How to Clean Brass Simply and Effectively

There are plenty of natural methods to be found online for cleaning and polishing brass. The question is, which (if any) of these methods work? Which are worth your time? We undertook an experiment of four common brass cleaning and polishing methods, using regular ingredients you likely have on-hand (most of them all natural) and compared them to a control. While we discovered that all of the methods did, in fact, clean the brass, there is one method that stands out above the rest.

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  • How to Polish Brass, Method 1 – control (this is for reference; for Method 1, the brass is left untouched)
  • How to Polish Brass, Method 2 – plain yogurt
  • How to Polish Brass, Method 3 – lemon juice + cream of tartar
  • How to Polish Brass, Method 4 – ketchup
  • How to Polish Brass, Method 5 – salt + vinegar

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How to Polish Brass: Plain Yogurt Soak

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The plain yogurt soak method involves brushing some plain yogurt (Greek yogurt or regular is fine) onto the piece of brass.

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Use a damp cloth or an old toothbrush to cover the entire brass piece with yogurt, including the bottom of the brass. Once covered, let it soak for 3-4 hours.

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After the brass has sat in the yogurt for 3-4 hours, rinse the yogurt off with water.

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When the brass is yogurt-free…

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…buff it dry with a clean cloth. Old t-shirts or flannel works well, or other soft fabric rags.

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How to Polish Brass: Lemon Juice + Cream of Tartar

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Pour some cream of tartar onto a paper plate or bowl. The amount you pour will vary, based upon the size of your brass piece.

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One or two drops at a time, add in lemon juice to the cream of tartar.

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Stir (use the end of your old toothbrush) to make a paste.

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Use the toothbrush bristles to scrub the paste onto your brass piece.

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After scrubbing the paste onto your brass piece thoroughly, rinse it off with water.

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Buff dry with a soft, clean cloth.

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This method significantly decreased some of the markings on the original brass.

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How to Polish Brass: Ketchup Soak

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Use a damp cloth or an old toothbrush to spread ketchup all over the brass piece.

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Place the ketchup-covered brass piece on a paper plate, and let it sit for several hours until the ketchup dries.

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When the ketchup has dried, after a few hours, it’s time to rinse it off.

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Rinse the ketchup off with clean water; scrub any dried bits off with a damp rag or your old (clean) toothbrush.

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Buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.

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This method was effective in decreasing some of the spotting on the original brass.

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How to Polish Brass: Salt + Vinegar

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Pour a little white vinegar onto a clean, white rag, such as an old t-shirt or other soft cloth.

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Sprinkle some salt on top of the vinegar-dampened cloth.

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Gently rub the salt + vinegar cloth all over the brass surface.

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You may notice a few flecks of salt sticking to the brass. No worries. You don’t need to rub forever; you’ll start to notice a shine pretty quickly.

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Rinse the brass piece in clean water.

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Buff dry with a clean cloth.

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In my experimentation experience, this salt + vinegar method was absolutely the winner. While other methods for cleaning and polishing brass did decrease some of the spotting on brass, this method eliminated them completely and left the brass sparkling. As a bonus, it was immediately effective – I didn’t have to wait hours for the brass to be clean. It was also very easy; the chemistry of the salt and vinegar did all actual cleaning.

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And now you know a bit about how to polish brass. Whichever method you choose, I think you’ll find satisfaction in the fact that your brass will shine at least a little brighter by the end.