Thanks to its durability and rich color, brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used for centuries to make everything from kitchen utensils to hardware, household items and decor. But brass also has a downside: it tarnishes easily. And, like everything else, brass can pick up dirt and dust over time, which requires a good cleaning.
But items that appear to be brass may actually be brass plated and therefore require different types of maintenance. And in some cases, solid brass objects are lacquered, which also changes the way you can for the item. Here’s how to tell what type of brass you’re dealing with and how to clean and polish it using items you probably already have in your home.
How to tell if an item is solid brass or plated brass
Brass plated items are usually made of steel or zinc, then coated with a thin layer of solid brass and lacquered. According to experts from Brassworks Co. in Baltimorebrass plating “is extremely thin” and will deteriorate over time, but can be replated.
The easiest way to tell if an object is solid brass or brass plated is to see if it’s magnetic—something you can do with a fridge magnet. While solid brass is not magnetic, items plated with brass (or rather, the metal used to make them) are.
How to tell if a solid brass item is lacquered
As mentioned, almost all brass plated items are lacquered, but some solid brass items also receive this treatment, to prevent tarnishing. So if your brass item is non-magnetic and does not tarnishit was probably lacquered.
Similarly, if you have determined that an object is solid brass and you spot a clear, thin and shiny coating peeling off in some places is also a sign that the piece has been lacquered. In this situation, if you want the item to last, your best (and really only) option is to do it again professionally.
How to clean brass-plated objects and lacquered solid brass
Although it is generally safe to clean brass-plated and lacquered brass objects, they should never be polished, according to the experts at Brassworks Co. This is because varnish can damage and darken lacquer.
To clean this grade of brass, start wiping the item down with a soft cloth to remove dust, dirt and other debris. If it Needs additional cleaning, use a combination of lukewarm water and mild soap (such as Dawn dishwashing liquid), then wipe it again with a clean, dry cloth. Never quench brass ware for long periods, Or put them in the dishwasher.
How to Clean Solid Brass Objects
Much of what we think of as “cleaning” brass is actually polishing it (which we’ll get to in a minute). For simple cleaning, such as removing the surface layer of dirt, dust and debris that has built up over time, use the same technique described above, involving a soft cloth (ideally microfiber), lukewarm water and mild soap.
When to Avoid Polishing Solid Brass
Rate the item after cleaning it, as that may be all it needs. In fact, before you start polishing vintage or antique solid brass items, you might want to consult an antiques expert to see if it’s a good idea.
This is because when some people buy an older brass piece, they want it to reflect its age – tarnish and all. So if you are looking to sell the solid brass item or are concerned about preserving its value, think twice before removing its patina.
How to Polish Solid Brass
If you have decided to polish your brass, there are dedicated products that are very effective and widely available, such as Brasso, Waxing Wright’s Brass, Twinkle Brass and Copper Cleaning Kit, Flitz Brass & Copper Tarnish Removerand Blue Magic Metal polish– some of which have been around for more than a century.
But if this is your first time polishing brass, you probably don’t have any under the sink or in the garage. Here are some ways to polish brass using things you probably already have at home:
friend of bartenders
One store-bought product you might have on hand, however, is the workhorse of cleaning (and Hacker’s favorite), friend of bartenders. Brass is one of many metals and surfaces this cleanser attacks easily – both in its in powder and sweet liquid forms. here is manufacturer’s instructions guide you through cleaning and polishing process for brass.
Vinegar, salt and flour
It is one of the most popular Brass DIY polishes are out there, and all the recommendations are well-deserved: this stuff works. For do itmix equal parts salt and flour, then add just enough white vinegar to make a thick paste. Rub it with a damp cloth and a little elbow grease. Then rinse the object with a little lukewarm water, and dry chamois with a clean, soft cloth cloth.
Lemon juice and baking soda
Create a paste by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the juice of half a lemon. Use a soft cloth to apply and rub DIY varnish. If you get the desired results relatively quickly, finish polishing the piece, then rinse it with warm water and dry it with a clean cloth, soft cloth. But if the tarnish is particularly severe on this piece, let the homemade shoe polish sit for 30 minutes before rinsing and drying using the process described above.
Toothpaste is also an effective and easy to use brass polish. To clarify, you want the plain traditional white toothpaste—not the frost varieties. (Bonus points if it contains baking soda.) Use a soft, damp cloth to apply a thin layer of toothpaste to the brass object. Leave him sit for a few minutesthen rub well, using the cloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush. After that, rinse it with lukewarm water and use a clean cloth to dry the piece well.
Ketchup or other tomato sauces
Dampen a soft cloth, then use it to apply and rub the ketchup (or tomato sauce or paste) into the brass ware to remove tarnish. If the the tarnish is particularly tenaciousapply a layer of ketchup to the part and leave for an hour before wiping it with a damp cloth, then drying it with a clean cloth cloth.
Similar to the ketchup method, use a soft, damp cloth to rub in some Worcestershire sauce on the brass object to polish it. Finish with wiping it with a clean cloth, damp cloth, then wipe it with a new/separate cloth.
Slice of lemon and salt
If, after polishing your brass piece, some areas still show tarnish, dip a slice of lemon (or rind) in a little salt and rub on it. Then rinse the area with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft cloth.
How to protect solid brass after polishing
After polishing, you may consider rubbing on a (very) thin layer of linseed oil or mineral oil. Not only will this kick the shine up a notch, but more importantly, it will prevent (or at least slow down) the dulling from advancing.