Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper. Besides the fact that it’s corrosion-resistant and relatively inexpensive, it has a bright golden color giving items that warm, burnished glow. Brass is a favorite material for household items including kitchen utensils, door knockers, furniture, lamps, and bathroom fixtures.

But just like other metals, it will tarnish over time. Luckily, there are numerous ways of cleaning brass to bring back its brassy bite. Want to learn how to clean brass? You’re in luck. This article lists some of the most effective methods on how to clean brass that utilize natural ingredients only. Most of these ingredients are already in your possession for sure.

Before Cleaning

Before you can learn how to clean brass, you need to make sure it’s really brass you’re dealing with in the first place. It may not be as obvious as you think.

A simple test will settle your doubts: Grab a refrigerator magnet and place it on the item. If the magnet doesn’t stick, your item is indeed made from solid brass. If it sticks, your item is only brass coated.

But why is this important? Some of the cleaning methods are too aggressive for brass-plated items since they may damage the plating. You need to know how to clean brass when the alloy is either wholesome or only used as a coating.

1. Hot Water and Soap

If your item is brass-plated or dirty but not quite tarnished, employ some light cleaning using hot water and soap. Fill the sink with hot soapy water, submerge your item, and clean it using a soft cloth. Scrub the crevices using a toothbrush and then rinse the item using clean, warm water.

Ensure that you dry the item thoroughly after cleaning. If the item is extremely dirty or tarnished, you can try commercial cleaners. Don’t use too much of them though since they are abrasive and may scratch the brass surface if used frequently.

2. Lemon and Salt

basket with lemons

The mild acid in lemon juice will remove the dirt and tarnish. Salt has an abrasive nature. Cut a lemon in half and remove the seeds. Take one half and sprinkle some salt over it.

Use it as a scouring pad and rub it over the item until the entire surface is covered with lemon and salt. Make sure to squeeze out the lemon juice as you do this. If the item is too large, re-coat the lemon with salt if necessary. Rinse the item with warm water and buff it.

3. Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

Cut the lemon in two and squeeze out the lemon juice from one half into a bowl. Add some baking soda to the juice. The mixture will fizzle a little, but it should settle down gradually as you mix it. Stir the lemon juice and baking soda mixture until it turns into a delicious smelling paste. Use a cloth to apply the paste to your item gently. Rinse with warm water and wipe it dry using a clean towel.

4. Toothpaste

Any toothpaste will do the trick, but it should preferably not be 100% gel. Wash your brass item first with soap and water and dry it using a paper towel. Squeeze a bit of the toothpaste on a small piece of clean cloth. Use it to rub the toothpaste on the item making sure to cover the entire surface. After you’re through, dry the item with a clean cloth or paper towel.

5. Ketchup

Yes! Ketchup is an effective brass cleaner. Smear the ketchup all over your brass item. Use a soft toothbrush or just your finger to rub and distribute it over the entire metal surface.

Let the item sit for several minutes and then rinse off the entire ketchup residue. You can repeat the procedure several times until you get the desired appearance. Don’t leave any traces of the ketchup. Dry the item thoroughly.

6. Flitz Polisher

Flitz is an excellent polisher and cleaner and not just for brass. It is non-toxic and non-abrasive.

Squeeze some Flitz paste onto a small piece of cloth and rub it over the entire surface of the brass item. It will clean and polish it. When done, wash the item and dry it thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towel.

7. Cream of Tartar plus Lemon Juice Paste

You can make another brass cleaning paste by mixing lemon juice and cream of tartar. Put one part lemon juice and two-part cream of tartar in a bowl and stir the mixture into a firm paste.

Rub the solution on the entire surface of the brass item and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the item thoroughly with lukewarm water and use a dry cloth for buffing.

8. Vinegar

Mix one part water and two parts vinegar to make a water-vinegar solution. Submerge your brass item in the solution and let it soak for around two or three hours. Rinse the item with warm water and later dry it.

You can also use vinegar paste. Use equal parts salt, white flour, and vinegar to make the paste. Using a soft toothbrush or your fingers, rub the paste over the surface of the item. Let the item sit for about an hour then rinse it off with clean water.

9. Ammonia

If your item is too tarnished, you need to know how to clean brass with ammonia. Mix one part ammonia and eight parts water. Completely immerse the brass item in the solution. Let it sit for around 10 minutes.

Always ensure the room you’re working in is well ventilated when using ammonia. This method may not be effective on items that aren’t 100% brass or brass items that have decorations.

In Conclusion

antique brass tea pot

You can learn how to clean brass by following any of the methods listed above. To protect the newly cleaned brass from tarnishing again, rub your item’s surface with mineral or linseed oil. Avoid touching the brass item unless necessary. The oil on your hands will make it tarnish faster.

Sometimes cleaning your brass item is not advisable. If your brass item is an antique, you might want to contact an appraiser before commencing the cleaning process. The tarnish could actually add value to your item. Removing it or interfering with the natural finish may lower its value.

Image source: 1, 2, 3

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