Brass jewelry can be elegant and beautiful, but itís prone to tarnishing and can be difficult to maintain. Though its surface can easily be scratched by abrasive cleaning methods, there are a number ways to clean brass jewelry without damaging it. If your older jewelry has a thin green-brown layerĖ known as a patinaĖ you can refine and preserve its aged look with simple soap and water. You can also use lemon and salt to gently clean pieces with no patina. If your piece has green, bluish-green, or black discoloration, it's tarnished, and will need a deeper and more aggressive clean. For that, you can use household items like vinegar, ammonia, or even ketchup!

EditUsing Soap and Water for a Gentle Clean

  1. Mix a few drops of mild dish soap in warm water. It wonít take much soapy water to clean your jewelry, so pour about of warm water into a cup or a bowl, then add 3-4 drops of mild dish soap. Gently stir the water to make sure the soap is mixed in evenly.[1]

    • Soap and water are perfect for a gentle clean that will remove dirt and grime from brass without removing its patina, or the aged layer that develops on older pieces over time.

  2. Test the soapy water on an inconspicuous area to make sure itís safe. Although this is a very mild cleaning method, if youíre trying to preserve the patina of a piece, itís always a good idea to do a quick test before you clean the whole item. Dip a cotton swab in or the corner of a cloth into the soapy water, then gently rub it onto a hidden piece of the jewelry, like the back of a pendant or near the clasp on a chain.[2]

    • If the patina starts to come off or youíre concerned the water will harm the brass item, you may want to consider having the piece cleaned professionally.

  3. Clean the piece with the soapy water and a soft cloth or toothbrush. If you were satisfied with your spot test, dip a microfiber cloth or a soft toothbrush into the soapy water, then use it to gently clean the surface of the jewelry in small, circular motions. You may need to go over the same spot more than once to get it as clean as you want, but avoid scrubbing too hard, as you could scratch the brass.[3]

    • A toothbrush is best for an item with a lot of crevices, like an ornate pendant or ring, while a cloth is more gentle for jewelry with a lot of flat surfaces, like a cuff bracelet.
    • For stubborn dirt, soak the jewelry for 2-3 minutes in the water before you clean it with the cloth.
    • Be sure to choose a toothbrush thatís only used for cleaning!

  4. Rinse the jewelry thoroughly, then dry it with a soft cloth. When youíve finished cleaning the brass item, hold it under running water and use your fingers to remove any soapy residue from the surface of the piece. Then, rub the jewelry with a dry microfiber cloth or towel until itís completely dry.[4]

    • Water can leave spots on brass, which is why itís important to dry it thoroughly.

EditCleaning Light Tarnish with Lemon and Salt

  1. Cut a lemon in half. The acidity in a lemon is perfect for dissolving dirt and tarnish on brass, without being so abrasive that youíll damage the finish. Place the lemon on a cutting board, then carefully slice it in half lengthwise.[5]

    • Cutting the lemon lengthwise will give you more surface area to work with, but itís fine if you cut it the other way.
    • You may want to remove any visible seeds, although this isnít necessary.
    • You can also use a lime, if thatís what you have on hand.

  2. Dip one of the cut sides of the lemon in salt. Pour a thin layer of salt onto a small plate or saucer. Then, press the cut side of one of your lemon halves into the salt.[6]

    • The salt will stick to the lemon, coating the cut side completely.

  3. Rub the salt and lemon over the surface of the brass until it shines. Hold your brass jewelry in one hand, or lay it on a flat surface and use your hand to hold it steady. Then, rub the lemon and salt all over your brass jewelry. The combination of the acidic lemon and the abrasive salt should quickly loosen and remove dirt and tarnish from the jewelry.[7]

    • Keep doing this until the jewelry shines.
    • You may need to dip the lemon in the salt again, especially if itís a large piece.

  4. Use a toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach places. For smaller pieces with a lot of detail, squeeze out a little of the lemon juice into the pile of salt and mix it until it forms a paste. Then, dip a soft toothbrush into the paste and apply it to the jewelry. Scrub gently until it's clean.
  5. Rinse the jewelry and dry it thoroughly. Once youíre happy with how your jewelry looks, rinse it well under running water. Then, rub it vigorously with a soft, dry cloth to make sure itís completely dry. If you leave any water on the jewelry, it could leave spots.[8]

    • Make sure to completely wash away any lemon juice; otherwise, it could etch the surface of your jewelry.

EditCleaning Built-Up Tarnish and Grime

  1. Make a salt, flour, and vinegar paste for an all-natural deep clean. Mix of white vinegar with 1 tsp (6 g) of salt and stir until the salt is dissolved. Then, add about 2 tbsp (30 g) of flour, or enough to make a thick paste. Rub the paste onto the jewelry and let it dry for about 10 minutes, then rinse and dry the item thoroughly.[9]

    • This is a gentle way to remove built-up tarnish and stubborn grime.

  2. Try ketchup for a unique way to shine your brass jewelry. The acidic blend of tomatoes and vinegar in ketchup makes it a great brass cleaner. Just squirt a little ketchup onto a soft cloth or brush, then rub it gently into the surface of the jewelry. If the piece is badly tarnished, you may need to leave the ketchup in place for 3-5 minutes, but you should be able to see it working right away. Rinse the ketchup away with warm water and dry the jewelry thoroughly with a soft cloth.[10]
  3. Opt for non-gel toothpaste for occasional cleaning. Coat the jewelry in a thin layer of plain white toothpaste and leave it on for about 5 minutes. Then, polish the jewelry with a clean, soft cloth to remove stubborn dirt and grime. Once it looks shiny and bright, rinse the brass completely under running water, then dry it with a separate soft cloth.[11]

    • Toothpaste is mildly abrasive, which is why it gets the brass so clean. However, you should only use this technique for occasional cleaning, as it can scratch the surface of the brass over time.

  4. Use ammonia for a quick clean if you donít mind the fumes. Working in an area with plenty of fresh air, mix 1 part ammonia with 8 parts in a plastic or glass container. Soak the jewelry in the mixture for several minutes, then carefully remove it once it looks shiny and clean. Use a cloth to wipe away any tarnish, then rinse and dry the jewelry thoroughly.[12]

    • For example, if youíre only cleaning a small piece of jewelry, like a brass ring, small brooch, or pendant necklace, you might mix of ammonia with of water. Increase the amounts for larger jewelry, like chunky bracelets or necklaces.
    • Ammonia can be dangerous, so take the proper precautions! Make sure to wear gloves and goggles and work in a well-ventilated area, and never mix ammonia and bleach, as the fumes can be deadly.


  • If the piece is lacquered, or it appears to have a thin, shiny layer, it should not be cleaned the same way as regular brass. Instead, just wipe it down with a soft, damp cloth, then dry it with a separate cloth. If that doesn't work, take it to a professional for cleaning.
  • Always dry your brass thoroughly, or you can end up with water spots.
  • Rub olive oil on a finished piece to help prevent tarnish.[13]


  • If your jewelry has gemstones or other decorative pieces, make sure to only apply your cleaning solution to the brass. Stones can be damaged by acidic cleaning methods.
  • If youíre working with ammonia, wear goggles and gloves to protect yourself in case it splashes, and work in a well-ventilated area.
  • NEVER mix ammonia with other cleaning products, as it could produce dangerous fumes.

EditThings You'll Need

EditUsing Soap and Water for a Gentle Clean

  • Cup or bowl
  • Warm water
  • Mild dish soap
  • Spoon
  • Cotton swab
  • Microfiber cloth or soft toothbrush
  • Dry cloth

EditCleaning Light Tarnish with Lemon and Salt

  • Lemon
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Plate
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Dry cloth
  • Toothbrush (optional)

EditCleaning Built-Up Tarnish and Grime

  • Soft, dry cloth
  • Water
  • white vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tsp (6 g) salt (optional)
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) flour (optional)
  • Ketchup (optional)
  • Non-gel toothpaste (optional)
  • Ammonia (optional)
  • Glass or plastic container (optional)
  • Goggles and gloves (optional)


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