Best Ways To Clean Bronze Hardware

Bronze is a common metal material for a variety of objects in your home, including things like jewelry, medals and rewards, antique heirlooms and statues, and hardware, especially in older homes. Bronze does have a tendency to oxidize with age and exposure to different elements, though, due to its higher copper content, explains Make It From Metal. The metal is made up of 88% copper and 12% tin.

As the copper reacts to oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide, it starts to darken and then develops a layer of green corrosion called patina (or verdigris). Some people actually prefer the look of slightly aged bronze. As a bonus, the patina can help protect the metal underneath and prevent further damage, which can be especially valuable for antique pieces. However, those looking for the shiny, bright finish of bronze hardware will likely want to clean it regularly to prevent patina buildup. Aside from keeping exposure to certain elements to a minimum, or using a special bronze wax, there are a few effective ways to clean your bronze hardware.

1. Soap and water

If your bronze hardware isn't that tarnished, you can simply maintain it by giving it a good clean every now and then. While bronze wax can certainly prevent tarnishing, there will still be surface dirt and buildup that should be removed. According to 360 Yardware, bronze can be cleaned with just mild dish soap and warm water.

Before starting, it's important to note you shouldn't over-clean bronze. Only clean your bronze hardware every year or so, maybe a little more frequently if you live in more salt-heavy climates such as the coast. This process simply requires combining the soap and water and using a gentle cloth to clean the surface dirt off the bronze. Then, use fresh water to rinse off the soap. Finally, use a clean and dry microfiber cloth to blot the hardware dry. If you choose to wax your hardware, you'll need to reapply it after this.

2. Vinegar and flour

Vinegar and salt are two very popular household items that can be used to clean a variety of things. Luckily, these affordable and common pantry goods can also clean bronze. The tricky part with using vinegar and salt to clean bronze, though, is getting it to stick without soaking it, which presents a slight risk of damaging it (though it is a viable method when done right), while still keeping it on long enough to be effective.

For this reason, Oregon Metro recommends adding flour to the cleaning solution, which forms a paste when combined with the other two ingredients. To create this paste, mix 2/3 cup of white distilled vinegar with 2/3 cup of flour (preferably unbleached). Then add in 1/2 cup of salt and mix until a paste has formed. If the mixture is too thick, add more vinegar, and if it's too thin, add more flour. Apply it to your bronze hardware, and let it sit for an hour or two, then rinse it off with warm water and pat it dry with a soft cloth. Optionally, you can polish it with a drop of olive oil.

3. Lemon and baking soda

This method from Hunker also allows you to turn common household cooking items into a cleaning paste. Gather some fresh lemons (do not use bottled lemon juice) and a box of baking soda, as well as a bowl and a soft cloth. Begin by adding a little bit of baking soda to the bowl. Then, squeeze your lemons, adding only a little bit of fresh lemon juice to the baking soda at a time. It will fizz up immediately, and then quickly die down. Keep mixing the baking soda and lemon juice like this until a paste has formed.

Use a soft cloth and a little bit of paste to clean the bronze. Make sure the mixture is non-abrasive, as bronze is sensitive to scratches and scuffs. Rub the paste onto the bronze hardware gently but firmly. Once the tarnish is removed to your liking, rinse it off with warm water and blot dry with a fresh, clean cloth.

4. Ammonia and dish soap

This method does require some machinery, but if you have a lot of bronze items, it's worth it. According to Tips Bulletin, ultrasonic cleaning machines, which are commonly used to clean jewelry, silverware, old coins, and even eyeglasses, are great to also clean bronze hardware. While there is a range of price points, they average around $70.

The vibrating water alone won't clean your bronze hardware, though. You need to create your own bronze cleaning solution using water, dish soap, and ammonia. Simply add 2 standard glasses of water, 1 teaspoon of ammonia, and 2 tablespoons of mild dish soap to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Consider opening a window or otherwise ventilating your home while using ammonia. Add the mixture to the machine with your bronze items, let run for 15 minutes, and dry with a soft cloth.

5. Ketchup

One classic trick for cleaning bronze, brass, or copper items, especially hardware, is using ketchup. Alternatively, you can try tomato juice or paste. As HGTV notes, the acid content of tomatoes is high enough to remove tarnish, but low enough so that it doesn't damage it. The vinegar in ketchup is an added cleaning agent, too, just make sure your tomato juice doesn't have any added fruits or spices

Clean your bronze hardware with ketchup by simply applying it to the edge of a soft, non abrasive cloth and gently but firmly scrubbing the items down until shiny. When it's clean to your liking, wash off the ketchup with tepid water and pat dry. You can also soak your bronze hardware in a bowl of tomato juice for a minimum of five minutes, adding time depending on how dirty or tarnished they are. Once they're clean, gently rinse them under a stream of warm water.

6. Toothpaste

One of the most common ways to clean bronze is with something you most likely already have in your home, and that's toothpaste. According to Grove Collaborative, toothpaste is an efficient ingredient for cleaning any bronze item. Simply apply your toothpaste to the bronze hardware, spread it around, and let it sit for five to 10 minutes — more or less depending on how tarnished the item is. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.

Don't overuse or rely on this method, though. The reason it works is that toothpaste is quite an abrasive material, and is used to break down plaque and dirt on your teeth, which are much sturdier than bronze — especially antique hardware. As Doylestown Gold Exchange notes, toothpaste will certainly remove the tarnish and patina from your bronze hardware, leaving it shiny and new looking. However, it will also damage the integrity of the metal, and wear it down and eventually damage it. If you chose this method, perhaps look for a more gentle toothpaste formula.