How to Clean Brass

A Clean Brass Vase.

Brass Cleaning

Brass is a beautiful metal, and can be a wonderful way to bring shine to accent pieces throughout your home.

Brass is an alloy metal made up of zinc and copper. The amounts used of each are adjusted depending on the intended use of the piece. Brass is popular and is used for cookware, mirror frames, picture frames, vases, candlesticks, instruments, jewelry, fittings and so much more.

Brass, like silver and other metals, does tarnish easily. So what is the best way to clean your brass pieces? One of the first things you’ll need to do is figure out if your piece is solid or brass plated.

We’ll tell you how below, then go over some quick, easy, and safe ways to clean your brass using natural ingredients.

Some of the ingredients you may have in the house already. No need to go to the store – how handy is that?

Solid Brass or Brass Plated?

An important first step to knowing how to best clean your brass piece is to determine if it’s solid brass or actually brass plated steel.

A quick and easy way to check is to try putting a small magnet on the piece. If the magnet falls, your piece is solid brass and you should read on!

But if the magnet sticks, your piece is brass plated steel and what you’re seeing is not tarnish but rust.

Take some very fine grade steel wool and buff away the rust. You may then need to have the piece repainted.

Clean with a Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

Brass can often be cleaned with a clean, lint-free cloth. One of the best types for this is a microfiber cloth.

Put some elbow grease into it, and really buff the area hard. You might be amazed that you don’t have to do anything further!

Wash your Brass in Soapy Water

The second easiest tip for brass cleaning is the simple washing of the piece in warm, soapy water.

This can be done by immersion or wiping, depending on the nature of the piece. Make sure you dry the brass thoroughly once it’s clean, and buff it to a shine.

Cleaning Brass Tarnish Naturally

Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce

Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce really do clean brass.

Use a clean, damp cloth to rub the sauce of your choice into your brass piece, and then wipe it clean. The piece will shine like never before!

It’s not crazy, we promise, even though you may think this is a waste of good cooking materials!

Lemon and Salt

This method is wonderful because it’s both completely natural and doesn’t require dirtying a clean rag and only takes a few steps to clean and shine brass.

  1. Cut a lemon in half and remove any seeds.
  2. Coat the open fruit of the lemon with table salt.
  3. Hold the lemon by the rind, and rub the salt-coated lemon over the brass. (You may need to recoat your lemon with salt if it’s a large piece.)
  4. Buff to a shine with a clean, dry cloth!

Salt, Vinegar and Flour Paste

Salt and vinegar is more than a great flavor of potato chips, it’s also a great brass cleaner!

  • Combine equal parts salt, vinegar, and white flour to form a paste.
  • Use your fingers to put the paste on your brass piece and let it sit for an hour.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water, buff with a clean, dry cloth, and admire the shine.

Cream of Tartar and Lemon Juice Paste

Another great option for a brass cleaning paste is one made of cream of tartar and lemon juice.

  • Use 2 parts cream of tartar to one 1 part lemon juice and mix into a firm paste.
  • Rub it on the piece with your fingers, let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water and buff with a dry cloth.


Yogurt isn’t just something to enjoy eating. Using plain yogurt is a great way for cleaning brass. Rub it on the brass with either a clean cloth or your fingers, then let it dry.

Use a clean, dry cloth to buff off the yogurt. Your brass now looks like new again!


If your piece of brass is particularly tarnished, a great cleaning method is a solution of:

  • 1 part ammonia to 8 parts water.

As always, when using ammonia, ensure that you are working in a well-ventilated area. You’ll need to completely immerse the piece in the solution and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.

This obviously won’t work for pieces that aren’t 100% brass or have decorations glued onto them, but it’s an all-natural way to clean highly tarnished brass quickly.

Protecting Brass from Future Tarnish

Rubbing brass with mineral oil will help bring out the shine as well as break apart any nasty stains. Simply apply the oil to a clean, dry cloth and rub thoroughly.

Mineral oil will retard the oxidation process and will keep your brass looking brighter and require less polishing when rubbed with mineral oil.

Be sure not to overcoat your brass. Less is more. Over coating can create smudging and attract dirt and grime.

Keeping Brass Clean

Once you’ve spent the time cleaning your brass, help it stay clean and shiny a little longer by trying one of these techniques.

  • Once you have the exterior of your brass piece clean and shiny, you can use car wax to maintain the shine and help inhibit tarnish. This application will likely last 4-6 months, depending on the weather in your area. Simply apply the wax and buff it to a shine!
  • You could also have your piece professionally lacquered. Even this is not a forever solution and when a cleaning is needed – you’ll have to have the old lacquer removed prior to cleaning.

Brass is a beautiful accent to your home.

Regularly cleaning and buffing with a soft cloth will go a long way towards keeping it beautiful with minimal work.