How to Clean Brass Vessels at Home || Very Easy || The best trick to CLEAN BRONZE

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How to Clean Brass

Three Parts:

Brass is an alloy of zinc, copper, and sometimes other metals. Brass is a material that has been used by ancient civilizations and modern day people alike due to its durability, elegance, and malleability. However, brass can accumulate dirt and greasy oils, and may tarnish over time. If you're looking to brighten up your brass piece, there are various cleaning treatments that simply require common household products combined with careful application. You can also use commercial cleaners to spruce up your brass depending on the amount of tarnish covering the brass piece.


Prepping The Brass For Cleaning

  1. Determine if the piece you want to clean is actually brass.Hold a household magnet near the brass piece, and see if it is magnetically attracted to the brass.
    • If the magnet doesn’t magnetically cling to the object, it’s brass.
    • If the magnet does magnetically cling to the object, it’s likely that the “brass” piece is really a piece of iron or steel, covered with a brass coating.
  2. Determine if the piece you want to clean should be cleaned.Some brass objects are not meant to be bright, and therefore, any efforts to clean the piece might actually diminish its worth. If you are unsure of what your next steps should be in cleaning a brass piece, talk to a brass expert and discuss your cleaning options.
    • Sometimes patina (the turquoise coloring that forms on brass and copper) can add a unique look to a piece of brass, and should be left alone.
    • Patina is used to evaluate many aspects of a piece of brass. For example, patina can be used to determine the age of a piece of brass, its current condition, and its potential value. Any removal or alteration of patina on a brass piece can significantly affect its worth.
  3. Determine if the brass piece is lacquered.On modern brass pieces, an outer coating of lacquer serves as a layer of protection against oxidation. But, older, antique pieces of brass typically don’t have a lacquered coating.You can assess if a brass piece is lacquered by looking at its surface: it will have a clear finish covering the entire piece. Brass covered with lacquer will usually only tarnish if there is a crack in the lacquer coating.
    • Lacquered brass is fairly easy to clean; all you really need is some soapy water. However, you might want to consider removing the lacquering if tarnish has formed underneath the lacquer finish.
    • If you are still having trouble figuring out if your brass piece has a lacquered finish, remember that lacquered brass usually has more of a yellow shading.

Cleaning Solid Brass

  1. Clean your lacquered brass piece.The first line of defense for keeping your brass pieces clean is to regularly dust them using a soft rag.After dusting your lacquered brass, dip a soft cotton cloth into a mixture of mild dish detergent and lukewarm water. Wring out the cloth so it’s only slightly damp, and gently wipe the brass surface clean. Once you have cleaned the surface, use a wrung out cloth dipped in clean water to remove any remaining soap, and then dry the brass piece thoroughly.
    • If you are trying to remove tarnish that has accumulated underneath lacquered brass, you need to remove the layer of lacquer first.
  2. Remove the lacquer with hot water.Hot water softens the lacquer layering covering brass. Place the brass piece in a sink basin, and pour hot water over the brass.The hot water will heat up the brass, making it expand. The lacquer will expand with the brass. However, when the brass starts to cool down, it will slightly shrink, but the lacquer won’t shrink with it. Once the brass is cool, the lacquer should be slightly separated from the brass surface, and can easily be peeled away.
    • You could also try boiling your brass in water to remove the lacquer, depending on the size of the piece. All you need to do is immerse the brass piece in a non-aluminum pot with boiling water, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, carefully take the brass piece out of the water, let it cool, and peel off the lacquer.
  3. Remove the lacquer with varnish remover.Place the brass piece on a table that is heavily layered with newspapers. The newspaper will help protect the workspace by absorbing any varnish remover drippings.Consider using a paintbrush to thoroughly and evenly coat the brass piece with the varnish remover. Once you have applied the remover, let it sit for a minute or two, and then wipe away the varnish remover with a soft cloth. Be sure to consult the instructions found on the container of varnish remover.
    • Be cautious and follow the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines, because varnish remover is made from strong chemicals that could be dangerous.
    • Protect your skin and wear rubber gloves when handling varnish remover.
    • Because of the hazardous fumes from varnish remover, work outside or in an area that’s well ventilated.
    • Also stay away from open flames when working with varnish remover since it’s highly flammable.
  4. Polish the brass.Make sure the brass is clean of all surface dust and dirt before you begin polishing. There are many kinds of commercial brass polishes, but you can make your own brass polish at home with lemon. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze all the juice from the half lemon into a small bowl. Add in either table salt or baking soda – it doesn’t matter which, the salt/baking soda is only acting as an abrasive – until you form a paste.This might require about a teaspoon or more of salt or baking soda. Apply the paste to the brass piece using a soft cloth.
    • Make sure you apply the paste going with the grain of the metal. If not, you could make tiny little scratches in the brass surface.
    • Don’t rub the paste too harshly into the brass piece. The abrasive salt/baking soda will gently remove the tarnish.
    • Consider using a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the nooks and hard to reach areas of your brass piece.
  5. Consider polishing your brass with commercial cleaners.There are many eco-friendly brass cleaners that remove tarnish and restore shine to brass pieces without scratching and damaging the surface.
    • Sometimes, brass cleansers have an abrasive element in their formula, so be mindful to not damage fragile etchings on your brass piece.
    • Stay way from muriatic acid. It does not properly clean brass, and can leave behind permanent stains.
    • Undiluted white vinegar or ammonia can be highly effective in cleaning antique brass. Allow the brass piece to soak for an hour in either vinegar or ammonia. Both products are natural cleaning agents, and can give brass a lasting, shiny finish.
  6. Consider alternative brass cleaners.Although you can make your own brass cleaner at home or use commercial brass cleaners bought from the store, consider using some of these other natural ingredients to clean your brass pieces:
    • Ketchup. Use a soft cloth to slather your brass piece with ketchup. Let the ketchup sit on the brass surface for approximately 10 minutes, and then wipe the ketchup off with a clean, damp cloth. Dry the brass piece thoroughly.
    • Yogurt. Cover your brass piece with plain yogurt. The lactic acid in the yogurt is what works to break down and dissolve the tarnishing on the brass. Allow the yogurt to dry on the brass, and then rinse it off with water, and dry the brass piece with a clean cloth.
    • White vinegar and salt. Cover the brass piece with white vinegar (either by pouring or spraying the vinegar over the brass surface), and then sprinkle salt over the vinegar.Wet a cloth with a little bit of vinegar, and gently wipe down the brass. Dry with a clean cloth.
  7. Protect your brass from future tarnish.After you’re finished cleaning your brass piece, protect it from future tarnishing by applying a lacquered finish.You can apply the lacquer using either a paintbrush or a cotton ball. Consult the instructions on the lacquer container to see the manufacturer’s suggestions.
    • However you decide to apply the lacquer, be sure to only put on a thin layer. Watch for any dripping lacquer, because the drippings can dry, leaving your brass piece covered in drip streaks.
    • Allow the brass piece to dry thoroughly before touching. After the lacquer is dry, wipe the brass with a clean cloth to give it some shine.

Cleaning Plated Brass Objects

  1. Determine if the piece is brass or brass-plated.It could be hard to differentiate if a brass piece is actual brass, or brass-plated. Hold a magnet near the brass piece and see if it's magnetically attracted to the brass. If the magnet does not stick, you are most likely handling brass. If the magnet does stick, it’s likely that your “brass” piece is actually a brass-plated piece of iron or steel.
    • An alternative way to check if your piece is brass or brass-plated, is to use a sharp kitchen knife and scratch an inconspicuous part of the item. If the item is brass, the color in the scratch should be bright yellow.
    • If the scratch mark is another color, like silver, then it is definitely another metal, and you still need to stick with non-abrasive cleaners so you don't remove the brass plating.
  2. Clean your lacquered brass-plated piece.Clean the entire brass-plated surface with a mixture of mild soap and cold to lukewarm water. Dip a cloth into the soapy water, wring out the cloth so it’s only slightly damp, and gently rub the surface of the brass piece.
    • Never try to polish lacquered brass. The polish tends to turn the surface of the brass piece cloudy.
    • Don’t use cleaners containing ammonia on lacquered brass pieces, because the ammonia will break down the protective lacquer.
  3. Clean your un-lacquered brass-plated piece.Dip a soft cotton cloth into a mixture of mild dish detergent and lukewarm water, wring out the cloth so it is only slightly damp, and gently wipe the surface of the brass piece clean.
    • You can use an old toothbrush to clean out the nooks and crannies in the brass piece.
  4. Rinse and apply a mild polish.Rinse the brass piece with water, and dry it completely using a clean cloth.
    • Polishing brass-plated items can potentially remove some of the brass plating. If you plan to polish your brass-plated object, do so very gently.
    • It may be helpful to test the polish on an inconspicuous area of your brass-plated item before you polish the entire piece.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How can I better clean heavy patina off antique brass cutlery without scratching it?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The bathtub is actually a good place to soak your brass items.
  • Question
    How do I polish a large brass mantel clock?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Use a brass instrument cleaning cloth. They are very cheap at music stores, or you can buy them online.
  • Question
    How do I clean a brass railing that still has fingerprints after cleaning with Brasso?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Wet the railing with vinegar, then sprinkle with salt. Wipe down the railing with a vinegar-dampened rag.
  • Question
    Can I polish stained brass?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Use 150 grit wet sandpaper to remove the tarnish. Follow this up by polishing with Brasso and elbow grease.
  • Question
    How can I remove an engraved name from a brass piece?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If the engraving is not too deep and it is a thick piece, try sand polishing. Sand down the engraving with 200 grit sand paper and slowly work your way up to around 1000 or 2000 grit ultra fine sand paper.
  • Question
    How do I remove candle wax from brass candlesticks?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could try using heat to carefully melt the wax and then wipe it off with a cloth.
  • Question
    How do I clean brass door plates and door handles that are still on the doors?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You should remove the door handles and locks first. There are online tutorials on how to remove a doorknob -- it's very easy. You can then clean/polish the handle following this wikiHow guide.
Unanswered Questions
  • My front door has a brass-colored letter slot that has dark pitting on it. The brass is very shiny and a magnet does not stick to it (could be solid brass). How do I get the pitting off?
  • How do I clean antique brass?
  • How do I clean brass chandelier w/ hanging crystals?
  • I am trying to clean brass candlesticks and a large brass bowl. What should I do?
  • I soaked my brass door hardware in vinegar and salt. It must have only been brass plated. The finish is now copper. Can I spray paint the discolored outside door handle?
Ask a Question
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Quick Summary

To clean brass, dip a soft cotton cloth into a mixture of mild dish detergent and lukewarm water. Wring out the cloth so it’s only slightly damp, and gently wipe the brass surface clean. Use a second cloth dipped in clean water to remove any remaining soap, then dry the brass piece thoroughly. You can then polish your brass, by buffing it with brass cleaner or lemon juice mixed with table salt. If you want to remove lacquer from brass, immerse it in a non-aluminum pot full of boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. Let the brass cool, then peel off the lacquer.

Did this summary help you?
  • A lemon half dipped in a plate of table salt will also remove heavy tarnish and leave a clean, but unpolished look to brass.


  • Excessive cleaning and the use of abrasives may damage brass.
  • When using paint or varnish remover, or when lacquering the brass, follow the manufacturer's instructions, and heed any warnings.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnet
  • Mild liquid detergent
  • Hot water and lukewarm water
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Old toothbrush
  • Soft cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Lacquer or varnish remover
  • Brass polish
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear lacquer that is suitable for brass
  • Ketchup (optional)
  • Yogurt (optional)
  • Vinegar

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