How to Shine Brass

Brass is a metal alloy made from a mixture of copper and zinc.

It's a beautiful material that is used for everything from light fixtures to door knobs. Unfortunately, like most metals, brass oxidizes when exposed to the air, leaving behind an ugly tarnish. Using simple household products, you can clean and polish your brass items to restore their beautiful natural shine.

Determine whether your item is really made of brass. Some cleaning products can be harmful to certain materials, especially those that are brass-plated or coated. To determine if your item is brass, simply see if a magnet will stick to it. Brass is non-magnetic, so if a magnet will not stick, your item is most likely brass.

Clean your brass item thoroughly using a soapy water. Apply the solution to a clean cloth and rub the item to remove dirt and grime, then wipe the item dry with a towel or rag.

Remove any tarnish that is present. The easiest way to remove tarnish is by cleaning the item with a diluted ammonia mixture and a soft cloth.

Get rid of any corrosion on your brass item. Use a slice of lemon dipped in table salt to rub any corrosion you'd like to get rid of, then rinse the item with water and allow to dry.

Apply commercial brass cleaner, available at any home improvement store. Use a soft clean cloth and rub the brass cleaner onto the brass object you'd like to clean using a rag. The brass cleaner will leave behind a seal that will prevent the item from tarnishing in the future.

Buff your item. Use a dry, soft cloth and buff your item until it shines.

Things You Will Need

  • Magnet
  • Brass polish
  • Clean rags
  • Water
  • Soap (Dish soap is fine)
  • Ammonia (Optional)
  • Lemon (Optional)
  • Salt (Optional)
  • Lacquer thinner (Optional)
  • Steel wool (Optional)

Tips

  • For any tarnish or stains that are too tough for the products named above, apply a small amount of lacquer thinner to very fine steel wool and scrub your brass item.
  • For antique brass items that you're afraid to tackle at home, use a professional brass polishing service.

Warning

  • Clean your brass items in a well ventilated area, as the fumes from some of these cleaning products can be hazardous.

About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.