How to Clean Brass

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The first step in cleaning brass is to make sure it’s really brass.

Use a magnet and see if it will stick to the “brass” object. If it does, the object is not brass or is only plated with brass.

If you think the object is brass-plated, be careful not to use any kind of abrasive cleanser or technique on it. Brass plating can be pretty thin and you could, potentially, damage it.

Cleaning Dirty Brass:

The dust, dirt and grime that tarnishes brass also gives it a patina of age that’s sometimes desirable, particularly if the tarnished piece is an antique.

This patina also protects it from further erosion by the environment. If your brass is dirty and you are not trying to remove the tarnish or patina, you can clean it easily with a light washing with sudsy water.

Cleaning Solution Recipe:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 TBL mild dishwashing detergent

Cleaning Process:

  • Spray your cleaning solution onto the piece
  • If heavily soiled allow to sit for a few minutes
  • Wipe the item with a clean washcloth to remove dirt, grime and smudges
  • Rinse completely with clean water
  • Dry completely with a soft cloth

Polishing Brass:

  • Mix the juice of one lemon and some salt or baking soda to make a brass polish.
  • Clean using circular motions with a soft cloth.
  • A soft tooth brush will help you reach the hard to get places.
  • Rinse completely with water to remove the polish
  • Dry completely with a soft cloth

Polishing Lacquered Brass:

If you’re working on a piece of lacquered brass you’ll have to remove the lacquer before you can clean off the tarnish. Use a varnish removal chemical to take off the lacquer and wear rubber gloves or if the item is small enough it can be submerged in a pot of water. See below:

  • Boil 1 gallon water in a non-aluminum pot with 1 cup baking soda.
  • Boil until the lacquer floats to the surface of the water as a white scummy material, or leave the brass object in the water for a few minutes and then peel off the cracked lacquer by hand.

After removing the lacquer, clean and polish the brass.

Apply another coat of lacquer to the brass. It only needs a thin layer that can be applied with a small paintbrush. Let it dry.

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