How to clean Antique Brass


Brass is back in interior styling. It makes a welcome warm addition to current interior trends, such as the boho or more recent jungalow style. Think rooms filled with colours such as forest green, jade, crimson petrol and deep blues.

Brass home accessories complement the vivid colours and soften the tone. A versatile metal, brass was a very popular addition to the home many years ago, so we are lucky enough to have a good choice of vintage and antique brass without buying new. We love using accents such as vintage brass candlesticks and antique brass plant holders in our interiors.

Image opposite from Pinterest. Origin unknown.

You may have brass fixtures on internal doors, vintage or brass handles on an antique chest of drawers or Victorian wardrobe. Don’t spend money on changing the handles when you could be cleaning the originals. With a little effort, you can breathe new life into your brass. The other school of thought is of course that the beauty of an object is in it's age, and the tarnish that comes with it. Antique brass can often look better left untouched and allowed to age gracefully. It's all down to personal choice and what you would rather see in your home. 

Brass is an alloy, made using copper and zinc. It is widely believed that Ancient Romans were the first to use brass extensively. It was used to make coins, jewellery, armour and later was used for ship building due to it's anti-corrosive properties - it also withstands extreme temperatures.

Firstly, ensure the item you want to clean, is actually brass. If it isn’t brass, you could end up tarnishing it rather than cleaning. The easiest way to check is to see if a magnet sticks to it. If it’s real brass, the magnet will not stick. If it does stick – do some further investigating and don’t clean it until you’re sure of the metal. You should also check the the brass has not been lacquered. Lacquer was sometimes added to prevent tarnishing, but it can start coming off in patches.

Don’t use anything too abrasive on your brass, if you choose to use wire wool, it will need to be a very fine grade. You could end up scratching the surface and causing damage. Try using cotton wool or a soft cleaning cloth to do the dirty work and use another soft cleaning or polishing cloth to get a bit of gleam on your item.

What will I need ?

  • Lemon
  • Baking Soda
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Soft cloth or cotton wool

How do we clean the brass?

  1. Cut your lemon in half, and squeeze into a bowl. Remove any seeds.
  2. A spoonful at a time, add the baking powder to the lemon juice. Your mixture should end up with a toothpaste like consistency, so the amount of baking soda you end up using will depend on the amount of lemon juice you have. Ensure you mix the two ingredients together in the bowl. Don’t mix directly on the brass or you could up with patches.
  3. Take a soft cloth or cotton wool and apply the mixture to an area of your brass object. You may want to test a small patch on the bottom or back of an object to help you decide whether to carry on.
  4. Work the mixture into the brass. A soft cloth may work better for you, as you could end up going through a lot of cotton wool.
  5. Use warm water to rinse the brass and dry it off.
  6. Use your second cloth to polish. Don’t be afraid to put some hard work in – the more gleam you want, the more you’ll need to polish.

There are few different methods to clean brass, that we have yet to try – do your own research and only try what you are comfortable with using on your brass.

There are many commercial products available for cleaning items such as vintage brass, but it’s nice to be able to use natural cleaning methods whenever you can. Whatever method you decide to use, be warned, you will need to put some elbow grease into it. You’ll be working through years of dirt grime and tarnish spots, so it will require some effort. You’ll need even more elbow grease for the polishing – depending on the level of shine you want your brass to have. 

Vintage and Antique Brass available online

Brass Turkish Tea Kettle Tray

Brass Turkish Tea Kettle Tray

Antique Brass Bound Glazed Haberdashery Shop Counter

Antique Brass Bound Glazed Haberdashery Shop Counter

Pressed Brass Rectangular Mirror

Pressed Brass Rectangular Mirror

Pair Antique Brass Andirons

Pair Antique Brass Andirons

Art Nouveau Brass Fire Fender

Art Nouveau Brass Fire Fender

French Brass Standard Lamp

French Brass Standard Lamp

July 26, 2018 by Kernow Furniture

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