How to Clean Brass in 3 Simple Steps

copper and brass items

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 1 hr, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

It is normal for uncoated brass to tarnish over time. Brass faucets, drawer pulls, doorknobs, light fixtures, and candlesticks can develop dark spots when they come into contact with oxygen and the oils from our skin. While tarnish isn't usually corrosive, it dulls the beauty of brass.

The best part about learning how to clean brass is that you likely won't need to take another trip to the store before getting started. Common kitchen ingredients can be combined to make brass tarnish remover and restore the finish on brass items around your house. In this blog post, we'll share some tips on how to restore your brass to its shiniest state, and prevent tarnish from happening in the future.

Before you start cleaning, be sure to determine whether the item you need to clean is solid brass or brass plated. Some items that look like brass are actually made from a base metal coated with a thin layer of brass plating. To figure out if your item is solid or plated, place a magnet on it. If the magnet sticks, your brass is actually brass plating. Take extra caution when cleaning brass plated pieces as the plate covering can be worn down with excessive scrubbing. Limit the use of friction or scrubbing sponges on these items.

If the magnet does not stick, the item is solid brass.

How to Clean and Shine Brass Tarnish

The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

How Often Should You Clean Brass?

How often you should clean the brass in your home depends on how often you use it. In general, the more wear and tear on a brass item, the quicker it will tarnish. Brass hardware on kitchen cabinets, sinks or other frequently touched places will likely need tarnish removal at least monthly, if not more. Brass jewelry pieces that are rarely worn or other brass items that are not commonly used will likely resist tarnishing for several months to a year. Find a cleaning schedule that works best for you.

Tip

Do not use these methods to polish lacquered brass. Warm, soapy water should be sufficient to remove dust and grime. If the lacquer is in good shape, the metal shouldn't be tarnished.

2:06

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What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 2 Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • 1 Old, soft toothbrush (optional)
  • 1 Sink or large bucket
  • 1 Sponge

Materials

  • 1 box Baking soda
  • 1 bottle Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 container Table salt
  • 1 bottle Dishwashing liquid
  • 1 Lemon

Instructions

How to Remove Brass Tarnish With Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Wash the Brass

    It is important to remove dust and grease particles from the brass item before you remove the tarnish. If the piece can be submerged, fill a sink with hot water and add a few drops of dish soap. Wash the brass piece with a sponge or soft cloth. Rinse well and dry with a microfiber cloth.

    If the item cannot be submerged, wipe the piece with a sponge dipped in hot soapy water, rinse with a cloth dipped in clean water, and dry well.

    Washing off brass before cleaning

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Make a Paste

    Mix one cup of baking soda and one-fourth cup of distilled white vinegar in a glass bowl to create a paste. It will fizz for a minute. When it stops, spread the paste on the brass object with an old toothbrush or cloth.

    vinegar and baking soda
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  3. Rest, Rinse, and Buff

    Let the mixture sit on the brass item for at least half an hour but no more than one hour. Dampen a soft cloth and gently rub the brass to help loosen the tarnish, rinse well in warm water, and buff the finish with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. If the brass was badly tarnished, you may need to repeat the process.

    baking soda and vinegar scrub on tarnished brass
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska  

How to Remove Brass Tarnish With Lemon Juice and Baking Soda or Salt

  1. Remove Dust and Grime

    Wash the brass with hot soapy water before removing the tarnish. As described above, you can either submerge the item completely, or use a sponge to spread suds over the item. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly and dry with a towel.

    Rinsing off tarnished brass in warm water

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Prepare Your Materials

    Use lemons or lemon juice to remove brass tarnish. You can slice a lemon in half and dip the cut edges in table salt or baking soda or make a paste with baking soda and lemon juice.

    Preparing salt and lemon

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. Clean the Brass

    Rub the cut side of the lemon over the surface of the brass. As you clean, reapply the salt as needed. When the tarnish is gone, rinse the piece and buff dry.

    Mix one cup of baking soda and one-fourth cup of lemon juice to form a paste. Apply the paste to the brass and let it work for at least 30 minutes before gently scrubbing with a damp sponge. Rinse and buff the item dry.

    Using a lemon half dipped in salt to clean tarnished brass

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Tips to Keep Brass Tarnish-free Longer

  • Don't touch brass items any more than necessary. The oils in your hands cause brass to tarnish.
  • Dry brass pots and pans as soon as you wash them to prevent spotting and tarnish.
  • Don't put brass kitchenware in the dishwasher. The harsh detergents can damage the finish.
  • Regularly dust decorative brass pieces to prevent tarnish from forming.
Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler

Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home.

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Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Caring for Metal Objects. Government of Canada.