A clean and shiny brass planter with a Christmas cactus about to bloom

The Brass Cleaning Steps I Swear By for Lasting Shine

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Have you noticed that brass is making a comeback in decor? I think it’s in response to all the grays and whites we all grew tired of, and I love it. What I don’t love, though, is tarnish. So, to clean brass and keep it shiny, I head to the kitchen. Or the bathroom.

It’s not as weird as it sounds. You know how I love my homemade cleaning recipes. I turn to many of the same ingredients to keep the tarnish off brass so it stays shiny. Read on and I’ll explain.

Identifying Real Brass

Before you start, ensure what you’re cleaning is actual brass. Lots of times, what we think is brass is actually plated steel or iron with a brass-like finish, or a zinc alloy.

A simple test to find out if something is real brass is to use a magnet: if it sticks, it’s not brass. Brass won’t magnetize, so if the magnet falls, you’re ready to proceed with cleaning.

Step-by-Step Brass Cleaning

Step 1: Gentle Cleaning.

Start by wiping the brass item with a microfiber cloth dampened in warm, soapy water to remove surface grime. Afterward, rinse and dry the item thoroughly.

For stubborn messes or to clean intricate areas, wet an old toothbrush and dip it in baking soda or add a dab of a non-whitening toothpaste. Both offer mild abrasion that can lift dirt without scratching the brass.

Step 2: Tackle Tarnish.

For more severely tarnished brass, there are a few household ingredients that can help:

Tomato ketchup: Coat the brass in ketchup, let it sit for an hour while the acetic and citric acids in it loosen the tarnish, then gently scrub with a toothbrush and rinse.

Lemon and salt: Apply lemon juice on the brass and let it sit 10 minutes while the citric acid loosens grime. Then dip half a lemon into salt and use this to lightly scrub the surface. Rinse.

Vinegar, flour, and salt paste: For heavy tarnish, make a paste that will stick in place by combining vinegar, flour and salt. Slather it on and let the acetic acid work on the tarnish for 30 minutes then rinse.

Step 3: Keep it Shiny.

If you want to keep brass looking its best, dust it when you’re cleaning a room, and use soap and water at the first sign of grime.

Then, to keep brass shiny, apply a protective layer to keep tarnish from forming.

• Unlacquered brass: Apply a light layer of linseed or mineral oil, or WD-40 every month or two.

• Lacquered brass: If the surface is flaking or bubbling, soak the piece in acetone to remove the old lacquer. Wash and dry it well, then apply a new coat of polyurethane spray lacquer as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

With routine cleaning and oiling, you won’t need any specialized products to keep brass shiny and protect it from tarnish.

Now, let’s talk about getting that tarnish off your silver jewelry.

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