5 Genius Ways to Clean Brass

Bring back the beautiful shine of your favorite brass items with these editor-tested cleaning methods. We'll show you how to use common household ingredients to remove grime and buildup.

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.

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Brass Jewelry

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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