There are several ways to clean older brass. For a basic cleaning, you can use soap and warm water to remove tarnish if you simply want to keep brass clean. If youíre trying to avoid abrasive solutions or chemical cleaners, you can opt to use tomato-based products, like ketchup or tomato paste, to soak dirty areas before wiping them dry. If you want a deeper clean or to leave a protective coating behind, you can clean old brass with a specialized polish. Always hold a magnet up to a brass item before cleaning it to make sure that youíre actually working with solid brass and not brass-plated zinc, tin, or iron. If the magnet has no reaction to the object, itís solid brass.

[Edit]Cleaning Old Brass with Dish Soap

  1. Put a magnet on your brass to check to see if itís plated or pure brass. You cannot scrub or aggressively clean brass-plated materials without endangering them. To test your itemís material, hold a magnet up against the object. A magnet will not stick or react to solid brass, but it will stick to any brass-plated items.[1]

    • If you donít have a solid brass item, the odds are good that it is plated steel, zinc, or iron.

  2. Place your brass in a large bowl or sink. It will be easier to rinse, scrub, and wash your brass if itís in a sink or large bowl where it can be fully covered under a stream of water. Find a receptacle where you can completely cover your brass in water without having to worry about making a mess.[2]

    • If your brass canít be removed or is too big for a bowl or sink, apply 1-2 squirts of dish soap to a wet, cotton cloth and spot clean it by hand. If this doesnít work, you may want to soak your brass surface in ketchup.
    • Using a sink will make it easier to simply leave the water on while youíre rinsing your brass.
    • Donít put any small objects in the sink without covering the drain. Put a stopper or strainer in the hole of a sink to keep smaller pieces from falling down your drain.

  3. Fill the sink or bucket with warm water and dish soap before submerging your brass. Use a gentle, unscented dish soap and warm water. The amount of dish soap that you use is dependent upon the size of your brass object, but your water should be visibly soapy. Fill your sink or bucket with enough water to submerge your brass before dropping it in.[3]

    • If your item is brass-plated, donít submerge it in the sink. Simply dip a cotton cloth into the soapy water and gently rub it. Alternatively, you can quickly dip the brass-plated item in the soapy water instead.
    • Unscented soap is preferable if you donít want to leave your brass with a lingering odor.

  4. Scrub your brass with a microfiber cloth. After 15-45 seconds, lift your brass out of the sink and scrub it with a lathered microfiber cloth. Use the entire palm of your hand to rub the cloth into larger, flatter surfaces, and pinch the cloth between your thumb and index finger to scrub smaller sections.[4]

    • Continue scrubbing until you see tarnish and dirt lifting out of the brass.
    • Start with a softer, circular motion before you increase pressure to ensure that you donít apply unnecessary strain to the material.

  5. Use a toothbrush to clean intricate details. If you have a piece of brass with a lot of intricate line work, use a clean toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach grooves and inlays. Use back-and-forth strokes while applying light pressure to give the bristles time to sc**** dirty areas out.[5]

    • Alternatively, if you have a very small piece of brass with a lot of detail, you can use a toothbrush to clean the entire object.

  6. Rinse your brass under warm water until the soap is removed. Drain the water from your sink or empty your bucket. Turn the water in your sink on or fill your bucket with warm water. Rinse or dip your brass in warm water until the soap is visibly removed.[6]
  7. Rub your brass dry to prevent water spots. Use a soft cotton cloth to rub your brass dry. If you let it sit out while it is wet, you could end up with unsightly water spots all over your surface. Gently rub your brass for 1-2 minutes until it is completely dry.

[Edit]Soaking Brass in Tomato Products

  1. Spot clean brass by squirting ketchup on dirty areas. To clean brass objects naturally or spot clean fixtures that cannot be placed in the sink, squirt of ketchup on every section of brass. If youíre putting ketchup on a vertical surface, use a smaller amount of ketchup or use tomato paste and rub it out by hand so that it doesnít drip or coagulate.[7]

    • You can hang a small bucket handle around a doorknob to catch any ketchup as it slides off of the brass.
    • You can use ketchup or tomato paste if your brass is still dirty after cleaning it with soap or if you donít want to use any unnatural products to clean your brass.

  2. Mix tomato paste with water to soak larger objects. For larger objects that would require a lot of ketchup, fill a large bowl or bucket with 1-part tomato paste and 2-parts hot water with a large slotted spoon. This will save you some money on large amounts of ketchup while allowing you to submerge your brass in the tomato-product to let it soak.[8]

    • You can use tomato juice or soup if youíd like as long as there are no sugars.

  3. Leave the ketchup or tomato paste for 1-2 hours. Whether youíre spot cleaning with ketchup or submerging an object in tomato paste or juice, you need to give the tomato product time to eat into the tarnish, grime, or discoloration. The longer that you leave the brass, the cleaner that your brass will be. 2 hours is usually enough to clean really dirty brass.

    • Crack a window next to your bowl or bucket if you donít want your home to smell like tomatoes.

  4. Remove your brass and rinse it with warm, soapy water. Remove your brass from the sink and squirt some gentle dish soap on the brass. Run it under warm water for 3-4 minutes and rub your brass very gently with a microfiber cloth. For spot cleanings, put a squirt of dish soap on your microfiber cloth and run it under warm water. Rub the ketchup-covered brass for 1-2 minutes to remove the ketchup and its residue. Rinse the soap off of your brass before drying it.[9]
  5. Dry your brass with a clean cotton cloth. Gently rub your brass with a large cotton cloth. Wrap smaller objects in the cloth and rub it lightly with both hands. For larger items, simply run a cotton cloth over every brass surface.[10]

    • You can rinse your brass again if it has the vague scent of tomato sticking to it.

[Edit]Polishing Brass with a Chemical Cleaner

  1. Purchase a high-quality polish to remove discoloration. Brass polish comes in spray, cream, and liquid form. Creams usually need to be rubbed into a brass, while sprays are designed for spot cleaning and sensitive materials. Liquid brass cleaners are applied with a cloth. There are also liquid cleaners that allow you to submerge the brass entirely in the cleaner.[11]

    • Creams tend to better for thicker brass items since you can rub it in to the brass without worrying about damaging your item.
    • Sprays are good for hard-to-reach or delicate brass items.
    • Liquid cleaners tend to be good for brass statues or decorative items that may be hard to cover in a cream but require heavy cleaning.
    • A lacquer-polish will leave a protective coating on your brass by covering it with oil.

  2. Apply the polish according to the containerís instructions. Read your polishís instructions to determine how you apply it. The way you apply a brass polish depends upon whether you have a cream, spray, or liquid. Creams are generally applied by hand and rubbed in, while you typically mist a brass item with a spray and let it sit. Liquids can be applied with a cotton or microfiber cloth unless it is designed to be submerged in the liquid.[12]

    • When in doubt, apply the polish with a soft, cotton cloth. Pour a small amount of polish on to your cloth and lightly rub your brass item.

  3. Rub discolored areas lightly before using stiffer strokes. After youíve let your polish settle into the brass, clean especially dirty areas by hand. If youíre using a cream or liquid, start off by rubbing it in with a microfiber cloth. Rub the cloth into the dirty areas using soft, light circular strokes. If the brass isnít becoming cleaner, use a stiffer stroke. Continue rubbing the brass until any tarnish or dirt is lifted.[13]

    • Sprays typically need to be rinsed off after theyíve been applied.
    • For thicker brasses with serious tarnish, you can use a softer steel wool. Never use a grade thicker than 00, or youíll risk scratching the brass.

  4. Rinse your brass under warm water unless the polish instructs otherwise. Turn the water in your sink on and set it to a warmer temperature. Hold your polished brass under warm water and rub it lightly to remove any excess polish.[14]

    • Some lacquer-polishes are not designed to be washed off after theyíre applied. These polishes are an excellent choice if youíre trying to apply a protective coating to your brass instead of just clean it.

  5. Dry the brass with a soft, cotton cloth. Place your wet brass on a dry cloth and rub each surface lightly with the cloth so that you remove most of the moisture. Continue rubbing your brass until every section of your piece is dry.[15]

    • If you donít dry your brass, you may end up leaving water spots all over the place.

[Edit]Removing Tough Stains with a Vinegar Paste

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon (6 g) of salt into of vinegar. Measure your ingredients with a measuring cup and measuring spoon. Pour your vinegar into a large bowl and add your teaspoon of salt. Give your vinegar a few swirls with a spoon to fully dissolve the salt.[16]
  2. Add flour to your vinegar until it becomes a thick paste. Start by using a measuring spoon or scale to add 1 tablespoon of flour (8-9 g). Continue adding flour in 1-tablespoon increments, mixing the entire mixture with your spoon after each addition to check the consistency and fully combine your ingredients. Stop once the vinegar and flour have become thick and moldable.[17]

    • The consistency should look and feel like a thick hair mousse or pile of sand depending on how much flour youíve added.

  3. Rub the paste into your brass by hand. Put on some rubber gloves if you want to keep your hands clean. Pick up a chunk of your vinegar paste and massage it into the dirty portion of your brass. If you cannot get the paste to stay attached, you can rotate your brass item so that the paste is on top of your brass or use a smaller amount of the paste on the stain.[18]
  4. Let your brass sit for 10 minutes and then rinse it with warm water. Wait 10 minutes for the paste to work on the stain. After 10 minutes, rinse your brass with warm water. Buff it with a microfiber cloth and then dry it with a cotton cloth.[19]

    • You can repeat this process if your brass is still dirty.


  • If you have a larger piece of brass, take it outside to clean it with a hose. instead of using your sink. Brass is pretty resistant to the elements, and a hose will make it easier to apply a steady stream of water to the object.
  • Many people donít like lacquer polishes because they can leave an oily residue on your brass.


  • Never use any tomato products with sugar in it to clean your brass. It can eat into lacquers and make your brass sticky.
  • Always check to see if brass is plated or solid before you clean it.

[Edit]Things Youíll Need

[Edit]Cleaning Old Brass with Soap

  • Magnet
  • Sink or bucket
  • Water
  • Mild soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Cotton cloth

[Edit]Soaking Brass in Tomato Products

  • Sink or large bowl
  • Tomato juice or paste
  • Mild soap
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Cotton cloth

[Edit]Polishing Brass with a Chemical Cleaner

  • Rubber gloves
  • Sink or bucket
  • Water
  • Brass polish
  • Microfiber cloth

[Edit]Removing Tough Stains with a Vinegar Paste

  • Measuring cup and spoons
  • Bowl
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Microfiber cloth