HOME / sitemapFAQsBOOKSHelp WantedsAdvertiseContact   you are here: Hotline/Forum => Letter 779
most fun in metal finishing

Removing tarnish on brass, copper, bronze


Q. What agent will instantly, on contact remove tarnish from brass/copper/bronze? (I used to use a product called 'Shower Power' but am now unable to find it.)


Carole Burns

A. Hi Carole,

To remove tarnish from brass/copper/bronze, you may need a formulation consisting of reductive acids, complexing agents, wetting agents and corrosion inhibitors.

Ling Hao
- Grand Rapids, Michigan


A. Hi, Carole. Ling is invariably right, and is probably right this time. But I'm guessing that you're a consumer looking for a commercially available spray or polish to remove tarnish from your household items, rather than for a formula according to which you would blend together the acids and agents that he mentions.

There are many copper/brass polishes. The very slowest acting ones like Brassoamazoninfo leave the item the warmest and richest. The very fastest working, like vinegar plus salt (or lemon juice plus salt, or ketchup or hot sauce), leave the item orange and raw looking, and can damage really fine detail. There are probably many ranges in between.

The compromise that I personally use is Revere Copper & Stainless Cleaner =>
It works quite fast and easy while still leaving what I consider a reasonably nice, warm, shine. There are probably several other brands that work similarly.

Disclosure: this website may receive a commission if you buy products via these links.


Revere copper cleaner
(6 pack)

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. To remove the tarnish is not the point, what do you intend to do to prevent it from returning? There are products used in the printed circuits industry that prevent tarnish but on a temporary basis. A varnish or lacquer will help.

Sara Michaeli
    chemical process supplier


A. To remove tarnish from brass is best to polish it to the finish you want and then use a clear coat. This will keep it from tarnishing.


Tony Pena
plating shop - Miami, Florida

sidebar .

Q. I would like to clean some copper contacts and connectors. Polishing is not practical. What can I soak then in to remove tarnishing and corrosion?

Trom Dom
- Rochester New York

A. Hi, Trom. To bright dip copper you need a solution that contains an oxidizing acid. Nitric acid is pretty nasty stuff, so I'd suggest you go with sulfuric acid + hydrogen peroxide instead. This is available as a proprietary which contains stabilizers so the peroxide doesn't wastefully decompose too fast. A local plating supply house will understand what you are looking for. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. I have an old fireplace which is so tarnished/corroded I can barely tell what metal it is. I found one or two spots that reveal the original metal, it has a copper tone to it. The rest of the metal is corroded to dark brown and spots of white (maybe just dirt?). I would love to be able to see the beauty of this 1907 fireplace in it's original state.. any ideas for cleaners, polishers... I can not afford a professional.

Anne Marlow
- Lansing, Michigan

A. Hi, Anne. I suspect it's cast iron with copper plating. If so, you will not get it to good condition yourself because most of the plating is gone. But the first step is to test it with a magnet: if it's magnetic, it's steel or iron, so you only options are to paint it or have it replated. If it's not magnetic, it is probably solid brass, bronze, or copper and it can be cleaned aggressively with a strong brass polish. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. I recently received a dresser with brass handles from my great-grandmother. The dresser is in perfect conditions, but being that it is old the handles have turned completely black from tarnish and polishing 18 of them is just not effective or efficient. Isn't there anything the brass can be soaked in to be rid of the tarnish? Brassoamazoninfo is just not cutting it!

Cassandra Ayala
- Bakersfield, California


Q. Hi,

I have an antique brass hanging oil lamp that has been packed away for years. I came across it again when we moved but found it had not only tarnished, but turned green as well. I have tried a lot of things on the board here, but the green always comes back. Is there anything out there that will remove this green finish that has appeared? The green finish, for lack of a better word, looks like when copper ages. I have had the lamp frame tested and it is brass, not copper. Thanks for your help.

Bruce Lindstedt
- Middletown, New Jersey


A. Ok, don't laugh. For heavily tarnished brass soak the item in Coca Cola for a few days (sometimes up to a week for heavy tarnish). It will not remove the tarnish entirely, but will make it easy to scrub off using a stiff brush and either Brasso or Comet cleaner in a thin paste. Follow up with Brasso to brighten finish and then clear coat it for a finish that will last. Note: you may need to change the Coke after a day or two.

Dirk Roberts
- St Louis, Missouri

October 5, 2008

Q. How do you clean copper heating vents that have been left and are badly discolored? I have tried steel wool by suggestion and also vinegar and salt to try and clean and restore it but it was no go! Any suggestions? It is a floor heat vent that we bought and it sand blasted to clean it up and they told us just to steel wool it but that didn't work! Any suggestions?

Kirsty Kozie
hobbyist - Winnipeg, MB, Canada

January 3, 2009

A. Hi, Kirsty. Please see my answer to Anne, above. I believe your situation is the same.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 18, 2009

Hello everyone. I know everyone has asked over and over again how to remove the heavy tarnish from brass, but with no real answers that have proved effective. Well now I am going to tell everyone the secret of the pros, and how to do it in three easy steps.

First of all, you need to remove the heavy black staining that is preventing you from getting to the brass to polish it. To do this, you apply Naval Jellyamazoninfo =>
to the brass with a brush. Let it sit on the brass for 5 to 10 minutes, and then scrub off with a toothbrush or a sponge. If it is heavily, heavily tarnished, you might need 2 coats.

Second thing is to fire up the buffing wheel, and then rub a tripoli [link to product info at Amazon by ed.] block on it. Once a little of the tripoli has rubbed off on the buffing wheel, start buffing out all the scratches and scuffs, quickly bringing the brass to a shine.

The final thing to do once you have done the pre polish with the tripoli, is rub a little "Red Rouge" [jeweler's rougeamazoninfo] on the buffing wheel, and then shine your brass up on the wheel with it, to whatever degree of luster you desire.

If you don't have a buffing wheel, you can repeat the entire process, but with using "tripoli", and "Red Rouge" in powder form, and rubbing by hand.

I was about to pull my hair out when I couldn't get a brass fan blade on an antique fan to look even somewhat presentable with Brasso. I was lucky enough to get the local silversmith to tell me exactly what he and every other silver plater, and silversmith uses to get brass to a mirror shine. My black corroded brass fan blade looked like a mirror after about 20 minutes, following this exact procedure.

As far as the products needed. Make sure the Naval Jelly is the pink kind. It will literally melt the black tarnish away with almost no effort whatsoever from you to remove it within 5 to 10 minutes. A buffer wheel is no more than a desk top grinder with a buffing pad applied to one side. You can even have buffing pads on both sides: 1 for the tripoli, and 1 for the red rouge, if you plan on buffing a lot of brass. The tripoli and red rouge can easily and readily be found on ebay for under $20 =>

So, you wanted to know, and now you do!

Travis Joles
- Shawnee Kansas

Naval Jelly

Tripoli Buffing Comound

May 29, 2011appended

Q. Hi. We have a copper butter dish and it had a large amount of green stuff on it. I covered it in ketchup and the green stuff turned black/brown and the copper turned pinkish. I scrubbed the black/brown stuff but it won't come of. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Al Hollander
- Montello, Wisconsin, USA

August 18, 2011appended

Q. Our machine shop has brass and copper parts that are used for marketing purposes (take to trade shows, etc) and I would like to know how to make them shine again in a cost-effective fashion. Any suggestions?

Allan Johnson
machining - Pikeville, Tennessee, USA

August 18, 2011

A. Hi, Allan.

The easy way is with a strong brass and copper polish like Revere Copper & Stainless Cleaner =>

If this doesn't give enough shine, you will probably have to buff them with a buffing pad on a Dremel tool, a rechargeable drill, or an actual buffing machine. For the buffing compound you can certainly try the aforementioned copper polish, but you may need to move on on a real buffing compound. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Revere copper cleaner
(6 pack)

Buffing Compound Kit

August 26, 2011

A. Just to advise that if you are in search of a product or some material to remove highly tarnished brass or copper the combination of Vinegar and Iodized salt is the combination to use. This will remove the tarnish from the bronze or copper upon making contact with the tarnished piece. This has been proven. Upon applying you should immediately wash off the contents with water. Please note that the results will be a dull finish. You should use Brasso to get a shiny finished surface.

Oscar Byington
- San Antonio,Texas USA

January 7, 2012

A. Barkeeper's Friend works wonders for removing tarnish from brass and other metals too!

Christina Lawrence
is - Sacramento, California, USA

January 18, 2012

Q. What kind of clear coat can be used on brass or copper specifically? Any kind of varnish or shellac, or something special?

Karl Seas
- Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

February 2012

A. Hi Karl. Brass lacquer may be the best choice since it is formulated for the exact purpose =>


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Brass lacquer

February 6, 2012

Q. I have discovered that Twinkle or Wright's Copper Polish works wonders on brass. Every time I clean something with brass now, I think of all the hours I spent with SOS pads in the past trying to clean brass. It's amazing how easy it is now to use the above-mentioned products. With a little rubbing, they work really fast. I'm not having much luck with an old bronze chandelier, however.

Nancy Barginear
- Conroe, Texas

July 23, 2012

Q. I bought an antique brass candelabra from an estate sale and it appears to have a powdery substance on it. I'm thinking it may be old brass cleaner. How do I remove that? I took a soft toothbrush and warm water and removed most of it, but not all. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Angela Nolen
- Statesville, North Carolina

December 30, 2012

Q. I have a antique copper sink flange that is way too dark brown. I was told it is solid copper and no finish applied. However, the brown does not come off with copper polish. It is obviously an applied antiquing. There is not a shiny lacquer coating. It's a matte surface.

dark brown copper sink flange

What can I do to get this back to a natural copper state? I want it to age naturally. It doesn't match my faucet like this.


Sandy S
- Pennsylvania

January 1, 2013

A. Hi Sandy. Despite it not looking like a shiny lacquer coating, I think it's very likely to have a matte clear coat on top of the antiquing for durability. And that clear coat is probably a two-component automotive clear coat that you won't easily remove. If you can get the drain fitting out to work on it outdoors, and with goggles and rubber gloves, you can probably get the coating off with noxious aircraft stripper. Once that's off, the antiquing can probably be removed with steel wool or brass wool and brass polish. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 1, 2014appended

Q. I have a family heirloom which is an old French bronze clock. I made the grave mistake of using a pressurized computer cleaner to remove dust! Parts of the nice dark bronze color has turned green! Is there any way to "fix" the green? I need help! Thanks!!

Connie Sullivan
- Clovis California

February 2014

A. Hi Connie. A bronze cleaner/polish (or probably just a brass polish) ought to fix it. But if it's a truly precious heirloom, it probably should be looked at by a metals conservator.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Bronze Cymbal Cleaner/Polish

February 3, 2014

Q. Would the cleaner remove the dark bronze patina as well? I don't want to shine it, just to remove green. Also, how would I find a metals conservator? Thank you for your fast reply! I appreciate your help so much!

Connie Sullivan [returning]
- Clovis California USA

February 2014

A. Hi again. I'm not personally experienced with finding conservators, but our site's favorite metals conservator, Goran Budija, sometimes suggests "Conservation Online (Cool)", which includes a page just for that at

It's difficult with little knowledge of the clock or its finish to judge whether a polish, lightly applied, will harm its aged patina -- but you are probably right that it's risky. If you want to keep the original finish before the green coloration (assuming it's even still there, which is questionable -- the green came from a reaction of the metal and its patina with the contact cleaner), you might try rubbing on museum wax and hope that the green will rub off with the waxing action. Let us know how you make it; we all hate reading a book only to find the last page missing. Best of luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Removing tarnish from BRUSHED brass

May 8, 2014

Q. I have several different pieces of brushed finished brass. I would like to remove the tarnish from these pieces, but I have no idea what to use. For polished brass I use a Cape Cod Cloth, or Connoisseurs Polish. But I know from experience that those products will replace the brushed finishes on my pieces with a polished finish.

Any information on good products to use that will restore the luster while maintaining the brushed finish of my brass pieces would be greatly appreciated.

Geoff Vest
Hobbyist - Denver, Colorado, USA
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

ADD a Q or A to THIS thread START a NEW THREADView This Week's HOT TOPICS



JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & DevicesUsed & Surplus

©1995-2015     -    Privacy    -    Search