How To Successfully Clean Brass With Household Products

If you're like many people, you love brass items in your home decor. It's been popular for centuries worldwide and can be found in homes everywhere to this day. When it comes time to start polishing and cleaning your brass items, it's important to know for sure it's solid. If you aren't absolutely positive something is brass, you can check it with a magnet. The magnet should not stick, so if it does, you're likely dealing with something only brass-plated. In this case, be careful so as not to remove the brass plating. You can just use hot soapy water and take care not to scrub too hard, via Wedtree.

Brass is made from an alloy of zinc and copper and is a strong metal with a relatively low cost. Brass has anti-corrosion qualities but like most metals, it can begin to tarnish after a while. Of course, there are lots of products out there you can buy that are specially made for cleaning brass. However, something you might not realize is that you probably have exactly what you need for the job, right in your kitchen cabinets! Today we're going to discuss how to successfully clean brass with household products, so keep reading and we'll show you what we found.

With toothpaste

According to Baking Soda Guy, a product everyone has (hopefully) is toothpaste, and it works quite nicely for cleaning brass. Of course, for large pieces, it might be a little harder, and you would need a lot of extra toothpaste laying around! But for smaller pieces, you may never want to use anything else. It removes tarnish and cleans brass with its mild abrasives that won't scratch whatever you're trying to clean. All you need besides the toothpaste is some warm water, a soft cloth, and a towel to dry.

When you're ready to begin, don't skimp on the toothpaste — put a thick layer over the entire surface area. Once the object is covered, leave it there for about 10-15 minutes. Then come back and use the soft cloth to gently wipe off the bulk of the toothpaste. Use warm water to go over it and remove any remaining residue, then towel dry. You'll see amazing results immediately, and wonder why no one ever told you about this before.

With baking soda and lemon juice

If you've got a lemon and some baking soda, you've got a good recipe for a DIY brass cleaner (via Birds of a Thread). The acids in the lemon juice work to keep the brass from turning green, and the gentle abrasive power of the baking soda helps clean the tarnish. When you mix these two ingredients together, there's a sort of chemical reaction that results in the perfect solution for cleaning your brass. For this one, you'll need a fresh lemon, baking soda, an old toothbrush, some warm water, and a towel.

In a small bowl, put three to four teaspoons of baking soda. Slice the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the bowl. After it stops bubbling, mix it into a paste. Take the old toothbrush and use this paste to clean the entire surface area of the brass pieces. Use the toothbrush to get into all the crevices. Afterward, use warm water to rinse thoroughly, then dry with the towel. Repeat these steps as many times as needed; at least twice is recommended. 

With flour, salt, and vinegar

Another great way to clean brass is with salt, flour, and vinegar, per Rotax Metals. Brass items will develop what's commonly known as a patina, technically carbonate and oxide, over time. Many people find the patina that forms on brass beautiful, while others want to keep their pieces shiny and polished. Either way, everyone still wants their brass clean. In this recipe, the flour and salt work to extract the tarnish from the brass, while the vinegar breaks it down so you can wipe it away. You'll need some clean rags, soapy water, a bowl, vinegar, flour, and salt.

Again, you'll be making a paste from these ingredients, so use equal parts of each until you have the amount you think you'll need for your items, and the right consistency of a paste. Take warm soapy water and clean the items first, and towel dry. Make sure they're completely dry before applying the paste over the surface of each. Let the mixture set to work its magic for about 20 minutes. Then take a clean rag and wipe the majority of the paste off. Buff it with another clean rag a little bit until you get the shine you want. Rinse with warm water and dry.

With baking soda, salt, and vinegar

According to Express Company, another recipe involves baking soda, salt, and white wine vinegar. Again we'll be making a paste, and there will be a reaction with the ingredients when combined. We all know that baking soda makes a great cleaning agent for many things, and it's a key component in multiple recipes for cleaning brass as well. The mild abrasive qualities are ideal for this purpose because they clean without scratching the metal, and the vinegar and salt react with it so they can help dissolve the tarnish. It's important to note that if your brass item has a shiny coating on it that could be flaking off in places, that indicates it's been coated with lacquer. Lacquered pieces must be taken to a metal refinisher for restoration, or you can remove the lacquer coating, clean it, and recoat it yourself.

Use ½ cup of baking soda, one cup of white wine vinegar, and two tablespoons of salt. Combine the ingredients into a paste and put a thick layer on the entire surface of the items by dipping a clean cloth into the mixture and applying it. Leave it on for about 10 minutes. Rinse with cool water and then take another clean cloth to buff it out. Dry completely. You should see the results you're after immediately.

With ketchup or tomato sauce

One household item that you might not have thought of for cleaning brass is ketchup, per Jennifer Rizzo. Believe it or not, the acids in the tomatoes are what clean the brass. The great news here is, you don't need to add any other ingredients! You can even use fresh tomato juice, tomato sauce, or paste. Something you might not be aware of is the more you touch your brass items, the more they can tarnish from the oils in your hand (per Green Goddess). So once you have the items clean, try to avoid handling them too much. For this method, you will need a bowl of ketchup, soapy water, an old toothbrush, some soft, clean cloths, and some mineral or linseed oil.

Wash the items with a mild detergent and warm water first, to help remove oils and dirt beforehand. For smaller items like brass jewelry, you can simply soak the items in a bowl of ketchup (or equivalent) for anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, but typically half an hour should be enough. It depends on the level of tarnish. For larger items, you can apply a thin layer of ketchup with a toothbrush or cloth. Rinse with warm water and dry. Use a soft cloth with a little mineral or linseed oil to go over the items afterward, as this will help prevent future tarnish.

With WD-40

Most households also have some WD-40 laying around the garage. This product has ingredients with anti-corrosion qualities and also contains mineral oil, but the exact formula is a secret (via Broken Secrets). However, it works great for many purposes, and one of those is cleaning brass. According to WD-40, the process is simple and quick and will make your brass shine brightly. All you need is a can of WD-40 and a couple of clean, soft rags.

Of course, like any method thus far, you'll need to clean the items first with mild soapy water and dry them off. Apply a coat of WD-40 over the entire surface area. Leave it on for 15-30 minutes. Then, take a clean, dry cloth and begin drying the item slowly with circular motions. The idea is to dry and buff at the same time. You'll definitely make your brass items shine like new!

With Coca-Cola

According to A Moment of Science, the mild acid in Coca-Cola can dissolve tarnish by reacting with the oxide on the metal and reversing its effects. It can be any brand of cola, and the results are pretty impressive. Of course, it's not as practical for bigger items, although some sources say you can rub it on as well. Small items like hardware, door stoppers, and jewelry that can be submerged easily are ideal. All you'll need is some Coke, a container, and a dry towel.

According to Gogetyours Reviews, simply pour enough cola into a container to fully submerge your brass items. Leave them in the cola for up to three hours, but some people say less. It's best to check the progress periodically, and use your best judgment to see when it's achieved the results you want. Rinse the items with warm water afterward and take a clean towel to dry them off. It seems to work quite nicely, and with no scrubbing or buffing.

With brown sauce

Here's one you probably never thought of: brown sauce, via The Guardian. The kind you can buy in jars at the grocery store is fine for this purpose. Again, it's the mild acidic content that works well for cleaning brass. As always, any method works best on clean items, so use some mild dish soap and water to clean them first. You don't need any other ingredients, just a container for placing small items in with the sauce. For larger items, a paintbrush or barbecue sauce brush will do the trick.  

One method also uses a plastic bag to seal items in (via Phil's Workbench). For small pieces, simply place them in the bag and cover them in brown sauce. You can use a brush to cover larger items in a generous amount and then seal them in a plastic bag as well. Leave it for about an hour, and up to overnight if it's a bigger piece you've sealed in a plastic bag. Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly with a soft, clean cloth. Stand back and admire your work!

With Worcestershire sauce

According to The Baltimore Sun, another household product you can use to clean brass is good old Worcestershire sauce! In fact, this source says it works even better than ketchup and is less messy. Worcestershire contains quite a bit of vinegar, which surely helps it work its little miracle on brass. Who knew you could clean with so many items from your refrigerator? For this method, all you need is a bowl, some soft, clean rags, and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce.

Start by cleaning the items with soapy water, and dry them. Pour a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce into the bowl. Get one of the clean rags damp with warm water, and take a second clean rag and dip it into the sauce. Wipe down the surface area of the items with the Worcestershire-dipped rag first, using a bit of pressure and in a circular motion. When you see the results you want, take the water-dampened rag and wipe the item down to rinse. Of course, you want to dry the item completely with a clean towel.

Use ammonia and isopropyl alcohol (not combined)

According to Home Online, there are a couple more tips for keeping brass clean that involve yet two more household products: isopropyl alcohol and ammonia. An important thing to note right off the bat is you do NOT combine them. The first tip uses isopropyl alcohol, which can be used on a sponge for light scuff marks on your brass items. For regular cleaning, you can use diluted ammonia, with caution (via eHow). Because ammonia is a harsh solvent, it's best to use water to dilute it as it can erode the metal if you're not careful. You'll need rubber gloves, a bucket or container for the ammonia and water, and clean rags or a sponge.

Start with cleaning off the items, then don your rubber gloves. Add about a 10:1 ratio of water and ammonia. Scrub the surface of the items with the rag or sponge. You can soak badly tarnished items in the diluted ammonia for up to an hour, but check on them every few minutes. Be sure to rinse thoroughly when finished, and as always, dry completely. Moisture is bad for metals and can promote additional tarnish and oxidation. When you've completed the task, you can also use olive oil to lightly coat the surface and protect it. Hopefully you've learned some helpful ways to successfully clean brass with household products!