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Home Ec: How to Clean Brass

Filed Under: Essential Skills, Know-How

Brass is striking -- but it's also a high-maintenance metal that can tarnish easily. Here's how to make your bras accessories gleam.

Summer is a great time to comb yard sales and flea markets for vintage treasures. Some of my favorite things to score at yard sales are old brass candlesticks, hardware, and lamps.

But I used to loathe cleaning those brass treasures when I got home. The process was so time-consuming. Fast-forward to today: I have found a simple solution that spiffs up old brass in no time, making it dazzle.

But hold on! Before you get started cleaning brass, find out whether it is solid brass or brass-plated. Over-cleaning plated brass can remove some of the finish. To identify which type of brass you're dealing with, place a magnet against the surface. If the piece is brass-plated, the magnet will stick. If it's solid brass, the magnet won't stick.

To Clean Solid Brass:

1. Clean your brass with hot soapy water and a soft cloth. An old toothbrush will help out in tight spots. (If you're cleaning a lamp: unplug it before you start, and keep water away from the cord and socket area). Never use anything abrasive -- no baking soda, wire wool, brushes, or acidic solutions -- on plated brass.

To Clean Solid Brass:

1. First, repeat the process above (for plated brass).

2. If the piece is slightly tarnished try a jeweler's cloth or wadding polish. These specially treated items will easy polish up smaller pieces or lightly tarnished pieces really quickly.

3. Add two tablespoons each of salt and white vinegar to a pint of hot water for more heavily tarnished brass. Then use an old washcloth to rub the mixture into the surface of the item. The chemical reaction between the salt and vinegar will power through the tarnish and leave a beautiful finish. When you're done, rinse or wipe the piece clean and dry well.

4. Before you place the item, put on a pair of cotton gloves and wipe the entire piece with a jeweler's cloth. The cloth contains trace amounts of oil, which will help keep tarnish away longer. Why the gloves? They will protect your clean brass from fingerprints, which will jumpstart the tarnishing process all over again.

Other All-Natural Brass-Cleaning Solutions:

A few other tried-and-true solutions for cleaning brass naturally include:

- Polish brass with a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and fresh lemon juice.

- Slather ketchup or Worcestershire sauce onto brass and leave it there for a few minutes, then wipe with a clean rag. The acidity of the condiments does the trick against tarnish.

- Simmer brass items in equal parts milk and water; the lactic acid helps remove tarnish. For this reason, a slathering of yogurt may work too.


For more unusual household tips, follow Mrs. FIXIT on Twitter!

Now that all your brass is clean, learn how to clean silver! Watch this video for the know-how:






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