Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

SOLUTIONS: Cleaning a treasured copper baby cup

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QUESTION: How do I clean copper? I have a copper baby cup (back from the "coppercraft" days) my mom gave to me 26 years ago. She passed away 1 1/2 years ago at 51, so now I want to bring the cup out of hiding, clean it up and display it with her dinnerware that I now have in a china cabinet.

The copper is shiny, so I am guessing that it has a lacquer finish on it. The discoloring on it looks like fine black cracks. There are a few different spots, some about the size of a quarter and the rest about the size of the end of a pen. The handle of the cup is the worst; it looks like a cross between tarnish and these tiny, fine cracks. Would this be 'bronze disease' or something else?

I have another question: Do you have a foolproof way of killing weeds? Are there any solutions to killing weeds but not the cedars? We have tried a few different suggestions from people, but no success. We have a good-sized yard and many spots with landscaping mulch or bark or rocks and we constantly have weeds coming up, especially the area next to our back fence (along the alley). We also have landscaping fabric in some of these spots and the weeds are poking through the fabric.

We really don't want to spend our life weeding, I thought these landscaping materials were supposed to minimize or eliminate weeds. What are we doing wrong? Tracy, Winnipeg

ANSWER: With the copper piece being so special to you, it may be worth it to take it to a jeweller and have it professionally cleaned especially since you are not 100 per cent sure if the cup is lacquered.

If you choose to tackle this project yourself, there are several household cleaning methods available as well as suitable products such as Wright's Copper Polishing Cream. However, I've found that one of the best products for removing tarnish and oxidation (that green stuff you sometimes find on old copper) is cleaner made for cleaning ceramic cook tops. This gentle abrasive product cleans away dirt that's settled into engraving without damaging any finish or scratching the metal. To polish old copper:

1. Spread ceramic cook top cleaner over the metal.

2. Use a soft brush to clean around molding and engraving.

3. Let dry.

4. Buff away polish with a soft cloth, using the brush to clean away any polish that has caked around molding or engraved lines.

In terms of the weeds, constant upkeep is part of life and something that we cannot get away from all together. The secret? Attack early. Getting weeds out of the garden at the start of the season, when they're most vulnerable, is a smart strategy for two reasons: it keeps annual weeds from forming seed heads and it keeps perennial weeds from developing deeper roots.

Remember, the root should be completely removed, even to its root depth. If the roots are six inches deep, make sure you dig the roots up from that depth as well. This can be accomplished by loosening the soil around the weed roots and slowly removing the weed back and forth from the soil. If the ground is too hard, try soaking it a little to ease the root removal process. Some people will even use hot water from a kettle to poor on shallow rooted weeds (like spurge) to help loosen up the soil or even kill weeds on the spot!

Landscape fabric used must be high quality and overlap so that no weeds or seeds can sneak in between layers. Also, make sure that no weeds sit on top of the fabric when laying it down so that they don't plant themselves. To kill weeds spray 100 per cent pickling vinegar onto weeds, but keep in mind that vinegar will kill all greenery that it touches.

Make sure to bag and throw away your clippings when you dig up weeds. This helps prevent the seeds from spreading. Excellent fertilization is also a good defensive step against weeds. Using the right type of fertilizer that possesses the best combination of nitrogen and other important compounds four times a year will go a long way in improving the health of your yard. But don't be surprised if some stubborn weeds still persist in growing; that's the time when other more aggressive steps must be taken to achieve effective weed control.

Let's talk mulch; the particle size of the mulch will determine the depth of the application. Apply coarse-textured mulches, such as bark and wood chips, four inches deep for weed control. Apply fine-textured mulches, such as shredded leaves or dry grass clippings, about two inches deep. Keep all mulches several inches away from the stems of plants or the trunks of trees and shrubs to prevent disease.

Lastly, herbicides are chemicals used to kill weeds. They are generally the last resort for home gardeners. Herbicides have several disadvantages:

-- They are expensive.

-- They are difficult to apply with accuracy.

-- Drifting or leaching may occur and damage desirable plants.

-- Proper storage and handling may be a problem.

-- Many herbicides are labelled for specific crops and are not suitable for a garden with a wide variety of crops.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can't remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand new blog/website: reena.ca!

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 F3

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