesn't seem to agree - "Excepting for acute or chronic conditions, exposure to copper in cooking is generally considered harmless." And the other article is about cleaning away the patina. As I explained, there was no patina (the original pot was rust-colored, not green), and I've already given it a thorough clean. – l0b0 Feb 15 at 18:37
  • They put copper in vitamins: centrum.com/content/dam/cf-consumer-healthcare/… – dandavis Feb 15 at 19:13

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