How to Clean Badly Tarnished Brass
Before using brass cleaning solutions on an inconspicuous area, make sure that they won’t scratch the surface. Also take precaution not to scratch it!
Natural lemon juice and table salt solutions may work to clean brass surfaces effectively. Cut a lemon in half, dip each half in salt, then rub over its surface. Rinse, wipe clean, and buff dry for best results.
Step one in cleaning a badly tarnished brass object involves getting rid of dirt and grime. Use a soft cloth soaked with warm water and gentle soap to carefully cleanse it while paying special attention to crevices or small corners where dirt collects, making sure to rinse and dry properly afterwards.
If you don’t have any mild cleaning products on hand, try this safe homemade solution: Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl and combine with two teaspoons of baking soda until you achieve a thick enough paste to apply directly onto brass objects as a poultice. Rub this onto all areas where there is tarnish before leaving it sit for one or more hours before applying another layer and repeating this step if any residue remains; rinse and buff afterwards using a soft lint-free cloth.
Salt can also be an effective natural cleaner. Simply slice a lemon in half and coat its cut edges with table salt before using this technique to rub over tarnished brass surfaces. Reapply additional layers as necessary; this method works particularly well for items not too heavily tarnished as well as doorknobs with stained handles.
Ketchup and tomato paste contain natural acids which dissolve tarnish on brass-plated objects, so applying either of these to them for one hour before washing off with warm soapy water and drying. Before resorting to harsher cleaners, make sure that it’s real brass by magnetizing it – if the object sticks, this might indicate fake brass that requires more aggressive solutions.
Though you might not think of toothpaste as an obvious brass cleaner, it can actually help remove heavy tarnish and polish its surface. Simply apply plain white toothpaste – without gels or flavors – onto your brass item in thin layers, leaving for several minutes before scrubbing off with cloth or toothbrush to remove grime and tarnish, rinse well, and dry completely before proceeding further. Alternatively, commercial metal cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend may also work effectively in cleaning brass items.
For lighter tarnish removal, pantry items such as vinegar, ketchup, flour or salt may help. Their acidity dissolving the chemical bonds that cause brass to tarnish can yield great results; for optimal results use a microfiber cloth dipped into warm and soapy water with warm wash water before applying polish or lacquer on brass to slow or prevent further tarnishing.
Note that if your brass is plated, abrasive cleaning methods could damage its coating and reduce value. Before cleaning a plated piece with these methods, test for solid brass using a magnet; if it sticks then take it to a professional metal cleaner instead of doing it yourself. Moreover, some people prefer the antique appearance of tarnishing brass items and removing this patina may reduce its value; therefore it might be best to leave more valuable pieces with professionals rather than doing it yourself.
If your brass is heavily tarnished and requires an acidic solution to dissolve rust, vinegar can be an excellent home brass cleaner. One of the most widely-used household brass cleaners, vinegar from lab production contains more acetic acid and thus works more effectively than natural varieties. When cleaning with vinegar it is wise to wear rubber gloves since its acid can cause lung or skin irritation; additionally it would be wise to clean your workspace prior to commencing work with a cloth or brush and wear an open-face respirator as part of this method of cleansing.
Home remedies for heavily tarnished brass include mixing equal parts white vinegar and salt with flour to form a paste, then applying to brass surfaces and leaving for at least an hour or two before scrubbing and rinsing. This method may prove particularly effective on vertical surfaces or hardware as well as areas that have experienced excessive corrosion.
Salt’s abrasive power combined with lemon’s acid can effectively remove brass buildup without harming either your lungs or skin. Simply cut a lemon in half and sprinkle its exposed edges with salt before using your fingers to scrub or squeeze away at it as necessary. Alternatively, an old toothbrush dipped in baking soda or Bar Keeper’s Friend can be used to scrub out tight corners.
4. Baking Soda
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, like any metal it can tarnish over time when exposed to air. Tarnishing occurs through chemical reaction that leads to darkening of copper’s coloring, known as patina. Though tarnishing does not compromise structural integrity or affect functional performance of brass pieces, its presence can make them appear unsightly. Luckily there are safe and nontoxic methods available to remove tarnishing.
Clean badly tarnished brass items using hot soapy water. Use a soft cloth dipped into this solution to rub in circular motions until rinsing and drying thoroughly. Or alternatively use toothpaste which contains abrasive components which will effectively remove tarnish and debris from its surface.
Baking soda, white vinegar and salt can also be combined to form a paste that you apply directly onto the brass surface that has become discolored or stained. Let this set for one or more hours before rinsing and drying off – this method works particularly well if the brass has become severely discolored or stained.
Another approach is to soak brass in a solution of aluminium foil and bicarbonate of soda. Line a container with aluminium foil, pour in the solution, leave for 30-60 minutes until greenish corrosion marks have vanished, rinse with soapy water, then dry the brass.
If you can’t bear to discard brass items that have become heavily tarnished, don’t despair: try cleaning them using common pantry ingredients such as vinegar, ketchup or flour to restore them.
First, test to make sure it’s actually brass by testing with a magnet. If it sticks, it could be bronze or another type of metal and requires another method for cleaning. Otherwise, if your item doesn’t feature varnish coating, salt rubbing is an effective way to reduce most tarnish according to Country Living. Simply combine equal parts white vinegar and salt in a bowl to form a paste, rub onto your brass, wait an hour, rinse off, dry thoroughly before brushing any remaining grime off with an old toothbrush or cotton rag.
If the item is covered with varnish, according to HGTV you should soak it overnight in equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. After polishing you can also apply mineral oil as a preventive measure against further tarnishing; alternatively use food-safe polish and buff it regularly using a microfiber cloth to keep its shine.
6. Tomato Paste
Tomato paste or sauce contains an acid called acetic acid which is very effective against brass and other copper-based metals, including bronze. Squirt some onto a cloth and rub over any areas with tarnish; allow the acid to sit for an hour, and scrub away using either steel wool or toothbrush – depending on how severe the tarnish may be – then rinse, dry, and buff to finish the job off! This approach works best on solid, unlacquered brass pieces but it may work on some plated brass as well.
Other natural cleaning combinations include straight lemon juice, salt and lemon, or cream of tartar and lemon. A lemon in half coated with table salt can be used to gently rub against exposed brass surfaces for cleaning and polishing; then rinse, wipe dry, and buff as necessary. A combination of equal parts table salt and lemon may provide for more thorough cleaning, particularly of heavily tarnished brass surfaces; two parts cream of tartar powder mixed with one part lemon juice makes a paste-like paste that’s easier to apply and leave on for 30 minutes; then rinse, wipe dry and buff afterwards!
Always verify whether the brass you own is plated or solid; brass-plated items can be damaged easily by harsh cleaning solutions and could become sticky if they remain unplated. Likewise, avoid using tomato products on lacquered brass as their acid can eat through its protective layer and degrade it quickly.