The oldest metal worked by man, copper now has a new relevance, and it’s all because of Covid-19: copper can kill the virus.

Over 20 years, research by Professor Bill Keevil and his team at the University of Southampton has seen copper zap one bad bug after another, from Legionnaires’ Disease and MRSA to MERS and now they’ve proven a copper alloy with antimicrobial properties kills the current coronavirus in less than 10 minutes.

Through the ages, copper has been used to create drinking vessels, sinks and even, reputedly, to heal wounds.

“Touch points” can be where copper truly shines in design today — used for handles, switches, sockets, fingerplates and even taps that could transmit a virus.

In Suffolk, Jim Lawrence’s large workforce makes mainly lighting, with copper wall switches from about £48, including dimmers plus socket/fingerplate.

At Proper Copper in Brighton, Khan Erkeksoy, Ed Moriarty and team turn copper tubing into funky handles priced from around £13, plus taps, pan racks, showers and towel rails (01273 973650).


Wall-mounted solid brass pan rail, from £68 at Proper Copper

They say: “Copper is super-sustainable. It can easily be melted and reused. Around 80 per cent of copper going the rounds is recycled.”

Alternatively, a simple pull handle in aged copper costs about £14 from fittings and home decor specialists Dowsing & Reynolds.

For safety outside the home, engineers in Yorkshire have just devised the KeepSafe, a neat gadget that stops you touching any handle at all. It looks a bit like a keyring bottle opener with little levers and protruding prongs to open doors and bins, activate loos, press lift buttons and tap card machines and keyboards — all remotely.

It even takes off bottle caps and is made from an antimicrobial copper alloy which will eliminate coronavirus in 10 minutes, as proven by the scientists at Southampton Uni. The KeepSafe costs £9.50 plus £1.50 postage (01751 432 355).

Its makers say: “Our KeepSafe tool is not a substitute for rigorous hand hygiene, but an extra weapon to fight an invisible enemy.”

Less strident than brass and brighter than bronze, copper is the darling of contemporary design, although copper finishes and lacquers are unlikely to be antibacterial.

Tom Dixon, with studio, café and flagship at King’s Cross, made his trademark spherical light, simply called Copper, in 2005, later adding squashed and elongated forms. Tip-top tech known as vacuum metallisation harnesses a mega-charge of electricity to vaporise a thin strip of copper into a fine coating for a polycarbonate form.

Historically, chefs have loved copper pans because they heat quickly and evenly. Top brand is Mauviel 1830 in Normandy. Its pans cost £200 to £300 at Harrods which also stocks Italy’s Ruffoni label.

More affordable is a huge copper pan range at ProWare, from £50 for a milk pan. John Lewis does copper pans in its own-label popular Croft Collection.

When it comes to kitchen design, Charlie Smallbone, pioneer of painted cupboards 40 years ago, runs Ledbury Studio, facing cabinets with copper and other metals.

Helen Parker of deVOL Kitchens in Leicestershire suggest copper for worktops and splashbacks. “It’s glamorous in an understated way, soft and tactile and perfect with dark, moody colours,” she says (showrooms in EC1; 020 3879 7900).


Kiruna Double Bed, Copper, £399,

Kitchen maker Alex Main of The Main Company adds: “Acidic liquids react with copper to develop a patina and that rustic look” (01423 330451).

Metal workshops can make copper worktops and/or splashbacks. John White of Zinc and Copper Worktops clad London spires and roofs in copper and zinc, then 12 years ago fitted out a chic zinc bar, spawning a new business. From around £340 a metre (DIY kits from

Copper can be a bathroom stunner, too.

Interior architects Michaelis Boyd specified copper baths made in Dorset by William Holland for Battersea Power Station, where 253 turn-key flats should be ready next year. Retail price is about £4,830. Copper baths start at £3,598 at BC Designs, with a copper basin at £534.

Find affordable copper accessories at Habitat and Wayfair and copper-faced sideboards at Swoon.

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