Denatured Alcohol, Nail Polish and Paint Stripper
If your brass is lacquered (sealed with a clear, protective coating), you need to remove the lacquer to clean the brass underneath. Denatured alcohol, nail polish remover and paint stripper safely remove lacquer from brass. Denatured alcohol is a chemical product found in most pharmacies or hardware stores. Buy painter stripper where paint is sold. Dampen a soft cloth or a cotton ball with the chemical product and rub it over the brass item to remove the lacquer. Wear gloves when using paint stripper. Do not use a wire brush to apply the chemical as it tends to scratch the brass beneath.
Brasso is a cleaning solution made specifically for de-lacquered brass. It contains the common household cleaner ammonia. Brasso is effective at removing tarnish from brass and restoring the metal to its original luster. Saturate a cloth with Brasso and use the cloth to clean away dirt and debris. The product is found in most hardware stores.
Horolene is a chemical cleaning solution for brass. It's found in jewelry and hardware stores. Soak the brass in the solution and watch dirt and tarnish dissolve away. Prolonged exposure of brass to the solution, however, can discolor it and leave a reddish tint. Use care when working with this solution.
Toothpaste is an alkaline abrasive that safely cleans most type of brass. Choose a paste that contains a concentration of abrasives rather than clear gel toothpaste that includes more ingredients to eliminate bacteria. Lightly scrub the brass using the toothpaste to remove dirt and tarnish.
Mild Soap and Surface Cleaning Spray
If you want to keep the lacquer finish on the brass, use a mild soap or a gentle surface cleaner such as baking soda. Mix the cleaning agent with warm water to create the cleaning solution. Dampen a soft sponge or cloth with the cleaning solution and gently rub the item until it's clean. Avoid using surface cleaners with lemon juice or citrus as they can tarnish lacquered brass.