Mix 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water and submerge the brass item for a few hours. Then, wipe the item with a damp white cloth. Finally, buff it dry with another clean towel.
Over time, oxygen, water, and other chemicals in the air can cause dezincification in certain metals, including brass. In other words, they tarnish and corrode.
You can clean brass using vinegar and salt, among many other household products. They’re safe and cheap to commercial brass cleaners, so give natural products a try before choosing a stronger and more expensive cleaning agent.
In today’s article, we’ll teach you how to clean brass with white vinegar, salt, tomato paste, and other common household products, so let’s jump right into it.
Why Should You Clean Brass?
You should clean and maintain brass regularly because it’s susceptible to tarnish, so take good care of your brass objects to keep their lovely gold color and shine.
Keep in mind that some people suggest it’s better to let your brass items tarnish on purpose. Interestingly, tarnish can actually increase the value of brass items because it provides an “antique” look.
So, consider taking your brass items to different antique specialists before you try to clean them.
With brass-plated objects, strong rubbing during the cleaning could end up lifting the layer of brass they’re plated with.
How to Clean Brass Properly?
Tarnish increases the value of brass in some cases, but most tarnished brass items look neglected and overall bad.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a market find or a precious family heirloom – if it’s partially or completely discolored, you either need to toss that item or clean it up.
If you opt for the latter, you can find many different cleaning methods below, but first, let’s determine if you have a real brass or brass plated item.
Check If It’s Real Brass or Plated Brass
Some pieces that pose as brass aren’t real brass. They’re made of another metal covered in a coating of brass plating on top.
So, make sure you check if yours is real brass or plated brass.
You can test your object with a strong magnet. If the magnet sticks, it’s plated brass because magnets don’t stick to solid brass.
If the magnet doesn’t stick, but you’re still not sure if it’s real or not, look for chips or wear in the brass. If you notice another metal color peeking through, the object isn’t solid brass.
Clean Your Real Brass or Plated Brass Accordingly
You can clean plated brass with a damp cloth. If it’s too dirty, use a small amount of salt on the damp cloth, and then wipe the item clean.
We suggest cleaning both brass and plated brass with warm soapy water before using some of the stronger cleaning solutions listed below.
Is the Brass Lacquered or Unlacquered?
Some brass pieces have lacquer or a layer with a transparent sealer to help prevent color changes initiated by oxidation.
If the item looks new and shiny and it’s easy to scratch or has spots that look like something chipped away, it’s likely lacquered.
In this case, avoid using vinegar and salt as this mixture could damage the coating. Clean your brass item with a damp cloth with a small amount of water, and then dry the piece with a towel.
If the item hasn’t been lacquered, you can easily tell by the tarnish. If the brass item is tarnished, there’s no lacquer on the surface.
Cleaning Brass with Vinegar and Other Tips
If warm water and soap can’t help remove the tarnish, try some of the next cleaning methods, including both household and commercial cleaning products.
1. Salt, Flour, and White Vinegar
Make a paste by mixing equal parts of white vinegar, flour, and salt in a small bowl. Then, cover the brass item with the paste, working it into details.
Let the paste sit for about 15 minutes before scrubbing the item with a toothbrush or damp towel. Finally, wipe the brass clean with another clean damp rag.
Important note: If you’re cleaning up brass electrical items like a lamp base, make sure you unplug the item first.
2. Soak Your Brass Item in Vinegar
You can easily remove tarnish from small, solid brass items such as souvenirs and bookends by soaking them in a mixture of vinegar and water.
Mix 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water, then submerge the item for a few hours. After a couple of hours, wipe it with a damp white cloth. Finally, buff the item dry with another clean towel.
Important note: Avoid soaking items with felt pads on the bottom or those having other non-brass elements. Otherwise, the liquid could cause damage.
3. Give Your Brass Item A Salt and Lemon Scrub
Salt and lemon juice can do wonders for your brass pieces. The combination offers pretty much the same results as vinegar and salt, so if you don’t have white vinegar at hand, try lemon juice.
Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle a small amount of regular salt on one of the halves. Then, rub it all over the brass item.
You can also use a previously juiced lemon half, so you don’t waste the juice. Lastly, buff the item with a towel and wipe it with a damp rag.
4. Try Ketchup or Tomato Paste/Sauce
Tomatoes contain acid, so they make excellent cleaners for brass and other metals. You can use ketchup, tomato sauce, or tomato paste – whatever you have since they all work equally well.
Apply a layer of your preferred product to your item and let it sit for 1 hour. After 1 hour or so, wash the brass item with warm water and mild soap and let it dry.
5. Give Toothpaste A Try
Toothpaste can also clean brass.
Simply apply a small amount of your toothpaste to your item with a cloth. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing with water.
6. Lemon and Baking Soda to the Rescue
Create a paste by mixing a half cup of lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste to your brass item with a cloth and watch the tarnish vanish.
Finally, wipe away the residue with a damp cloth and let your item air-dry.
7. Coke Might Help
The last “natural” cleaner you can use to clean brass is Coca-Cola. If you don’t have Coca-Cola on hand, you can use any type of cola soda.
Simply rub the liquid of your choice on your object and let it sit for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or so, give it a rinse, and you’re done.
8. Brasso Metal Polish
If none of the above products can help clean your brass items, try commercial metal polishes like Brasso.
You can use this solution on bronze, copper, stainless steel, aluminum, pewter, and brass.
9. Weiman Brass Polish
Another commercial option you can try is the Weiman brass polish. It’s excellent for cleaning both brass and copper without causing surface damage.
Does Brass Require Maintenance?
Since brass is very durable, it can last for centuries if properly taken care of. And by proper care, we mean regular cleaning and maintenance.
If you prefer a shiny finish, you can use a polish like Brasso along with a soft, clean cloth. We suggest that you polish your brass at least once a month.
If you’re a fan of the more authentic and antique look, give your brass items a more subtle polish less often and apply pressure only to the raised surfaces. Leave the cervices to darken over time and give your item a well-worn look.
Some people leave their brass to darken completely over time as they like that “old” look.
Keep in mind that not polishing your brass item will result in a greenish tint.
If you have a heavily tarnished brass item, you can use any of the cleaning products above and clean it. You can also use fine wire wool for even better results but scrub cautiously as you can accidentally scratch the surface.
How Do You Keep Brass From Tarnishing?
You can keep your brass items from tarnishing by coating the freshly polished metal with lacquer.
The lacquer will keep your item shiny for a long time. Once the product wears off, simply strip the remains and apply a new coating.
Mineral or linseed oil can also prevent tarnishing, so give any of these oils a try. Apply a small amount on a soft cloth, then wipe your brass item with it.
FAQs on How to Clean Brass With Vinegar
How often should you clean brass?
Regular dusting and monthly cleaning can prevent tarnish buildup and maintain the shine of your brass items.
Does WD-40 clean brass?
You can successfully clean brass with WD-40. Spray a small amount on a cloth and wipe your item with it.