How To Clean Brass: Tips And Guide | DIY Experience

How To Clean Brass: Tips And Guide

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Brass is an aesthetically timeless metal that’s quickly gaining popularity once again in the modern world.

Whether you use brass as an interior finishing for your lighting fixtures or ornamental decorations, you’ll need to know one thing in order to maintain its classic beauty: how to clean brass properly.

Whether you just found yourself a vintage brass cup set or if you’re planning on refinishing your home to have a brass touch, this knowledge will come in handy at some point.

This is because, over time, brass tarnishes. Once it’s tarnished, it loses its warm shimmer. By knowing how to clean brass properly, you’ll be able to rejuvenate the brass to its original beauty.


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Before you start cleaning your brass object or fixture, it’s important to find out if the brass item is brass-plated or solid brass.

In order to do this, take a magnet (from your refrigerator, for example) and place it on the item.

If it sticks to it, the item is not solid brass, but is only brass-plated. Magnets aren’t attracted to solid brass.

This is important to know ahead of time because if you clean a brass-plated item roughly, it’s possible to scrub off the plating.

So, if you find out through the magnet trick that your item is brass-plated, simply wipe the brass with hot, soapy water and dry it well.

On the other hand, if you find out your item is solid brass, you’re in for some DIY fun.

There are many ways on how to clean brass, some of them are conventional and others a bit more… creative.

This article will outline everything you need to know to give your brass item and home decor a polished and sultry look.

5 Ways On How To Clean Brass Properly

The best way to clean your brass item depends on how tarnished or dirty your item is.

If your solid-brass object is simply a bit scuffed up, all you’ll need to do is take hot soapy water to it with a soft cloth — just like you would with a brass-plated object.

Wipe down every surface with the cloth and use a toothbrush to get into the crevices.

You can then rinse the item with clean, warm water. Don’t forget to dry it well afterwards!

If you’ve come to this article because your brass item is seriously tarnished, follow the steps provided below.

1. Evaluate the Item’s Condition

how to clean brass bell

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Make sure the brass isn’t lacquered. Usually, it won't be if you’re needing a good clean up since the idea of lacquer is to prevent any tarnishing.

However, if you see a thin coating that’s flaking off in areas, your item has been lacquered which means the only option is to take it to a professional metal refinisher.

2. Use a High-Quality Brass Polish

Wright's Brass and Copper Polish and Cleaner - 8 Ounce - Gently Cleans...
  • Long-Lasting Shine - The finest ingredients keep brass, bronze & copper beautiful for many years to come
  • Easy - It takes just seconds to effortlessly polish, rinse & dry for a brilliant, mirror-like shine
  • Effective - Helps bring your brass pieces back to its original beauty by erasing the discoloration

If your item is becoming discolored, you can purchase a brass-designed polish. These products differ in terms of instructions so make sure you follow the specific instructions included on your polish’s label.

The recommended cleaning cloths differ as well. While some products recommend using a knit cotton material, others recommend using fine steel wool.

That being said, never use a steel wool that’s thicker than a grade 00 as it will scratch the surface of your brass item.

If the product you purchase does not specify what type of cloth to use, go for the softest cloth you can find, lying around at your house.

This is a great option if you’re looking for a quick and reliable fix that you can have on hand.

3. Natural Remedies

At-home remedies aren’t just popular for skin and hair treatments.

By using specific ingredients from your kitchen, you can make your own brass polish that works just as well as a store-bought product.

There are quite a few methods on how to clean brass naturally and as we mentioned before, some are quite unique and therefore may require an open mind.

The natural brass cleaners that can be found in your fridge or kitchen include:

Ketchup: As weird as it sounds, the mild acid found in tomatoes strips away dirt and tarnish from the brass.

how to clean brass tomatoes-ketchup-sad-food-veggie

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Start by rubbing the ketchup into the item with a soft cloth, then leave the ketchup-covered experiment somewhere where the dog can’t get to it. And preferably on newspaper or an easy-clean up station.

Then, after 3-5 minutes, rinse the brass item with warm water and dry completely. Alternatively, you can soak smaller brass items in tomato juice for 5 minutes if you find a bowl that works well.

Lemon Juice: This method works in the same way as ketchup since lemons contain acid as well that cleans brass properly.

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If your brass item has a lighter tarnish properly, simply cut a lemon in half and sprinkle the pulp side with salt. Then, rub the lemon half all over the surface of the brass item.

Once it’s covered with salted lemon, take a soft cloth and buff the item until it glimmers.

If you have a more serious tarnish happening, you can make a polishing paste with one-part lemon juice and two parts cream of tartar. Leave the mixture for 30 minutes, then rinse and dry thoroughly.

Yogurt: This can also include sour milk and buttermilk as they also include a level of acidity that cleans brass well.

how to clean brass bottle-milk-drink-beverage-cerea

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Apply a layer of yogurt to the brass item and let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing off the item under warm water. Finish by buffing the item with a soft, dry cloth. Breakfast AND a DIY project! Talk about productive multitasking.

Salt, Flour and Vinegar: Combine an equal amount of salt, flour and vinegar to make a thick-ish paste.


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Next, rub the paste into the item with a toothbrush and leave the kitchen ingredient, paste-covered brass item alone for roughly a half hour. Next, clean it off and pat dry with a soft cloth.

Remember to only use fine salt in the mixture as brass can scratch easily.

Lemon and Baking Soda Polish: Lemon again! Due to its acidic capabilities, this fruit has to make the list again.


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Start by combing juice from half a lemon with a teaspoon of baking soda. Make into a paste. Apply the paste to the item using a soft cloth. If there’s a lot of tarnish, let the paste sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse the item and dry properly with a dry, clean cloth.

If you don’t immediately see the results you’re after, repeat the process again.

Remember to mix the paste in a separate bowl as opposed to mixing it on the brass itself. Lemon juice is strong so may leave patchy spots if applied directly onto the item.

4. Find an Expert for Specific Items

For tricky items such as hinges, locks, lighting or hardware, it’s suggested you find a professional for help on how to clean brass in this form as they involve more than simply DIY procedures due to their complexity and wiring.

Look up a professional brass cleaner in your neighbourhood or city, sit back and wait for your perfectly polished and cleaned item to return!

5. Let Your Brass Age Beautifully


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Depending on your preference, the tarnish of an antique brass item can be the core of its beauty.

Look up tarnished or antique brass examples on Pinterest for a bit of inspiration and insight into what a well-aged tarnish can look like.

This is especially important for people who are looking to sell an antique brass item in the future. Polishing antique can reduce their value as buyers are specifically looking for the aged appearance.

Preventative Measures

As they say, prevention is the best treatment.

To prevent your new, clean brass from dirtying or tarnishing, rub the item down with a thin layer of mineral or linseed oil.

Avoid touching brass items as the oil from your skin and hands especially can lead to tarnishing.

Knowing how to clean brass with help keep your items beautiful, while knowing how to prevent tarnishing will help avoid frequent cleaning and (sometimes) messy DIY projects.

How To Clean Brass DIY: Final Tips And Results

Out of all the natural methods on how to clean brass, a few stand out as truly successful. Surprisingly, ketchup works wonderfully. It’s already a pre-mixed paste that requires little time and simply a squeeze of your Heinz bottle to do the job. 

The amount of acid found in tomatoes and ketchup is the perfect amount for cleaning brass properly.

For all of these methods, it’s important to follow the instructions as brass can be a delicate metal.

Make sure you always use a soft cloth and pre-mix the ingredients (if using a kitchen ingredient paste) so you don’t damage your brass item.

Also, make sure you know a bit about your brass item in order to give it the proper rub down it needs so that it can continue beautifying your home!

Featured Image via Pixabay

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