How to clean brass hardware in your home.


By Alyssa Chua

Take a look around your home, and you may notice you have brass hardware on your kitchen cabinets, bedroom drawers, faucets, light fixtures, and more. If you do have brass in your home, examine it closely. Is it dull or dirty? If so, it might be overdue for a cleaning.

Brass is a copper and zinc alloy that oxidizes fast when exposed to air. Over time, brass will turn black due to overuse and possible polish misuse. You’ll need to clean it to get it looking nice and shiny again. 

Before you begin cleaning.

Before you clean, identify the kind of brass you have with a magnet. If the magnet sticks, it is probably solid brass and more durable. Solid brass can withstand more rigorous cleaning methods, whereas you may have to be more careful with brass-plated pieces as they probably only have a thin layer of brass.

How to clean lacquered brass.

If your brass is lacquered to prevent it from tarnishing, wash it with water and mild cleaning supplies to ensure it stays clean.

What you need:

  • Warm water
  • Mild detergent
  • A clean, non-abrasive cloth

Step 1: Clean your brass hardware.

Add a little mild detergent to warm water and use it to clean your brass hardware. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners, bleach-based cleaners, rubbing alcohol, detergents, and other harsh chemicals. They may remove the protective lacquer coating and damage the finish.

Use some toothpaste to clean stubborn spots, but don't allow it to build up as it will wear away the protective coating.

Step 2: Rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water.

Remove the detergent by giving your brass hardware a thorough rinse. Avoid using abrasive sponges to scrub parts of your brass, as these may be unsafe for the lacquered surfaces.

Step 3. Dry with a clean cloth.

Use a microfiber cloth to wipe your brass hardware dry. Go in the direction of the brushed grain so it maintains its polished look.

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How to clean brass that's not lacquered.

The cleaning process is slightly different for antique brass and other “raw” brass items (brass hardware without a lacquer finish).

What you need:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Brass cleaner
  • Soft sponge
  • Warm water
  • Table salt
  • White vinegar or ammonia
  • Baking soda
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato juice
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Lemon juice
  • Cream of tartar
  • Oils

Method 1: How to clean brass hardware with isopropyl alcohol.

If you’ve got a light stain or soil, use isopropyl alcohol and a light-duty rubbing sponge to scrub away the stain. Be gentle when you scrub, as brass isn’t like stainless steel, where you can apply pressure.

For heavier stains, apply a light scouring low abrasion solution on a sponge with water. Scrub the product onto the surface following the pattern of the grain.

Method 2: How to clean brass hardware with ammonia and vinegar.

Wash the brass in warm water and rinse. Mix ammonia, vinegar, baking soda, and table salt into a bowl. Dip a soft cloth into the solution and apply it to your solid brass or brass-plated items. Wash it clean with warm water.

Method 3: How to clean brass hardware with lemon juice.

Cut a lemon in half, and sprinkle table salt on it. Rub the salted lemon on the tarnished area. Wipe the brass hardware with a soft cloth, and buff until the piece becomes shiny again.

If the tarnish is stubborn, you can create a special paste:

  • Mix 2 parts cream of tartar and 1 part lemon juice.
  • Apply the paste to the brass item, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
  • Buff with a dry cloth.

Method 4: How to clean brass hardware with ketchup and tomato juice.

Rub ketchup onto your brass with a soft cloth. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

You can also soak smaller items in a bowl of tomato juice for about 5 minutes. Afterward, rinse them with warm water and dry them thoroughly.

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How to polish the brass hardware.

brass faucetUse olive or lemon oil to polish your brass, as these oils will help slow down tarnish. Place some oil onto a cloth and wipe down your brass hardware with it. Dry it with a soft cotton cloth.

Brass cleaning mistakes to avoid.

When cleaning your brass hardware, avoid practices that ruin your brass or make it tarnish right away.

  • Avoid using too much polish. Too much polish can discolor your brass surface, so it’s best to only spread a thin film. Place polish on an absorbent rag and let it dry for about 24 hours before applying it to your brass hardware.
  • Avoid using chemicals and abrasive cleaning cloths. Some chemicals, like bleach, ammonium, and highly acidic cleaners, can harm your brass. Abrasive cloths can also scratch your brass hardware.
  • Avoid using hot water on lacquered brass items. Use lukewarm water only on lacquered brass items, and rinse and dry the items thoroughly. Never use hot water, as it will loosen the lacquer. Don't soak or polish them, as doing so will also damage the lacquer.

How to maintain your brass hardware.

If you want to keep your brass hardware in good shape, take good care of it.

For example, clean your brass hardware regularly. Keep your brass looking sparkly clean by cleaning it in warm, soapy water weekly. Rinse and buff with a microfiber cloth to prevent surface rust from forming. And be sure to wipe in the direction of the brushed grain.

Also, remove dried water spots as soon as you see them. When you allow water to evaporate from a surface, it leaves behind water deposits, sometimes called water spots. These can dry up on your brass and leave a stain.

You can remove water spots with a 50/50 blend of household vinegar and water. Apply it for a limited time on the affected surface. Then, rinse with water immediately and dry with a soft cloth.

Hire a house cleaner to keep your home (and hardware) sparkling clean.

Tarnished brass can be difficult to keep nice and shiny. Instead of dealing with the stress of cleaning them, hire a house cleaner to take care of cleaning your home's cabinets, knobs, light fixtures, and other items that may contain brass hardware.

Download the Thumbtack app today to start getting cost estimates from top-rated house cleaning services near you.


Can you clean brass with just vinegar?

You can clean your brass with vinegar, but you must be careful. Scrubbing or buffing too hard may end up damaging the surface instead. It’s best to mix it with other household products like warm water and detergent first before applying it to your items.

Will Dawn dish soap clean brass?

You can use mild dish soap and water, including Dawn dish soap, to clean your brass items.

Does hydrogen peroxide clean brass?

Hydrogen peroxide itself doesn’t clean, but you may mix it with other ingredients. It also reacts with other oxidizable materials such as brass, iron, and copper, possibly causing corrosion. You may want to use other materials instead.

Does Coke/Coca-Cola clean brass?

Coke or Coca-Cola and any other type of cola soda can be used to clean your brass. Rub onto your brass, give it a thorough rinse, and dry it afterward.

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