Some homeowners with older houses insist on keeping the original patina on all their metal hardware. However, even if you want the metal in your home to look aged, it doesn't need to look ancient. Do you have metal components in your home that are so caked with layers of tarnish and grime that you can't see the metal underneath? It's time to clean, polish, and restore any metal that is corroded and unsightly.
Unfortunately, tarnished brass hardware is difficult to clean when you don't use the right product or technique. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to clean brass hardware in less than five minutes using only one product. This method will effectively clean old brass hardware, but will also work for other metals like copper or stainless steel.
Tools and Supplies
- Toothbrush and/or other soft-bristled brush
- Bar Keeper's Friend or another metal cleaner
We opted to use Bar Keeper's Friend, but there are a variety of brass and metal cleaners available. You can also make your own metal cleaner using baking soda and vinegar, which isn't as effective, but will work if you only want to remove some but not all of the patina. We'll discuss that process as well.
Remove Hardware and Determine the Composition
The first step is to remove the hardware carefully to ensure you don't strip the screws or damage the metal. If the hardware is painted, you may need to use a flat head screwdriver and a hammer to chisel away at the paint that is stuck in the screw holes. Then use a screwdriver instead of a drill to slowly back out the screw.
It's important that you take the time to determine the type of metal of the item you're going to clean. If it looks like brass, you'll still want to figure out if it's solid or plated. If it's solid brass, you won't have to worry as much about buffing off or damaging the plating.
To determine if you're working with solid brass, one simple method is to put a magnet up against the hardware. Solid brass components are not magnetic. If the magnet is drawn to the metal, you're dealing with brass-plated hardware, so you'll know to be extra gentle in your cleaning and polishing.
Dunk Hardware in Warm Water
Now that your hardware is removed and you're ready to clean, the next step is to wipe off any dust or debris with a lint-free cloth. Then, dunk the items in lukewarm water. Let the hardware soak for a minute or two before removing. If there is a lot of dirt on the hardware, mix the water with a mild dish detergent to loosen up any gunk. After you remove the hardware from the water, do not dry it. You'll want it wet for the next step.
Sprinkle on Brass Cleaning Solution
Make sure your hardware is still wet to the touch. If it's not, rinse again with water. Then, sprinkle on your brass cleaning solution so the metal is completely covered. You can use a product like Bar Keeper's Friend, which can be found at most grocery stores or online.
If you are using vinegar and baking soda to clean your metal, first brush the hardware with a layer of vinegar. Then, sprinkle on the baking soda. The combination of the vinegar and baking soda is what will help remove the tarnish. You don't want to mix the vinegar and baking soda together in a bowl. You want the baking soda to hit the vinegar directly on the metal. When it starts to fizz, you'll know it's working.
Rub Surface Gently With a Toothbrush
Since you sprinkled on the cleaning solution when the metal was wet, you should be left with the beginnings of a paste. Take a soft-bristled toothbrush and start gently buffing the surface, which will help create more of a paste and start removing the tarnish. You'll have to go over the metal a few times if the piece had a lot of build up. Add more water and metal cleaner as needed.
If you're using the baking soda and vinegar method, dip your toothbrush in a bowl of vinegar and use that to buff the baking soda mixture on the metal.
You'll notice when the tarnish starts to come off the metal. If you don't want all the tarnish and patina removed, focus the toothbrush on the high points of the metal and avoid any crevices and edges.
Rinse Then Buff With a Damp Cloth
Once the metal is cleaned to your liking, use lukewarm water to rinse off any remaining cleaning solution. Next, take a damp lint-free cloth or paper towel to buff the hardware. Make sure each piece is dried completely to prevent rust or tarnish issues.
Enjoy your newly cleaned hardware!