Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc which is common in many houseware products, can get tarnished and look dark and dull over time without proper use of brass cleaning solutions. Brass requires special acidic cleaning products to help remove the tarnish without damaging the metal.
Everyday Brass Cleaning
If your brass items aren't tarnished but instead just have dust, oil or dirt on them, there is only one cleaning solution you will need. That is good old soap and water. Just mix together a solution of three cups of lukewarm water and one teaspoon of any liquid dish soap, as long as it doesn't contain bleach. Dip a cotton cloth in the solution and wipe the brass clean. Scrub out any cracks, joints or engraving with an old toothbrush. Then rinse and dry.
Brass Cleaning Solutions for Tarnish
Tarnished brass requires a harsher cleaning solution, yet one that will not scratch the brass at the same time. Some common solutions people use are:
- Vinegar - Boil four cups of white vinegar in a stainless steel pot and place the brass item in the pot. Turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes. Then remove it from the heat.
- Ketchup - Put enough ketchup in the pan to cover the brass item. Boil the ketchup and then bring it down to a simmer. Cook the brass in the ketchup until the brass is shiny again.
- Vinegar and salt solution - Mix together two cups of white vinegar and two cups of ordinary table salt in a bucket. Then add the brass item. Scrub it with a soft-bristled brush. Since the vinegar isn't heated, it will require some effort.
- Hot sauce - Pour a half cup of ordinary hot sauce (not salsa or any other chunky variety) into a small dish. Dip your soft-bristled brush or the corner of a cotton cloth into the sauce. Use it to rub the tarnish off the brass.
Vinegar is the key ingredient in all of these solutions. It is just used in different ways. The heated solutions seem to work a little faster and with a minimal amount of scrubbing, but all have potential if you are patient and willing to work at it.
After using any of these solutions, rinse each item with lukewarm tap water. Then dry and polish the brass with a cotton cloth. Note that polishing the brass doesn't mean using commercial polish necessarily. It simply means wiping it dry in a circular motion to bring out the shine in the metal.
Also, feel free to adjust the amounts of cleaning solution as long as you keep the ratios the same, if applicable. If you're cleaning something large, such as a bed frame, you obviously won't be able to dip it in the heated solutions. In this situation, it's best to go with the vinegar and salt or hot sauce or to get a commercial cleaning product.
Commercial Brass Cleaning Solutions
If you don't feel comfortable using items from your kitchen to clean your fancy drawer pulls or fixtures, you can purchase a commercial solution instead. Some of the most popular ones are:
- Brasso - This is a metal polish that is meant to both clean the brass and make it have a streak-free shine.
- Wright's Brass Polish Cleaner - This cleaner is made specifically for use on unlacquered brass. If your brass object has a lacquer coating you will need to scrub it off with oxalic acid beforehand.
- Blitz Brass Cleaner - This cleaner is advertised as safe and nontoxic. It's a good choice for brass musical instruments and items that will be handled by children.
To use any of these solutions, simply apply them to the cotton cloth or toothbrush and then rub them on your brass. Use the amount recommend on each product's package.