Homemade remedy to clean brass

Tarnished brass can take any otherwise lovely piece and make it look old and dingy. That’s why it’s important to always keep supplies around that will restore your brass to its original gleam. However, how you clean your metal depends on whether it’s lacquered or not.

The best way to polish brass that’s lacquered is to simply wipe it with a soft, damp cloth — do not use any kind of household cleaner. If it’s non-lacquered, Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, recommends using Good Housekeeping Seal holder Weiman Brass Polish ($9, amazon.com).

If you’re in a pinch, you can also try any of the following ideas that will also clean brass quite easily.

1. Ketchup

Squirt a dollop of ketchup on a rag and rub over the surface. Wipe off the residue with a damp cloth and buff dry.

2. Vinegar

Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1/2 cup vinegar and add enough flour to make a paste. Rub onto the brass and leave for 10 minutes, then rinse and buff dry.

3. Lemon

Squeeze half of a lemon onto a sponge and sprinkle salt on top. Rub over the sponge over the surface and then rinse it off. The results are pretty amazing:

5 Genius Ways to Clean Brass

Over time, your favorite brass pieces can lose their shine. Oxygen, water, and other elements can cause the metal to corrode or tarnish. Luckily, there are many simple ways to bring life back to your brass. We’ll introduce you to several methods that require only basic household supplies and a few minutes of your time.

Before you begin cleaning, make sure that what you’re polishing is actually made from brass. Just because an item looks like the popular metal doesn’t mean that it’s pure. Many items are simply brass-plated, and these cleaning methods could damage them. If you’re not sure, there’s a simple test: Just check the metal with a magnet—if it sticks, it’s not real brass.

Additionally, check to see if the brass has been lacquered. Lacquer is a thin, shiny layer that helps to prevent tarnish. Unfortunately, most cleaning methods will damage lacquered brass, so your best option is to take the piece to a professional.

You’ll also want to understand what kind of stain, grime, or buildup you’re working with. Always test the cleaning method in a small, inconspicuous area. For stubborn stains, you can try several different cleaning methods on the same spot, just make sure to complete the entire process before moving on to the next method. And if you have any doubts or the item you’re trying to clean is high in value, consider taking the brass in for a professional cleaning.

Get our best brass decorating ideas.

Image zoom

1. Count on Condiments

Who would have guessed that your favorite burger topping could double as a brass cleanser? Ketchup’s beloved mix of tomatoes, spices, and vinegar is a cheap, straightforward way to revive old brass. This simple hack requires just the condiment and a few clean cloths. Start by squirting a small amount of ketchup onto the brass in an inconspicuous spot. Let it sit for a couple of seconds, then wipe clean with a damp cloth. Repeat on the remainder of the brass piece. Rinse thoroughly, then dry with a clean cloth.

2. Form a Powerful Paste

A trio of common household items unite for this brass cleaning method. You’ll need salt’s abrasive power and vinegar’s tough acid—coupled with all-purpose flour as a thickener—to make tough stains disappear. In a medium-size bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt to 1/2 cup vinegar. Stir the mixture until the salt is dissolved. Then add enough flour to make a paste—about two tablespoons. Rub the paste onto your brass object and let dry for 10 minutes. Rinse, wipe clean, and thoroughly dry the brass with a clean cloth.

3. Mix Two Common Cleaners

Lemon and baking soda are powerful cleaners on their own. But when united, this dynamic duo removes brass buildup with ease. Start by squeezing the juice from half of a lemon into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and mix. With a clean cloth, rub some of the mixture onto the brass. Polish and buff away grime, reapplying the mixture as needed. Wipe away any leftover residue with a wet rag, then dry with a clean cloth.

Editor’s Tip: Try this method on brass items that you can’t easily soak, such as doorknobs and knockers. You’ll revive the shine without having to remove any hardware.

20+ smart ways to use lemon as a cleaner.

4. Go Back to the Basics

Sometimes the simplest cleaning methods are the most effective. If you’re short on cleaning supplies, try soap and water. Make a warm bath for your brass in a clean container, then mix in a few tablespoons of soap. Soak the brass for a few seconds, then use a microfiber cloth or clean toothbrush to work out any stains. The warm water and soap will do some of the work, but this method may still require a little bit of elbow grease! Once all of the tarnish is gone, remove the brass piece from the soapy water. Rinse and wipe dry with a clean cloth.

5. Head to the Dental Aisle

Toothpaste keeps your pearly whites, well, white. And you can use that same cleaning magic on brass. First, pick the perfect toothpaste. You don’t need any gels or fancy flavors, just a plain, white toothpaste will do. Then, apply a thin layer of the paste to your brass object. Let rest for a few minutes, then polish with a clean cloth. For tough spots, you’ll likely need to use a little force. Feel free to apply extra dabs of toothpaste to particularly stubborn areas. Once the brass is polished to your liking, rinse with cool water and dry with a microfiber cloth.

  • By Katie Bandurski

2.4K Shares

You can check out any interior design website and it’s obvious that BRASS IS BACK!

I find this amusing because growing up, we had so many brass tchotchkes in our home – it border lined a fetish. 😉

Well maybe childhood nostalgia was one of the reasons I swooned for these handles. Aside from the gorgeous unique shape and design, I envisioned this tarnished furniture hardware all shined up to its original warm glow.

First things first though.

I had to make sure they were brass before I started polishing these babies up.

Is this solid brass… or not?

Before using any elbow grease to polish brass, it’s a good idea to make sure it really IS a solid brass item you’re working with. This is easy enough to do. Just grab a magnet from the fridge and place it on your hardware or item in question.

Solid brass is NOT magnetic – so if the magnet sticks, it may be brass plating or an alternative metal or mix.

After my handles passed the magnet test, I tried a few DIY Homemade Brass Cleaners for the best result. These easy recipes bring your brass hardware back to its original luster by using common household ingredients you have in your kitchen!

Here’s 3 Simple Homemade Brass Cleaner Recipes

Recipe #1

1 Lemon

1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda

In a plastic container I mixed the juice from one lemon along with a tablespoon of Baking Soda. It fizzed and then turned into a paste which I rubbed in with an old toothbrush. Another fast way of doing this is to cut your lemon into wedges then dip the lemon wedge into the baking soda. Use the lemon wedge covered in the baking soda to rub down and polish the brass.

Here’s the before and after when using the lemon and baking soda recipe. Not bad but not quite as shiny as I wanted it.

Recipe #2

5 Tablespoons Salt

1 Cup of Vinegar

(you can also add flour to turn this into a paste but it’s not necessary)

I added the salt and vinegar into a plastic container and rubbed the solution on with an old toothbrush.

I let the hardware sit for about 45 minutes while I worked on something else and then gave it another rub. I found this recipe worked better than the lemon and baking soda.

Here’s the before and after when using the salt and vinegar recipe. Perfect!

Recipe #3

Not so much a recipe as individual ingredients. Toothpaste (a method my Mum used on occasion when she ran out of Brasso) or Ketchup. I didn’t get around to using either of these because my #2 Recipe worked extremely well. Also, the thought of spreading Ketchup all over this pretty hardware wasn’t doing it for me… but I’ve read it works really well.

Instructions:

All the above Homemade Brass Cleaner Recipes can be adjusted for the size of your project. Mix more or less as needed!

1. In a plastic container, combine all ingredients and mix well.

2. Using a soft toothbrush to get into grooves, rub the polishing ingredients onto the hardware.

3. If additional polishing is required, allow hardware to sit in solution for 30-60 minutes.

4. Repeat step #2

5. Rinse thoroughly and then buff dry with soft cloth.

Doesn’t this look great! I think these brass handles look amazing all polished up!

Now here’s the kicker, after this hardware was all polished pretty, I ended up painting them for this waterfall dresser re-do. Sometimes a vision doesn’t play out as planned right..lol. I still have two of these handles left, so maybe they’ll still get to show off their original now trendy luster on another project!

How do you feel about brass hardware or home decor? Have you tried any other homemade brass cleaner recipes? Or do you have a favorite product you use to shine your brass? I love all your comments, questions and suggestions so keep ’em coming!

Catch last week’s Q-T-T here – and if YOU have any tips you’d like featured on the SI Quick-Tip-Tuesday-Series, feel free to send me an email!

Enjoy your day and have fun with your next project!

Denise x

_____________________________

Like what you see? Subscribe to Salvaged Inspirations so you’ll never miss a post!

Follow along on Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook for more inspiration!

2.4K Shares

This post may include affiliate links to find a product mentioned. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full Disclosure Policy.

1.9Kshares

  • Pinterest1.9K
  • Facebook20
  • Twitter1
  • Yummly
  • Buffer2

Have you ever heard of cleaning anything with ketchup? Well, I shook my head in disbelief too until I tried it! I decided to redo my entryway to spruce up my house for the new year. I was tired of looking at cluttered shoes and coats everywhere, so something had to be done.

I got a very cool new entryway furniture piece {more on that in a later post} and added some of my own DIY decor, see my Hello Darling Sign from a tray and I wanted to include this brass umbrella stand I’ve had sitting in the corner of my office for a couple of years now. I use it to store my yardsticks, and I thought it would be the perfect addition to my new front door vignette.

I bought the stand at Goodwill a few years ago. When I saw it, I instantly thought it had great bones, but man was it tarnished. I had planned to paint over it or cover it with fabric, I just never got around to it. One of those lost projects that never got finished. Well now since brass is starting to become a trend again, I wanted to try to get the stand close to its original glory so I could use it in my entryway.

I started searching around “how to clean brass” and came across a bunch of home remedies. The quirkiest one I found was smearing ketchup over the brass! We all know there is acid in tomatoes so I wasn’t completely skeptical, but it does sound weird to clean with it. I had some on hand and so I thought “what the heck” let’s give it a try!

I put the stand on its side and rubbed a thin layer of ketchup {Heinz to be exact} all over the barrel with a paper towel and let it sit. An hour later I started to see the ketchup drying out and turning white. The white was freaking me out a little and I didn’t want to tarnish it further. So, in case this method wasn’t working, I rinsed it off. I suds it up with Dawn dishwashing soap, then rinsed and dried the barrel.

To my surprise, it came out better than I expected! It was clearly lighter and brighter. So I figured since it did that well in an hour, I thought let’s go for one more and see how it looks.

So I repeated the process again. Let me just say, wow, what a difference the ketchup made. It was almost clean, but it still had some streaks on it. It looked like streaks from where I applied the ketchup in long wipes. So, back to the home remedy list for another method to remove the rest of the muck.

The next method I tried was a white vinegar and table salt mixture. I just poured vinegar over the barrel in a sink and sprinkled it with salt. I lightly scrubbed the barrel with a paper towel and to my surprise, almost all the tarnished black/green muck streaks were gone!

It’s not perfect, but I wasn’t looking for a like “brand new” finish, I like a little patina. So to me, it came out perfect! I am sure if you really scrubbed and repeated these methods you would get close to new results. So, all in all, I am happy! Thanks, Pinterest!

Before you start using one of these methods for cleaning:

The first thing you need to do is figure out if your brass piece is solid brass, or brass-plated steel, zinc, or cast iron. Place a small magnet on the piece if you’re not sure about it. Magnets will not stick to solid brass, so if the magnet sticks, the piece is brass-plated. Plated items can be cleaned with hot soapy water, but rubbing or polishing them too aggressively can remove the brass plating, so proceed with caution.

The remedies below are only for raw brass. You need to determine if the brass is coated with a lacquer of some sort. If so, you may need to get a varnish remover to get the coating off before cleaning. Then reapply lacquer after cleaning.

Clean Brass with Home Remedies

Home Remedy #1~ Apply ketchup to brass with a soft cloth. Leave on for one hour then rinse. Wash with soap, rinse then dry thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.

Home Remedy #2~ Apply White vinegar with a soft cloth to brass. Sprinkle with table salt and gently scrub the brass. Rinse the brass with water, wash with a mild soap, rinse again and then dry thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.

As expected, our hunt for new door handles is turning out to be slightly more difficult than we would like. On most doors, we still have the art nouveau door handles but sadly some of them have been replaced with ugly cheap ones and we now have to find 13 new ones to match original period ones.

I still have no idea why anyone would ever remove original features especially as the original door handles we’ve been looking at cost in excess of 100€ – each! Yikes!

While we’re still searching for new handles we figured that it was about time that we at least made the most of the ones we do have! They’re all in a good condition but they have been neglected, painted on and overall could all do with a really good clean.

While doing some research on how to clean brass I came across loads of different methods and it started to feel a bit overwhelming. Sometimes there’s just too much information out there and it can be difficult to sift through all different options to find out which is best for you.

How do you know which method is best? Well, we didn’t and we figured we couldn’t be the only ones confused by all of the different ways to clean brass so we thought we’d just try them all! A lot of the methods we tested just use household products that you probably have lying around!

Yep, I tried every method I read about! And if you’re wondering about the best way how to clean brass here are our results!

1. How To Clean Brass with Tomato Ketchup

It felt very weird squeezing some tomato ketchup onto a door handle and even as I was applying it honestly felt like it was a method that just couldn’t work.

After wiping the ketchup over the door plate I left it to work. Surprisingly, after just 5 minutes I could already see the brass change colour and being impatient as usual, I rubbed it off about 10 minutes later. I’d still not expected to see a big change but just look at the difference!

That’s the result with no scrubbing or rubbing at all – I literally just wiped off the ketchup!

2. How To Clean Brass with Yoghurt

Yep, it just keeps getting weirder! I’d read how sour milk, buttermilk and yoghurt could all work when cleaning brass. We figured they all work in a similar way (I assume it has something to do with the acidity in all of them) so we tried to clean our brass with yoghurt.

We applied a layer of yoghurt onto the plate and let it rest for around 10 minutes before rinsing under water and rubbing the plate dry.

As you can see, this method worked surprisingly well, too and there was no scrubbing involved at all!

3. How To Clean Brass with Salt, Flour & Vinegar

Sticking with the theme of using food to clean brass the next method we tried was a thick paste made of roughly equal parts of salt, flour and vinegar.

I rubbed in the paste with a toothbrush and then waited about half an hour before cleaning the door handle and patting it dry with a soft cloth. I have to admit, that I was a bit nervous about this method as I’d read that brass can easily scratch and I was worried that the salt might be too abrasive. It was also a bit of a sticky mess.

I only used a fine salt and didn’t rub on the mixture as I was worried about scratching the brass but as you can see, the mixture worked really well. It was a bit smelly though!

4. How To Clean Brass with Lemon Juice & Baking Soda

This method is very similar to the flour, vinegar and salt cleaning method that I just mentioned. I used about half a lemon and a teaspoon or so of baking soda to make a thickish paste which I then rubbed all over the brass.

Almost instantly you can see the brass change colour and the dirt disappear. It really was quite amazing!

I would definitely recommend mixing the paste in a separate bowl and not attempting to mix it directly on the brass. The lemon juice seems to be really harsh and you could end up with a patchy result otherwise. You should also definitely give the brass a rinse under some warm water when you’ve finished cleaning it, too!

5. How To Clean Brass with Toothpaste

Admittedly this sounds like another weird method but we figured if yoghurt and ketchup clean brass why not give toothpaste a try, too.

As with the other methods, we just smeared some toothpaste onto the brass and waited. Because the paste is thicker than both ketchup and yoghurt it somehow felt like it could work – but it didn’t.

Out of all methods, we tried this one was by far the least effective. Basically, it didn’t work at all.

6. How To Clean Brass with Brass Polish

Given how well some of our (almost) free household brass cleaners worked I probably wouldn’t have bothered purchasing a proper brass cleaning product but figured that, for this comparison post at least, it only made sense to see how well a professional brass cleaning product would work compared to the other methods that I tested.

Following the instructions of the cleaner I used (we used this brass cleaner called Elsterglanz which translates to magpie shine) I rubbed the paste over the brass and gave it a good polish with the provided cloth.

The cleaner worked really well and definitely left a much shinier and more even finish than the other methods I tried.

Having said that, it required a lot of muscle power to rub away the dirt on the very tarnished brass so I’d definitely recommend giving the item a clean with another method first and then switch over to polishing with a brass cleaner.

It wasn’t an expensive product and we have a ridiculous amount of door and window handles so it’ll definitely get used for day to day maintenance!

So, which method worked best?

I have to say that I was surprised at how well most of the methods we tried worked. My favourite method though was the ketchup! Other than wiping it on and off the handles there was absolutely no work involved.

The shop bought cleaner also worked really for polishing items and, as we already mentioned, left a much more even and shinier finish than we managed to achieve with any of the other cleaners (although that may not always be what you want to achieve, especially if you have a patinated antique!).

Here are the brass cleaning methods we tried in order of our preference:

1. Ketchup. Almost no work involved. Cover the brass, wait and rinse off. Couldn’t have been easier!

2. Lemon Juice & Baking Soda. I really couldn’t decide which method I liked best and it was a close contest between the top 3. This method left a super clean and even finish (like the brass cleaner) and worked almost instantaneously with very little effort.

3. Yoghurt. This method worked as well as the ketchup.

4. Bass Cleaner. Worked well and left a shiny and even finish. I found it very tough to clean really dirty brass though and would recommend pre-cleaning it with another method before just using the brass cleaner as a polish. It’s also the most expensive method we tested.

5. Salt, Flour & Vinegar. Worked really well but inevitably it smelt a bit and was super sticky which meant it was the most work to clean (I’m being super picky here!).

6. Toothpaste. Basically, it just didn’t work at all!

Now that we have lovely clean door handles we just need to replace our missing ones. Luckily we have been making some progress on that front and hopefully, we’ll be able to share something soon! I may need to take out a second mortgage to afford them, though!

Have you ever tried any of these methods to clean brass? Do you have a random product that works well for cleaning brass (or anything else!)?

PS. As you can see, we’ve not yet cleaned off the messy paint that someone has kindly left all over our door handles. We will, of course, be cleaning all handles some more but for the sake of comparing which cleaning method works best (for day to day dirt), we figured we’d save the fun of stripping paint for another day!

*This post contains affiliate links. We only link to products we love and think you will, too!

PS. If you like this post, you’ll probably love our free printable cleaning checklist! You can download it here!

SHOP OUR DIY ESSENTIALS

A Variety Of Ways You Can Clean Brass, Copper & More

Here’s a list of homemade cleaners I’ve collected over the years to help remove tarnish and buff metals to a shine, some of them may surprise you!

Directions For Use:

  • Using a damp cloth or toothbrush, scrub with one of the following then wipe off with a damp cloth and buff to a shine with a piece of flannel or other soft material. If the piece has a lacquer coating for protection, simply wipe with a damp cloth then dry with a soft one.

(For Brass)

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Ketchup (allow to dry then scrub off with a cloth or soft bristle brush)
  • Tomato Juice Soak: Cover the piece with tomato juice and allow to soak for a few hours. Rinse off with clear water then buff dry.
  • Milk Soak: Mix two parts milk with one part water, soak pieces for a couple hours then rinse with clear water and buff dry with a cloth. If you’re out of milk, try plain yogurt (undiluted) or sour milk instead.
  • Vinegar Soak: Mix two parts vinegar with one part water, soak pieces for a couple hours then rinse with clear water and buff dry.
  • Cream of Tartar & Lemon Juice: Make a paste then scrub into piece. Rinse off with clear water and buff.
  • Vinegar & Salt: Pour vinegar on a cloth, sprinkle with salt then gently rub into piece.
  • Lemon Juice & Salt or Baking Soda: Sprinkle salt or baking soda on a wedge of lemon, this will provide a gentle abrasion for removing grime.
  • Old-timers Tip: Rub piece all over with olive oil then with a dry rotten-stone (tripoli), remove with a cloth and buff to a shine.

Protect From Tarnishing: Keep things shiny by polishing with olive oil.

Lacquer Finish: Some pieces have a lacquer finish to help prevent tarnishing. If you wish to remove it, boil piece in a large pot of boiling water with 3 tablespoons baking soda and 3 tablespoons washing soda. Polish dry with a soft, dry cloth once the lacquer has been successfully removed.

  • Why do things like Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce & Lemon Juice work? It’s the acidic content that eats away at the tarnish. Milk also contains a lactic acid and that’s why soaking a piece in milk will help.

For Copper & Metals:
*First published November 1, 2006 and moved to this page for better organization

1 TBSP Flour
1 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP White Vinegar

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, combine salt and flour. Stir until well blended.
  • Make a thick paste by adding vinegar to the salt and flour.
  • Using a damp sponge or cloth, smear on the paste. Rub gently.
  • Allow polish to dry for approximately one hour.
  • Rinse piece well with warm water.
  • Buff dry with soft cloth.

Suitable For: Brass, Bronze, Copper, Pewter
Not Suitable For: Silver, Silver Plate, Jewelry

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *