How To Clean Brass

Photo of brass buddhas

Brass ornaments decorate many homes. The lovely patina of an antique brass piece creates a warm ambiance for a home. However, some people dislike the look of brass as it tarnishes. If you prefer your brass clean and shiny, consider following these steps to clean the brass.

Dirty or tarnished brass piece (a bell, light fixture)
Mild soap
Warm water
2 chamois clothes
1 small, soft-bristled toothbrush

  1. Make sure the item is really brass. There are many brass plated or even brass painted items out there that look the same from a distance. Be sure you have brass before you get started. All you need is a magnet to test. Hold the magnet to the piece. If the magnet is attracted to the piece, it is not brass because brass is not magnetic.
  2. Clean the piece. Using a mild soap and warm water, clean the piece. Wet one chamois cloth in the warm, soapy water. Then gently wipe the piece with the cloth. Give the piece a soft, general cleaning to remove most tarnish and dirt.
  3. Clean any grooves or engravings. Brass can be engraved and often it is difficult to clean the engravings with the soft cloth. Using a soft toothbrush, lightly brush it into and against the groove or engraving. This soft brush should loosen any dirt or sediment. Be careful to keep an eye on the brass to make sure you are not scuffing it.
  4. Polish with dry cloth. Once the brass is cleaned and dry, use the second chamois cloth for polishing. Lightly use the cloth to buff the surface of the brass piece. Light buffing should create a lovely sheen on the clean piece.

Note that some brass pieces have been coated with a lacquer finish. If this is the case with your piece , you may have to remove the layer of lacquer before you can clean and polish the piece. Consider using a brass cleaning solution designed for lacquered pieces instead of the soapy water. Be careful, however, because these solutions can be very abrasive and may damage your brass.

Once you’ve cleaned your brass, it should have a warm glow and shine. You can maintain that luster by periodically buffing the piece with the dry cloth when it needs an update of shine. Enjoy the warmth of your newly cleaned brass.


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I have a few brass pieces and I use brasso but what you describe here sounds much better. Will try it.

By Mary Norton