How To Clean Brass

2 Mar 2015

I will give you an old fashioned tip, something that I used to do with my grandma to clean the argenterie (silverware) or when cleaning my dad’s musical instrument or old brass French fireman’s helmet. We used a mixture of flour with salt and vinegar. It was perfect and made everything sparkle and look brand new. Now you have another option for cleaning brass or jewelry.

Made from a combination of zinc and copper, brass is a popular metal found in cookware, jewelry, musical instruments (brass band, anyone?) and home decorative objects. If your house is of a certain age, many of your doorknobs may be brass.

Like the metals from which it is made, brass also tarnishes easily. What is the best way to clean brass? First, you need to determine if your item is, in fact, made of brass. Hold a magnet to your item. If it sticks, the item is not brass, but most likely brass-plated. Use only water and mild detergent to clean brass-plated items, as anything more abrasive could damage the plating.

If you have a tarnished or dirty brass piece that needs cleaning, how you do it depends on whether it is lacquered – i.e. coated with a protective glossy finish – or non-lacquered brass. Lacquered brass can be cleaned simply by wiping with a damp cloth.

Cleaning non-lacquered brass requires more elbow grease. Though there are chemical brass cleaners on the market, try using some of these natural ingredients to clean brass, most of which you probably already have at home:

  • Ketchup:The housekeeping guru who has been writing the syndicated “Hints from Heloise” column for more than 30 years recommends this kitchen staple. Squirt some ketchup on a clean cloth and rub over tarnished brass. Then wipe clean with a damp cloth and buff dry.
  • Soap or Mild Detergent: If your brass item is dusty or dirty rather than tarnished, submerging it in warm soapy water and cleaning with a soft cloth could do the trick. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub extra dirty areas.
  • Vinegar, Salt and Flour: These versatile home staples can be combined to make a paste to clean tarnished brass. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into one-half cup of vinegar, and add flour until the mixture becomes a paste. Rub into the brass, leave for about 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water and buff dry.
  • Water, Salt and Vinegar: Heat a pint of water, and add 2 tablespoons each of salt and white vinegar to create another natural recipe for polishing tarnished brass. Rub the mixture onto the brass, then dry with a clean rag.
  • Lemon Juice: Straight lemon juice can be used to clean brass and bring back the shine. After cleaning with lemonjuice, wipe with damp cloth and buff dry.