Brass is an alloy of zinc, copper and sometimes other metals. Brass has been used since ancient times due to its strength, attractive appearance and ease of processing. However, brass can become greasy, dirty, and tarnished over time. To bring back the shine to brass products, there are a number of cleaning methods that require the materials at hand, found in almost every home. If the metal is severely darkened, a commercial brass cleaner may work for you.
Method 1 of 3: Preparing the Brass for Cleaning
Step 1. Determine if there is really a brass object in front of you
Bring the magnet to a surface and see if it attracts.
- If the magnet does not attract, it is brass.
- If the magnet is reaching for an object, you have iron or steel covered with a layer of brass in front of you.
Step 2. Decide whether to clean the item
Some brass items are not supposed to be shiny, so trying to clean these items can reduce their value. If you are unsure whether to clean an item, check with a professional about your options.
- Sometimes patina (a greenish coating that appears on copper and brass) gives the item a special charm, and it is better not to touch it.
- Many items made of brass are judged by their patina. For example, it can be used to establish the age, condition and value of a thing. Removing or altering the patina can seriously affect the value of an item.
Step 3. Determine if the item has varnish
In modern brass items, a layer of varnish on the surface protects the metal from oxidation, however, antique items do not have varnish. To understand whether there is varnish on the product or not, take a closer look at the surface of the object: if there is varnish, it will cover the entire surface area with an even transparent layer. As a rule, lacquered brass darkens only in those places where the integrity of the coating is broken.
- The varnished product is usually easy to clean - water and detergent are enough. However, if plaque has formed under the varnish, it is better to remove the varnish.
- If you still can't figure out if the product is varnished, be aware that varnished items usually have a yellowish tint.
Method 2 of 3: Cleaning Whole Brass Products
Step 1. Clean the surface of the varnished brass product
To prevent dust from accumulating on the product, wipe it regularly with a soft cloth. After wiping down the surface, dip a soft cotton cloth in warm water and a mild dishwashing detergent. Squeeze the rag so it is only slightly damp and gently wipe the surface. Then wipe the surface with a clean cloth to rinse off the detergent and dry thoroughly.
If you want to remove the patina that has formed under the varnish, you will first need to clean off the varnish
Step 2. Remove the varnish with hot water
Hot water softens the varnish that covers the brass. Place the brass item in the sink, then open hot water to pour over the item. Hot water will heat up the brass and the metal will expand. The varnish will expand with the metal, but when the brass begins to shrink, the varnish will not be able to shrink as well. After the brass product has completely cooled down, the varnish will slightly move away from the surface of the product, and it can be easily removed.
You can hold brass in boiling water if the size of the product allows it. Simply place the brass piece in a saucepan made of any metal other than aluminum with boiling water and let sit for a couple of minutes. Then carefully remove the item from the water, refrigerate and remove the varnish
Step 3. Remove the nail polish with nail polish remover
Place the item on a table covered with lots of newspapers. Newspapers will prevent drops of nail polish remover from damaging your work surface. It is best to spread the product evenly with a brush. Leave the product on for 1-2 minutes, then wipe off the product with a soft cloth. Read the instructions on the packaging before proceeding.
- Be careful and follow the manufacturer's instructions as nail polish remover contains corrosive substances that can be hazardous to health.
- Cover exposed skin and wear rubber gloves.
- Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area as nail polish remover emits toxic fumes.
- Work away from open flames as nail polish remover is flammable.
Step 4. Polish the brass
Wipe off all dust and dirt from the surface before proceeding to polish. There are many ready-made polishes available, but you can make your own. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from the halves into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of salt or baking soda to the juice. It doesn't matter which one you choose, as this substance will simply be abrasive. Stir to form a paste. You may need another teaspoon of salt or baking soda. Apply the paste to the product with a soft cloth.
- Apply the paste in the direction of the metal particles. If you do the opposite, microcracks may form.
- Don't rub in the paste too hard. Salt or baking soda will gently remove dirt.
- A soft-bristled toothbrush is suitable for cleaning hard-to-reach areas.
Step 5. Try industrial polishing your brass
There are many eco-friendly brass cleaners that are good at removing dirt and shine without damaging the surface or leaving scratches.
- There are products that contain abrasive particles, so be careful when cleaning fragile items.
- Do not use hydrochloric acid. It does not clean brass well and can leave stubborn stains.
- Undiluted white vinegar or ammonia solution can clean up antique brass. Leave the product in the liquid for an hour. Both are natural cleaning agents and can clean brass to a shine.
Step 6. Try using a different brass product
The tool can be made at home, or you can buy a ready-made one, but besides that, there are other options. For example, try cleaning brass with the following natural substances:
Using a soft cloth, apply the ketchup to the surface of the garment. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth. Dry the surface thoroughly.
Spread unsweetened yogurt on the surface of the item. The lactic acid in this product will break down plaque on the brass. Let the yoghurt dry, then rinse the garment with water and dry the surface with a clean cloth.
White vinegar and salt.
Apply vinegar to the surface of the garment (you can sprinkle it with vinegar or apply liquid from a spray), then sprinkle it with salt. Soak a rag in vinegar and gently wipe the surface. Dry with another clean cloth.
Step 7. Protect the brass from plaque buildup
When cleaning the product, apply a varnish to the surface to prevent future contamination. The varnish can be applied with a brush or cotton pad. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Whichever way you decide to apply varnish, do it in a thin layer. Watch out for smudges as they dry out and the surface will be uneven.
- Let the surface dry completely before touching it. When the varnish is dry, wipe the surface with a clean rag to give the brass a shine.
Method 3 of 3: Cleaning Brass Plated Items
Step 1. Determine whether your product is pure brass or plated brass
The difference can be difficult to understand. Bring the magnet to a surface to check if the metal will attract. If not, this is a pure brass piece. If the magnet attracts, chances are your piece is made of iron or steel and has a brass-plated top.
- You can also take a sharp kitchen knife and draw an inconspicuous line on the object. If the item is made of brass, the scratch will be bright yellow.
- If the scratch is a different color (for example, silver), then it is a different metal and you should use non-abrasive cleaners to avoid washing off the brass coating.
Step 2. Clean the varnished surface
Wipe the entire surface of the garment with a mixture of warm water and a mild dish soap. Immerse a rag in water, wring it out to a slightly damp state and gently rub the surface of the product.
- Do not try to polish such a product. This will make the surface cloudy.
- Do not use ammonia-based cleaners if you need to clean the lacquered surface of a brass-coated item. Ammonia will dissolve the protective layer of the varnish.
Step 3. Clean the unvarnished surface
Dip a soft cotton rag in a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap, wring out the rag to just damp, and gently wipe the garment.
You can use an old toothbrush if you need to clean hard-to-reach areas and crevices
Step 4. Rinse the product under water and apply a non-aggressive polish
Rinse the product with water, then dry it with a clean cloth.
- When polishing brass-coated items, some of the dusting may wear off. If you want to polish such a product, do not press the rag too hard.
- Before polishing the entire piece, it is recommended that you try polishing an inconspicuous area for inspection.
Plaque can also be removed by rubbing with half a lemon and salt. This will keep the surface clean, but not polish
- Excessive cleaning efforts and the use of abrasive products can damage the brass.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions when handling varnish or paint solvents and when applying varnish. Take precautions.