How to Clean Brass: Useful DIY Guide

Copper sinks, brass hoods, bronze furnishings, copper fireplaces, and other products bring beauty and comfort to your home. But, like all metals, over time copper, brass and bronze fade and change colour. When interacting with air brass gradually darkens. With constant contact with water, the brass surface becomes bluish-green. So, how do we take care of products made of copper, brass and bronze?

Does Brass Tarnish?

slightly tarnished brass letterbox

You will not find brass deposits in nature. This is because its main elements are copper (over 50%) and zinc. During its manufacture these two elements often have tin, lead, aluminum, nickel and manganese added. Depending on the percentage of additives, the alloy acquires different properties and colours. It can be yellow, golden, and even have a greenish tint. Although brass is called the “eternal metal”, it can become darker from contact with water, which is called tarnishing.

Why Does Bronze Turn Green?

heavily tarnished brass ornament

Patina, in Italian, means a range of various shades formed on the surface of brass and copper under the influence of atmospheric factors during natural or artificial aging (patination).

There are many shades of natural brass patina, from green to olive, blue, earthy, red, and finally black. All this diversity gives copper and its two main alloys, bronze and brass, the ability to survive under the influence of the external environment for a long period of time. For example, it will take five to 25 years for a green patina to form on the surface of a copper roofing sheet.

The process of patina formation depends on many factors and progresses in several stages. Before “greening”, the nit will turn black. Oxygen in the atmosphere oxidises brass and as a result a black oxide layer is formed on the surface. Only after this stage will the colour change to green. It will be covered with other copper salts of various green and blue colours.

Brass Restoration – Lacquered vs. non-lacquered Brass

Most of the brass you might discover in your house is lacquered. Unlike copper items where you may want to remove the lacquer layer, it is better to keep it on your brass, as it prevents it from tarnishing. If you polish and wash lacquered brass on a regular basis it should remain safe from tarnish.

But even lacquered brass can tarnish over years of exposure. If you want to clean this tarnish, the lacquer coating will need to be removed, cleaned and polished, and then returned back to the surface of the brass (if you want to prolong the lacquer protection). If your brass tarnishes easily and has no coating, it is non-lacquered.

To clean a non-lacquered brass surface, you can choose oil-based ingredients. Although chemical brass cleaners are available on the market, it is more safe and eco-friendly to clean non-lacquered brass with natural ingredients, many of which you might already have at home. You will learn more about natural cleaning methods later in this article.

Solid Brass vs. Plated Brass

brass tap in a bathroom

Solid brass, or dry pressed brass, simply means that the item is made of 100% brass. Simple polishing can always restore the shine of a pure brass metal setting but you may need to remove any existing lacquer layer first. On the other hand, brass plated equipment is normally a mixture of brass, steel and zink. In order to secure the metal, lacquer can be added to the final product to maintain its colour. Plated brass, however, holds a shorter life span, and the thinner it is, the sooner it can break down.

Best Way to Clean Brass

There are two different options in the brass cleaning process. You can buy a special chemical polish in store or create your own homemade eco cleaner. Using the first option, get a brass-specific polish to reduce discolouration. Use smooth fabric to apply it to the surface. You should never use any steel wool thicker than 00 grade to prevent scratching the brass.To complete the brass cleaning, use one of the polishes listed below:

  • Brasso
  • Bar Keepers Friend
  • Twinkle Brass & Copper Cleaning Kit
  • Wright’s Brass Polish
  • Blue Magic

How to Clean Brass using a Homemade Cleaner

In some cases, you don’t need a special cleaner to get rid of the brass patina. You can use plain materials that can be found around your house to create a homemade brass cleaner. It is essential to determine whether it is lacquered brass or non-lacquered brass before you start cleaning your brass.

If the brass parts do not appear dull or display indications of tarnish, they are most probably lacquered, meaning that they can be washed with gentle liquids or bya moist sponge or towel. If, however, the metal is not lacquered and has started to tarnish, using homemade brass cleaner can give you great results.

How to Clean Brass with Vinegar

cleaning brass with vinegar

If brass becomes filthy, smudged or darkened, it can be cleaned with vinegar. In general unlacquered brass should be soaked in vinegar, while lacquered brass can be cleaned up with a rag.

How to Make and use Vinegar Cleaner for Lacquered Brass

  • Mix equal parts flour and salt together
  • Add vinegar until you have a thick, spreadable paste
  • Combine vinegar until you have a dense, spreadable powder condition
  • Apply gently to the brass surface with a sponge
  • Dip your powder with a smooth, microfiber fabric
  • Cover the entire surface, particularly targeting smudged and darkened regions
  • Allow the paste to sit for an hour
  • Make sure the brass remains untouched while you let the process set
  • Rinse your brass
  • Make sure to dry the brass completely. Leaving it wet can cause damage

How to Make and use Vinegar Cleaner for non-lacquered Brass

  • Mix 2 parts of white vinegar
  • Add 1/4 parts of salt
  • Add two parts of water to create a liquid
  • Check the brass for embellishments such as carvings
  • Bring your liquid to a boil
  • Soak your brass in the liquid
  • Use a spoon to remove brass from a boiling liquid to avoid self-harm
  • Rinse the brassunder running water. This will remove the access of dirt and tarnish
  • Let the brass air dry. This will prevent your item from corroding

Please remember that for unlacquered brass with heavy embellishments, consider professional cleaning. eMop is ready to provide outstanding professional cleaning assistance which will leave your non-lacquered and lacquered brass items sparkling once again!

How to Clean Brass with Salt

clean brass with salt

You can use a salt scrub with lemon juice; in much the same way as using salt and vinegar. This will effectively clean the brass items.

  • Sprinkle the sliced lemon portion with the salt
  • Roll it over the tarnished item
  • Buff the item with a smooth wet cloth, then wash it with another wet cloth and a wet rag

Using Baking Soda

  • Combine one part lemon juice with a teaspoon of baking soda
  • Stir thoroughly
  • Use a smooth cloth to apply
  • If the tarnish is thick, let the paste lie on it for 30 minutes, covering it with the sticky tape. Rinse it and dry
  • Repeat if needed

Using Lemon Juice

  • Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle the slice with a teaspoon of salt
  • Rub the fruit on the tarnished brass
  • Squeeze it to discharge the moisture
  • Rinse it and dry

Cleaning with Ketchup

clean brass with ketchup

It must seem like one of the most unusual methods to clean anything, but ketchup can work fine and be very effective as a brass cleaner. It’s also non-toxic: the core component of this cleaner is tomato juice.

  • Squeeze ketchup onto the brass surface
  • Wait 40 minutes
  • Wash it off
  • Dry and buff

Cleaning Brass with Toothpaste

clean brass with toothpaste

A very popular way to clean brass is with toothpaste. This method is the cheapest, but is not particularly effective and is suitable only for weak patina on the surface. Most often, this method is used when cleansing copper coins or jewelry.

To clean the brass, you need to cover it with toothpaste and let it lie for a day, and then clean the paste of the surface.

But it should be remembered that it’s necessary not to choose gel toothpaste. It won’t help with the brass cleaning. You can also use a toothbrush as it is effective against most types of stains, especially if you cut the bristles of the brush for a more visible result.

How to Clean a Brass Lamp

Washing a brass lamp requires only a soft sponge. Avoid using metal brushes and excessively abrasive products. It is better to take a cotton rag. Avoid overheating the product, as brass is more heat-intensive than conventional materials like steel or aluminum.

  • Cut the lemon in half
  • Squeeze one half of the lemon juice and throw in a handful of very fine salt. It should dissolve
  • Take the second half of the lemon and soak it in a saline solution
  • Start gently rubbing the lemon swab on the lamp
  • Do not press hard
  • Always make sure that the salt crystals are moistened with lemon juice and do not scrape the copper surface
  • Pay attention to the brass surface to make sure it is completely covered with the lemon-salt solution
  • When your lamp is red again, and the shade is returned to its noble-saturation, rinse everything with water and ordinary soap
  • Wipe the lamp until it is dry

How to Clean Brass Door Handles

cleaning tips for brass door handle

To remove the greenish coating, place the handles in a 10% solution of citric acid. When you see that the plaque dissolves, remove, wash and polish the handles to remove the reddish plaque. Place them in a 5% liquid of ammonium carbonate, until you see the desired yellowish plaque is reduced due to the chemical reaction. You can remove it completely by immersing the handles in a 10% vinegar solution.

How to Clean Brass Jewelry

  • Mix a few drops of mild dish soap in warm water
  • Test the soapy water on an inconspicuous area to make sure it’s safe
  • Clean the piece with soapy water and a soft cloth or toothbrush
  • Rinse the jewelry thoroughly, and then dry it with a soft cloth

Remove Corrosion from Brass

brass cutlery and pots

If the corrosion on your brass item is not very old, you can try to cope with it using different solutions. Here is one of the most popular and trusty methods to reduce thick tarnish, hard marks and corrosion:

  • Put brass objects in warm, soapy liquid or a soft mixture of ammonia
  • Dry and rinse well
  • Dampen a smooth cloth in warm vinegar, add salt or create a mixture of eggs, oil and water
  • If the item is clean, wash it thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Rinse and dry
  • Polish with a lemon oil-moistened cloth
  • Dip a piece of fresh lemon in table salt, if desired, and rub over the corroded area
  • Carefully wash, rinse and clean

How to Keep Brass from Tarnishing

When exposed to oxygen, brass automatically begins to tarnish. One of the best options to avoid the tarnishing of shiny brass is to cover it with a transparent sealer coating that prevents air from entering the brass itself. Many brass items are already sold with this option. Refresh the coating every few years without regular polishing to keep the brass fresh and sparkling. A transparent polyurethane sealer protects the brass without creating discolouration from oxygen exposure.


In the most difficult cases of brass tarnishing and corrosion, eMop domestic cleaners are available to return your brass goods to their fine conditions. We will happily tidy/ clean your home and ensure all your brass decor and furniture shine again! Our experts are available 24/7, so you choose the hours that suit you!

For your silver items, you might find our how to clean silver guide useful.

We also suggest reading our helpful guide on how to clean your house like a professional.

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