Tips on How to Clean & Polish Brass Like a Pro!

Do you have brass items that need cleaning? Here's how to clean and polish tarnished brass with the use of simple household items. Plus, tips on how to prevent them from tarnishing again.

Brass isn’t a popularized metal nowadays, meaning that it can be tricky trying to figure out how it should be properly cleaned and polished. Chances are that you have a piece of brass jewelry in your household just waiting to be shined like new.

Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the options. There may be many, but at least there’s something for those who are looking to try a DIY Brass Cleaner and Polisher, or if you’re just looking for the best brass polishers on the market.

We’ve got a little something for everybody. So grab that doorknob, instrument, brass candlestick, vintage cutlery set, hand-me-down plate, or thrift store treasure, and take these tips to try to make it like new again! All you need is a little bit of elbow grease (that’s how you use that term, right?) a homemade cleaning solution, and a little love.

Do you have something silver that needs cleaning? We’ve answered all your questions here!

Are you curious about how to clean stainless steel jewelry, too? We’ve got you covered!

How to Clean Brass

First Determine if it’s Brass or Plated Brass

First things first, you have to determine whether or not the item you’re looking to revive is true solid brass, or if it is brass plated. This is done very simply:

Place a magnet on it.

If it does not stick, it’s true brass. It if does stick, it is plated with brass. Polishing items with brass plating will only scratch off the plating, and it doesn’t need to be done.

If it’s true brass, there are a number of cleaning methods to clean these items. Many of these methods use common household ingredients that are natural and easy to use to create a homemade brass cleaner;

Cleaning Brass with Lemon Juice

Due to its acidic properties, lemon juice is ideal for removing light tarnishes. This is one of the simplest ways to care for your brass treasure. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Squeeze lemon juice into a glass and add one cup of water. Add a teaspoon of salt if you want a really deep clean.
  2. Soak your brass piece in the mixture and leave it for about 10 minutes.
  3. Using a dry cloth or a soft-bristled brush, rub gently to remove the tarnish.
  4. Rub while applying fresh mixture until the brass is clean.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with water and wipe dry with a microfiber towel.

A hand squeezing lemon juice into a glass bowl.

*Avoid using a paper towel for drying, as it is rather rough and may scratch the surface of the brass.

Cleaning Brass with Tomato Ketchup or Tomato Juice

Tomato ketchup and tomato juice are highly acidic due to the tomato and vinegar content. Even though it sounds weird, it’s and an ideal ingredient for cleaning brass. It’s gentler and cleans without any damages.

  1. Apply ketchup directly onto the brass object. Using your fingers, rub the ketchup all over the brass, emphasizing more on the tarnished parts.
  2. Rub the ketchup into the brass with a soft toothbrush to remove all tarnish.
  3. Wash the brass material to remove all ketchup on it. You can repeat the process severally if the material is highly tarnished.
  4. Otherwise, soak your brass item in a tub of ketchup for five minutes for a less active method of cleaning.
  5. Rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth.

Ketchup pouring out from its bottle.

Cleaning Brass With Vinegar and Flour

Mixing flour paste with vinegar produces a smooth paste that helps achieve a luster finish. This paste has similar results just like the expensive commercial products. This process is super easy:

  1. Mix half a cup of vinegar, a teaspoon of salt, and some flour. Mix the ingredients until you achieve a smooth paste.
  2. Apply the mixture onto the brass material and leave for about 15 minutes. Using a soft bristle brush, scrub the mixture gently and scrub off under warm water.
  3. Rinse off the vinegar and flour mixture, then rub dry with a microfiber towel.

Cleaning Brass with Non-Gel Toothpaste

Toothpaste also makes a great cleaning ingredient for brass. However, it’s not very effective on highly-tarnished brass, so it’s best to save this method for items that just require a little bit of upkeep.

Simply apply some toothpaste onto a toothbrush and rub softly. This process works for light tarnishes that don’t need intensive cleaning. Rinse off the mixture and dry with a microfiber towel.

Cleaning the cutlery with a brush and paste.

Cleaning Brass with Vinegar and Baking Soda

A mixture of vinegar and baking soda effectively removes tarnish from brass. When mixing the two ingredients, you’ll notice that the baking soda and vinegar start to fizz. If you paid any attention in your high school science classes, you’ll know that this reaction is completely harmless. It is actually what is able to break down the tarnish!

  1. Mix both ingredients to create a smooth paste. Using your hands, apply the mixture onto the brass material and leave for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the mixture has absorbed onto the brass, rub gently until all tarnish comes out.
  3. After it’s clean, rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

Elderly woman polishing a brass candle holder.

How Do I Prevent Brass from Tarnishing?

After cleaning, it’s essential to prevent the material from tarnishing again. While you can’t prevent brass entirely from moisture or heat, you can do enough to limit the exposure.

For brass, keep items away from humidity as it plays a huge part in oxidization. Always perform light dusting and occasional washing with soapy water. If you have exterior fittings, dust them lightly with a camel hair brush at least once a week.

The Bottom Line

There are so many ways to clean brass. With the above cleaning tips, it’s easy to remove any tarnish on the materials. The best thing about cleaning brass is that you can do it with common home ingredients and achieve clean, luster finishes.

Detailed look at the brass pipes of a tuba.

Where Can I Buy Brass Polish and Brass Cleaner?

If you’re not so into the homemade cleaners and polishers, here’s a compiled list of easy places to order them online or pick them up in the store.

Whether you’re looking for something for polished brass or cleaning brass, we’ve got it all. Just be sure to avoid products that have a long list of harsh chemicals, products that contain mostly mineral oil will work just fine.

Scroll to Top