An Ode to Pitambari, the Secret Behind My Sparkling Cookware

From burnished copper to tarnished silver, this no-fuss cleansing agent can restore it all.

May  9, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

For as long as I can remember, the cookware in my home has been given a day off every fortnight. A day for rest and pampering—a spa day, if you will. This is how it goes: Copper, steel, and bronze cookware and silverware are heaped on a kitchen counter. Then they’re placed, one by one, under a running tap and drenched in cold water. Coconut coir or a kitchen sponge is dipped in a salmon-pink powder that has been sprinkled over the counter and used to scrub each utensil vigorously. The vessels are allowed to rest under their powdery masks for a few minutes, and once washed and dried, their glossiest sheens are revealed.

That pink miracle-worker is called Pitambari, a deep cleanser-polisher that helps return metalware to their original shine. The word ‘pitambari’ is a combination of two Marathi words: ‘pit’ for brass, and ‘tamb’ for copper, but it can be used across a range of metals, including silver, stainless steel, aluminum and iron. For nearly four decades now, its tarnish-attacking properties has found it an abiding place in Indian households; in 2009, it found its way to the United States, making it available in major Indian grocery stores and online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.

“Growing up, I remember helping my nani (maternal grandmother) polish her vessels with this mysterious pink powder that seemed to work like magic,” says Kamana Bhaskaran, a Sonoma, California-based food content creator. Thirty years on, she still finds plenty of use for it to clean everything from steel pots and pans to her copper water bottle.

Photo by Amazon

Chef and producer Shrimoyee Chakraborty swears by her stash, too. In 2016, when she opened Calcutta Street, a Bengali restaurant in London, all she asked her mother to bring for her from India were several packets of Pitambari. “I’m obsessed with bronze utensils, and bought several for my restaurant—water glasses, jugs, and cooking vessels—and the Pitambari left them all spotless,” she reminisces. Chakraborty, who now shuttles between London and Mumbai, continues to have a steady supply of this powder for use at home.

Although Pitambari is used today on metals like steel and iron, in India, it was primarily used for traditional copper, silver and brass vessels for cooking, storing, and consuming. This practice of using these metals for food and water stems from Ayurveda, an ancient school of medicine that was also integral to the foundation of Indian cuisine. Most times, these conventional utensils (like the kalash, urli, kadai, and lota) would be passed down from one generation to another, and some were used in religious prayer so maintaining them was sacrosanct.

This reverence for our utensils is one of the reasons behind Pitambari’s very existence. Founder Ravindra Prabhudesai shares, “In my former life as a political activist, I’d visit hundreds of homes, and the one thing I found they all had in common were glittering copper and brass utensils, most of them cleaned with lemon, tamarind, buttermilk, or ash. I wanted to find a more effective solution.” And so, Pitambari (formerly known as Copshine) was born.

The packaging doesn’t reveal much about its ingredients, but Prabhudesai assures me it's entirely safe, and vegan, too. “It’s primarily a combination of dolomite powder, tamarind essence, and champaca flower extracts, but it also includes a few other secret ingredients that will…remain a secret.”

That’s okay, we won’t pry—just as long as we have a steady supply of Pitambari in our kitchens.

What's your favorite product for keeping copper and silver tarnish-free?

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • FS
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  • Bradley
  • Sonal Ved
    Sonal Ved
  • Cristin Poloni
    Cristin Poloni
Sonal Ved

Written by: Sonal Ved

Author of Whose Samosa Is It Anyway? & Tiffin


FS May 16, 2022
So this is vegan? Is it cruelty-free?
Sonal V. May 18, 2022
Cruelty-free for sure.
B May 15, 2022
How is it this product us being sold in the USA without disclosing everything that is in it? Especially in California with its highest and stringent safety disclosure regulations in the country?

I want to purchase the product to try it, but I won’t without knowing everything in it.
B May 15, 2022
Cristin P. May 16, 2022
A paste made with baking soda and water or vinegar works great!
Sonal V. May 18, 2022
The back of the packet mentions all ingredients that go into making it.
Bradley May 15, 2022
Metal polishes are extremely toxic. If they're not willing to give you the full ingredient list, stay far, far away.
Sonal V. May 18, 2022
They mention ingredients at the back of the packet.