Brass pieces are a very popular item for decoration. They are commonly seen in clocks, door handles, lamps, and other household items that need to be well preserved.
However, what’s not in style is tarnished brass.
Over time, water and oxygen can cause your prized items to corrode, or tarnish, giving a greyish or brown hue to your brass pieces.
Cleaning brass is not hard or expensive to do, and you can clean all sorts of things with just a few household ingredients!
But before going out to the grocery store for brass polish and other cleaning materials, you’ll first need to know if what you own is indeed brass. While it may look like brass, it could be a cheaper metal that is coated.
How to Tell if its Real Brass
Brass can often be confused with different metals, such as bronze or copper. The good news is you won’t need to go to a professional to get your little piece of metal looked at.
To identify brass, simply place a magnet against your piece. If the magnet sticks, then it’s not real brass. Magnets don’t stick to brass because the metal’s components consist of zinc and copper, both of which are not magnetic. Boilers are typically made with brass.
Once you’ve identified your metal, you’ll need to see if it’s been lacquered. Lacquered brass works to keep tarnish away and stops the ageing process. Because of this thin layer of lacquer acting as protection, you may need a professional to clean your brass.
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How to Clean Brass – Cleaning Methods
Dirt, grime, grease and the accumulation of limescale can do a number on your brass pieces, giving them a dull appearance that detracts from their timeless beauty.
If you have a collection of brass trinkets or are looking to spruce up an old lampshade, always clean an inconspicuous area first before going all out. With that being said, lets go through each brass cleaning method to find out which suits you:
Cleaning Brass with Warm Soapy Water
Before bringing out the big guns to clean your brass, it helps to see if a little warm soapy water will do the trick. Mix a teaspoon of liquid hand soap with about 1/2 cup of warm water to start.
Wet a damp cloth and wipe your brass piece, then use a toothbrush to gently scrub it down. Be extra careful when cleaning intricate designs, as they can be easily damaged! Once dry, wipe away water with a microfiber cloth.
How to Clean Brass Easily with Ketchup
Ketchup to clean brass? Trust us, it works! If your brass has tough stains that soap and water can’t remove, try using ketchup as a cleaning agent. This natural brass cleaner has useful acidic properties which can dissolve tarnish.
Squeeze out a generous amount of ketchup onto a soft cloth, then apply it to the brass. Wait an hour and wash it off with warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry your brass for a restored, shiny appearance.
Clean Brass with Toothpaste
Toothpaste doesn’t only help to brighten your teeth and freshen your breath, it can brighten and shine tarnished brass pieces too. Just make sure to purchase white toothpaste, as coloured toothpaste could stain your metal.
To clean your brass, thinly apply your white toothpaste onto your piece and let it rest. After waiting 15 minutes, clean your brass with a microfibre cloth. This cleaning agent works as a brass polish and helps to remove any unwanted blemishes.
For tougher stains, you may require a bit of elbow grease. Simply add more toothpaste to your cloth, then apply it to the stained area. When wiping away the toothpaste, be sure to use a very light hand as to not damage the brass.
How to Clean Brass with Vinegar, Salt and Flour
If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly and budget-friendly way to clean brass, a mixture of vinegar, salt and flour is your best bet. Vinegar is also an effective in removing limescale, which is common in brass taps.
Mix your ingredients until your salt has dissolved and add flour to make a paste, then apply it to your brass. Using your cloth, rub gently until stains are removed. When finished, rinse away the mixture with warm water and buff dry with a cloth.
How to Clean Brass Easily with Lemon and Baking Soda
Another cheap and easy brass cleaner is one that is made from lemons and baking soda. While both work great individually, it’s their combined powers that make them shine.
Start off by taking a lemon, cutting it in half and squeezing the juice into a bowl (lemon juice will also suffice). Add one teaspoon of baking soda, and mix well until you have a paste. Rub the mixture onto your brass with a clean cloth and leave for 15-30 minutes. Once stains have softened, polish brass with a clean cloth.
Choose a Specialised Brass Cleaner if Natural Solutions Fail
If the natural methods don’t seem to be working, or if your brass is heavily tarnished, it may be time to bring out the big guns in the form of commercial metal cleaners. These can be found at most hardware stores and are specifically made to clean brass quickly and easily.
It is important that you use one specially made to clean brass, as other household cleaners (such as bleach or ammonia) can damage and discolour your brass.
When using a brass cleaner, be sure to read the instructions carefully, as each one is unique. Apply the product according to the manufacturer’s directions and let it sit for the instructed time.
How to Clean Brass – General Tips
There are ways to maximise your brass’ lifespan, as good maintenance will help keep your brass in good condition and looking amazing. Below are a few tips to help you out:
Polish Your Brash Regularly to Avoid Discolouration
If your brass has started to turn a green or blackish colour, it is because the metal has begun oxidising and will need polishing. Avoid letting this happen by keeping a regular cleaning routine. This means polishing your brass at least once every few months or whenever it starts to look dull.
Be Gentle when Cleaning Brass
Rubbing or polishing too aggressively can damage the brass, causing it to lose its shine and lustre. When cleaning your brass, always use a light touch to avoid scratches and the brass coating from coming off.
For extremely stubborn stains, you can use steel wool that’s no thicker than a grade of 00. But remember that brass is a soft metal, so using a harsher abrasive can ruin the finish.
Avoid Splashing Chemicals or Submerging Your Brass in Water
Surfaces with harsh chemicals cause your brass to eventually corrode. Avoid using products that contain ammonia, bleach and chlorine. Submerging your brass in water can also cause the metal to corrode over time. Corrosion can be easily spotted by pink or reddish splotches on the brass.
Avoid Touching Your Brass
This is an unusual tip and perhaps the most difficult to do – but you should try to avoid touching your brass with your bare hands. When you touch it, oils from your fingers get deposited onto the metal, and over time, this will cause the brass to tarnish.
Let Your Brass Pieces Age Gracefully
Many brass items age like fine wine, where its tarnish actually gives it more charm and character. If maintaining your trinket’s value is your utmost priority, you may want to leave it in its natural state.
Sometimes, it’s best to avoid polishing brass altogether. Antiques, which rely on authentic and genuine features, should rarely be polished as this removes the patina and oxidation that give them their value. Restoring your solid brass items to their original state can actually devalue their worth.
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