How To Clean Brass Like An Expert?

Have you ever thought about how many objects made of brass you’ve got in your house? There might be more than you think, especially if you love decorating your living room! Door knobs, knockers, bell pushes, hardware edges, utensils, candlesticks, decorative objects and so on are just some examples of household brass pieces. 

Classic brass door knob on green door vintage style.

Let alone a family heirloom! A solid brass brooch gifted to you from your grandmother or a brass hairpin gave you your beloved aunt. How would you remove tarnish and bring back its bright colour without hurting its delicate layer?

That was my fear too when I decided to clean my lacquered brass vintage pendant that my mum gave to me. I was scared to use anything! What if I scratch it while rubbing it? Or if I applied a substance that might discolour it? How should I remove the tarnish build-up?

Worry no more! After extensive research and several tests, we’ve come up with seven methods by which you can clean the brass fearlessly and effectively. 

Preparation before cleaning your brass items

1. Decide if the objects are brass or brass-plated.

Just make sure that the objects you’re about to clean are solid brass. In many cases, they might look like brass, and they may be brass-plated, steel, cast-iron. But, how can you find out what your things are made of? Just place a magnet on the item. If the magnet sticks on it, then it’s cast iron or brass-plated. Magnets don’t stick to solid brass.
Now that you know how to recognise your pieces, let’s see how you can clean them as well.

2. Decide if the objects are lacquered or not.

Don’t worry, as deciding if your brass has lacquer or not is such an easy process. If already tarnished, then chances are that it probably has not been lacquered, as the point of varnish is to prevent tarnishing. But if you notice a thin, shiny coat layer that it’s coming off at places, then the brass has been polished.

Method 1: How to clean brass with ketchup

Did you know that you can use ketchup to clean old coins, silver, copper and even brass? You can’t imagine how well you can clean with tomato sauce or paste. These 3 ingredients consist of vinegar, one of the top components for DIY cleaning methods. Plus, tomatoes contain acid, a substance that helps to clean tarnished brass objects. 

ketcup cleaning

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Ketchup
  • Cleaning cloth (x2)
  • Dish soap dissolved in warm water

Now, the steps to success are very simple. Just: 

  1. Spread a small amount of ketchup on the brass or the cloth.
  2. Let it sit for an hour or more.
  3. Damp the second cloth or brass into the soapy water and wipe the residue off the brassed object and buff it until it dries. 

Method 2: How to clean brass with vinegar, flour and salt

Vinegar is the utmost cleaning ingredient. Combined with other powerful ingredients, you can clean almost everything, like your washing machine, shower glass and even mould off walls. So, why not try it and on brass too? We’ve found two ways you can use white vinegar on brass. The first way is to use white vinegar combined with household items you probably couldn’t imagine for that chore: flour and salt. The second method includes vinegar mixed only with salt.

First way: Vinegar, flour and salt

Supplies needed: 

  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • A sprinkle of flour
  • Cold water

Then follow these steps:

  1. Mix ½ cup of vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of flour until you get a paste.
  2. Spread the paste on your piece.
  3. Wait for a few minutes to work.
  4. Rinse the object with cold water or wipe it with a damp cloth. 

Note: This method is perfect to face corrosion as well. 

Second way: Vinegar and salt

Another effective method is using just vinegar and salt. Instead of forming a paste with vinegar, flour and salt,  you can just make a liquid mixture with vinegar and salt. 

Gather these supplies: 

  • Vinegar
  • A bowl of salt
  • A microfibre cloth

And then:

  1. Dry a cloth in vinegar.
  2. Dip it into the bowl filled with salt.
  3. Wipe the tarnished brass (little elbow grease might be needed).

Vinegar will make pieces brighter and remove any tarnish.

Method 3: Cleaning brass with baking soda and lemon juice 

I’m sure you’ve heard before about the cleaning properties of baking soda and lemon juice. They are both powerful cleaners either separately or mixed. Combining these two natural cleaners, you can create a powerful brass cleaner.

natural cleaners Vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon and cloth on wooden table

What you’ll need: 

  • A bowl
  • Juice from half slice of lemon
  • A teaspoon of baking soda
  • Microfiber cloths (x2)

The steps you need to follow:

  1. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the bowl.
  2. Then add a teaspoon of baking soda and stir.
  3. Damp a cloth with the mixture and rub it onto the object.
  4. Use the second dry cloth to dry the piece.

Method 4: How to clean brass with lemon and salt

Lemon is a terrific grease remover, cleaning ingredient, antibacterial, antiseptic and natural bleach. Combining lemon with salt can make your tarnished brass shine again. 

Supplies you’ll need:

  • A fresh lemon
  • Table Salt
  • A soft clean cloth

Now, do the following steps:

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Sprinkle salt on the exposed lemon.
  3. Rub it on the brass. If it’s needed, add some extra salt.
  4. Get the cloth and buff the brass.
Lady cleaning brass candlesticks.

Method 5: Cleaning your brass items with toothpaste

You might be used to whiten your teeth using toothpaste; however, you can also use it to clean your brass pieces. We promise! I can do a great job!

You’re going to need:

  • White toothpaste (not the gel type or with flavours)
  • A soft cloth (x2) or an old toothbrush ( not one that you plan on using any time soon)

All you need to do is:

  1. Apply a thin layer of toothpaste to the brass item.
  2. Let it sit for a while.
  3. Rub the brass with the cloth or the brush.
  4. Rinse it with cold water and buff it with the cloth.

Method 6: How to clean your brass with yoghurt

Another odd method, don’t you think? However, yoghurt, due to its acidic properties can get the job done. You’ll be surprised by the results and the most important with no elbow grease!

You’ll need:

  • A small amount of yoghurt
  • Wate
  • A cloth

Then, all you have to do is:

  1. Apply a layer on the brass.
  2. Wait 10 minutes to act.
  3. Rinse it with water.
  4. Then, wipe the brass dry with the cloth.

Method 7: How to clean brass with commercial metal cleaners

If you don’t trust homemade cleaning tips, you can opt for commercial metal cleaners, to get you out of trouble. When choosing a commercial product though, make sure that it’s designed specifically for brass. There are many cleaning products mentioned as metal polish. These might not work well on brass.

And one last thing. When using such products, you should first clean the item very well of dust and any debris, wash it with soapy water and afterwards apply the product. This way, you’ll have the best results

Tips on how to maintain it clean?

You can’t apply any cleaning method every day that’s for sure. There are some tips though you can follow to keep your brass clean. 

  • The first and the most important tip we could say is to avoid touching your brass as much as possible. Hand skin oils affect the brass and make it tarnish. 
  • Dust them regularly. This way, you’ll help them keep their shine and look clear. You can also use a toothbrush to clean any crevices better.   

Brass pieces are very delicate to scratches. So, whether you apply a commercial product or you follow a natural DIY brass polish, you better use a soft cloth while polishing to prevent hurting their surface. Just keep in mind when you use a store-bought product to always read the instructions before using it.

Kitchen brass utensils, chef accessories

Cleaning brass objects whether they’re antique brass and high in value or not, or a personal heritage, like the pendant my mum gave me, is absolutely safe; as long as you’re careful and don’t scrub it with abrasive scrubbing cloths or steel wool. 

After all, I’m still wearing mine!

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