How To Clean and Polish Brass Correctly

Date Published: August 1, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

While brass can be allowed to age gracefully and develop a tarnished patina, the precious metal pops when cleaned. Cleaning and polishing brass can be done using either a commercial formula or a homemade cleaning solution. Cleaning and polishing brass regularly not only maintains a gorgeous shine but also removes discoloration and protects the brass from tarnishing.

Brass Cleaning Materials

Brass must be cleaned before it is polished. You can use either a commercial formula or make your own brass cleaning formula.

Before beginning, you must determine if the piece is solid brass or brass-plated. A magnet can help you determine if the piece is solid brass.

Solid brass is not magnetic, while brass-plated items are magnetic. If the piece is brass-plated, you will only need to perform the first step of the cleaning process.

You must also determine if a brass piece has been lacquered. Lacquer is used to keep brass from tarnishing. If lacquer has been used on the brass, your only option for cleaning the brass is to take the piece in question to a metal refinisher.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is used during the first step to wash the brass before it is polished.

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Cleaning Cloths

Two soft cleaning cloths are required for this task. One cloth is for washing the brass, and the other cloth is for polishing the brass.

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Brass Polish

Brass polish is used to polish the metal.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice can be used as one of the ingredients to make a homemade brass cleaning and polishing solution.

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Baking Soda

Baking soda is the second ingredient used to help make the homemade brass cleaning and polishing solution.

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Cleaning And Polishing Brass

Cleaning and polishing brass regularly is important to keep the metal from tarnishing. This step-by-step process can be completed with either an over-the-counter brass polish or a homemade cleaning and polishing solution. It takes only two simple steps to have your brass looking amazing.

Step One: Clean Brass Using Soapy Water

Make soapy, warm water in your sink using a teaspoon of dish soap. Wet a soft cleaning cloth and gently wipe down the brass.

The brass must be cleaned before it is polished. Once all dust and dirt have been removed, you are ready to move on to polishing the brass.

  • Pro Tip: If an object is brass plated, brass cleaner is unnecessary and can scratch the plating. That is why it is important to identify whether the piece in question is brass-plated or solid brass.

 Step Two: Polish Brass

 If you are using a commercial brass cleaner, you are ready to polish your brass to a beautiful sheen. Apply the polish using a soft cloth and polish using a circular motion.

If you are using a homemade polish, you will need to prepare it. In a small mixing bowl, mix a quarter cup of lemon juice with a tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste. Apply the polish using a circular motion.

  • Pro Tip: If the brass is heavily tarnished and you are using the homemade paste for polish, apply the polish and allow to sit for 30 minutes before buffing the piece.

Step Three: Rinse Brass & Buff Using Soft Cloth

After polishing the brass, rinse the item and polish using a clean, soft cloth. Always work in a circular motion to avoid streaking.

  • Pro Tip: A commercial formula makes for easier polishing. Brass polish is designed to make your brass look great and prevent tarnish from occurring in the future.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning and polishing brass must be done regularly to prevent the metal from tarnishing. While it is best to use an over-the-counter polish, a homemade paste can also work. Whether you are polishing an antique lamp, flatware, or another brass object, cleaning and polishing will have your piece gleaming.

FAQ: How to Clean and Polish Brass

Cleaning and polishing brass is a two-step process. You want to keep brass items in the best shape and maintain their value and radiant shine. Here are the most common questions concerning cleaning and polishing brass.

How often should you clean and polish brass?

Clean and polish brass once every three months. If the item in question is touched often, you may need to do it more often.

Why should you avoid touching brass?

The natural oils on your skin speed up tarnishing, so avoid touching it as much as possible. Additionally, exposure to air causes brass to tarnish.  

Why is a store-bought polish preferred over a natural cleaning and polishing solution?

First, store-bought polish makes polishing your brass easier. More importantly, however, these polishes often contain agents to help prevent future tarnishing.

Can you use steel wool instead of a soft cloth to polish brass?

Fine steel wool is used by some experts to polish brass. The steel wool, however, must not be thicker than grade 00. Otherwise, you can scratch the brass. It is best to use a soft cleaning cloth to polish brass.

Are there certain brass items that you should not clean?

Due to lubricating requirements, mechanical complexities, and more, there are certain brass items that you might not want to clean yourself. Examples of these items include light fixtures, locks, and other functional hardware.

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