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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


How to Clean Brass Beds

I just purchased an antique brass bed and I have used Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and a combination of lemon and salt to clean it. Both have cleaned to a degree but not totally and it has really taken some time and energy. Can you suggest something else to use that will not take so much time and energy and also what can I do once I get it cleaned to preserve the finish?

Peggy L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Memphis, Tennessee

Vintage Brass Beds & Parts on eBay

In 1980 while in the U.S. Marine Corps, I purchased two brass spittoons, for decoration only, while I was in Korea. About two months ago I pulled them out of storage, they were very tarnished from all the years of just sitting there, probably similar to your antique brass bed. I tried the old Marine Corps method, Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , took me forever to clean a few square inches. Anyway, I use a product called "Citri-Surf 77" (pump sprayer) to chelate iron contamination from stainless steel; thought it might work on my spittoons. I tried it and the tarnish disappeared very quickly, rinsed with (hot water 160 deg F), worked really well. You can get this product from one of the sponsors of this site, Stellar Solutions [a supporting advertiser]. I can't give you a good explanation why it worked, but their Lee Kremer could! As far as preserving the finish, a clear coat from the hardware store should work for many years. Hope this helps you with your dilemma.

Best regards,

Bradford M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Northfield, Minnesota

I have a 25 year old brass headboard (unlacquered) that I tried to clean with a lemon juice/salt/water solution. It cleaned the brass very well, but left a corrosive residue in the cracks and joints. I have tried several different products to remove the corrosion and tarnish from all these nooks and crannies but have only had success with a powdered product that took away the high gloss shine from my bed. I have thought about taking the bed apart to clean individual pieces, but many of the pieces are corroded in place and I fear that I will damage the bed if I take it apart by forcing the rusted and corroded parts. Anyone have any ideas of what I can use to clean in the nooks and crannies of my bed? Many thanks!

Sharon B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

My solid brass bed was damaged with salt water by Hurricane Frances in Florida. It was sitting on a wet carpet for about a week. Now the carpet it damp, even though I had a cleaning company in with 2 huge fans to dry it out. Evidently the legs have turned black. some of the rest is pitted, even though it is supposed to be solid brass, I bought it new about 15 years ago.I would like to know how to go about cleaning it. It is lacquered I believe.

From what I have read it will be a lot of work, which I don't mind if I can save it. It was expensive and I love it.

Glory M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Northport, New York

Sharon, you can certainly neutralize mild acids like lemon juice with baking soda [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] , but I'm not really confident that unneutralized lemon juice is the cause of the problem you're noting. The 'powder' that dulled the finish was probably some kind of abrasive that is making very small scratches in the finish and harming the specularity. Don't use any more.

Stephen, I think you are right that can use a typical solvent paint stripper on your bed without affecting the metal. There is a good article at which, while it was written for wood finishing, explains the various types of stripper very well. But know that unlacquered brass will quickly tarnish regardless of what you strip it with, because brass tarnishes.

Tom, try any of the commercial brass/copper polishes on that spot. Lemon juice, salt, vinegar, etc. do tend to leave a more coppery, less mellow look than the commercial polishes. However, there is the possibility, I suppose, that there is copper plating underneath the brass plating and it's showing through. In that case, sending it out for replating is the only fix.

Glory, sorry to hear about the hurt those hurricanes put on people. If a magnet doesn't stick, it's probably solid brass; if a magnet does stick it's brass plated steel. Start with commercial brass/copper polishes; that's what they are made for. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A brass headboard bought about 12 years ago is now showing brown spots possibly from the salt air. Please tell me how this bed can be refinished to get rid of those spots. Is there a way to refinish it by applying a coat of brass covering? Thank you for your time and attention.

Corinne A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Interior Designer - St. Croix, Virgin Islands

The thing is, Corinne, that there indeed is a way of "applying a coat of brass covering", but that way is brass electroplating, which can only be done by a plating shop.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


To clean brass I have found in restoring antique brass beds that this is the most easiest way to clean all brass no matter how oxidized it is !

1. get a pair of rubber rubber gloves [on eBay or Amazon affil links] .

2. use any standard toilet bowl cleaner [affil links]

3. get a pkg. of 00 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon affil links] .

Wipe it on the metal and shazaam !

Be sure to polish after your finished !

This is the easiest way to do it

Trial and Error, but it is fast and easy to do !

Kenn S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Galveston Island, Texas

I have a brass bed that seems to have a clear coat that has worn off in places. How can I remove the remaining clear coat, polish it and what do I use to coat it again?

Beverly B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Vintage Brass Beds & Parts on eBay

Hopefully the "clear coat" is brass lacquer, which can be removed with lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon affil links] . Then the bed can be polished by hand with brass polish, or it can be buffed with power equipment. Finally, apply brass lacquer [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , which is available in volume from G.J. Nikolas [a supporting advertiser].

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

I have dealt in antiques for quite a while and in the course of restoring brass, beds-light fixtures-fireplace accessories, etc... have discovered one very IMPORTANT thing:

You will be happiest with your brass items if you can learn to appreciate and enjoy the natural patina that brass develops over the years.

That said, here are a few tips to keep brass items looking good without trying to make a beautiful old antique look NEW.

1.) For an initial cleaning do not use any chemical or abrasive that will damage the smooth finish or be too aggressive and remove the plating in case your item is not solid. (earlier in this thread someone mentioned the magnet trick to determine if you have solid or plated brass) Using anything abrasive (like most powders or steel wool) then you leave behind fine scratches that will tarnish faster and be harder to clean the next time! I like Liberty brand polish but I've used Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and it works well too. Be patient, just use a little polish and the only real trick (besides a lot of elbow grease) is to be sure and change your rag as soon as it gets black, on a very large or very tarnished piece you will go through many rags so be prepared.

A good brass polish leaves behind a protective finish that will help the piece tarnish more slowly.

2.) To maintain your finish, remember a few things. The oils in your skin react with the brass and turn it reddish colors as it "ages" (i say "ages" instead of tarnishes, it helps me learn to ENJOY the tarnish). However the constant touching on something like a non-lacquered doorknob also polishes it and you end up with a nice patina that has some red on the back plate and the top surface of the knob will be shiny. With this in mind, try to keep your hands off something that you don't want to "age" too much. Also clean your items often (weekly) with just a cloth dampened with mild soapy water, wipe again with damp plain water and then rub to a nice shine with a soft dry cloth.

3.) If you don't want to do a real polish job with tons of polish and dozens of rags but the damp cloth clean above does not give you the results you want, You can try something in between. On a large cloth slightly dampened with water, add a little brass polish. Work it through the cloth so that a large area of the cloth has a very small amount of polish on it. Now lightly rub the entire item or just the areas the have not "aged" well. The trick to success here it to NOT polish too much. You do not want to remove the patina entirely or have one area that is much brighter than the rest, you just want to give everything a little lift. Use a light hand with the polish. After you have hit everything you wanted to lift with the polish, let it dry then buff the whole thing out with a clean dry rag. Switch rags if it gets too dirty.

4.) Finally a word about lacquer. Many people do not like lacquered brass. It has a bright, artificially shiny look to it that takes away from the warm soft glow that makes natural brass so special. It can also cause MORE WORK down the line. The lacquer is easily damaged by common household cleaners like window cleaner and when spots wear thin, crack or get damaged in the lacquer, the air hits the brass and it tarnishes. Now you have something that looks spotty and there is no way to polish the brass until you first STRIP OFF ALL the lacquer. NOT A FUN JOB! If you absolutely have to have brass that looks like shiny gold, be sure to lacquer it well, putting on a good coat of quality product and then NEVER, NEVER clean it with anything but plain water. That should keep it in best shape possible.

I hope this is helpful!

Victoria Louise
- Rochester, New York

It has been the third week for me to get rid of the BLACK SPOTS on my brass grill. Tried Flitz and Brasso, but I find Flitz [adv: Flitz on eBay or Amazon affil links] is much better in terms of speed and result. BUT I still cannot get rid of the BLACK SPOTS. Applying too many time on the brass grill will turn the color from yellow to light yellow.

Can't find METAL POLISH in my country and dare not apply the lemon/salt method either.

Please advise me.

Thank you.

Se Tan
- KL, Malaysia

I have a 24 year old shiny, very shiny brass headboard and footboard (it is solid brass because I used a magnet on it). I am extremely tired of the garish shine. I want to have it professionally stripped, but I don't think anyone in my area knows how to do it. Most everyone I called strips wood. They said they could do it, but I'm unsure of the outcome. Should I just sell it as is and buy something else or do you think these guys know what they are doing? I would never buy a bright shiny brass bed again.

Linda H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- St. Clairsville, Ohio


Finally I got the BEST solution on the brass.

I must make clear that my brass grill is covered with oxidized black spots seriously!

1. I bought a 1/4" sheet sander, some brand like RYOBI, can't recall.

2. 50 sheet of WET and DRY sandpaper graded 2000, the finest I can find in my country.

3. Autosol [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , that I can find, compares to Flitz, Autosol is cream based, FLITZ is in liquid form.

How it works:

1. Cut the sandpaper into 4 pieces to fit my sander, clip it on the sander.

2. Apply the Autosol (just a little bit) on the sandpaper.

3. On the machine and apply direct on the surface of the brass.

and, the BLACK SPOTS gone with the wind. No force is needed as we are not jedi.

It works even without Autosol. Reason to have Autosol is to immediately protect the brass after sanding.

Hope this help everyone.

Enjoy the work!

Se Tan [returning]
- KL, Malaysia

What can I use after polishing my brass bed to help keep it looking good and to keep it from changing color when touched. HELP!

Tammy [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Ohio

Hi, Tammy; brass lacquer [on eBay or Amazon affil links] is made for the purpose and is something that an individual can apply without extravagant equipment. Good luck!

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


We had about 3 feet of flood waters (maximum amount in house) following Hurricane Katrina.

I purchased a brass bed about 25+ years ago. The bed has a clear coating on it (I assume that it is lacquer, but am not certain).

I have looked over a number of suggestions on how to clean a brass bed and am still puzzled.

I have the brass bed in storage and am looking to strip off the clear coating (some has come off on its own over the years leaving a dirty finish on the brass).

My question is:

What will work on the clear coating (lacquer?) and remove it? with the least amount of elbow grease?

I have recently purchased a product that was advertised in a Sunday supplement that claims it will clean and polish any metal. It does polish nicely with minimal elbow grease, but does NOT remove the clear coating.

Suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Joe Richard
- New Orleans, Louisiana

Vintage Brass Beds & Parts on eBay


Hello Joe. There are good suggestions on this page; sorry, but it's hard to fine tune them if we don't know what the coating is and whether the bed is solid brass or brass plated steel.

If I find some white powder in my basement, nobody can suggest how much of it to use in my cake recipe until we first figure out whether it's arsenic or flour :-)

Use the magnet test to identify whether the bed is solid or plated. And try lacquer thinner [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , which is designed to remove lacquer. If it doesn't work, it's not lacquer. If it's not lacquer, but some higher technology powder coating, you could use an aggressive paint stripper like Aircraft Stripper; I don't think it will harm the brass or plating. The 'dirty look' may be tarnish, or it may be rust where the brass plating has worn through to the steel. The latter can only be fixed by sending it to a plating shop for replating unfortunately. Best of luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

I tried a brass cleaner to clean an old microscope and it started to remove the lacquer, I decided it looked much better without it, which is what led me here.
I tried the paint thinner & 0000 #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and it didn't remove as much as the polish had. So I got crazy and tried the toilet bowl cleaner and steel wool, much to my delight it is working like a charm. I would however recommend doing this in some sort of plastic container you can throw out when you are finished, as I did the first piece in my stainless steel sink (silly) and now have a whole new problem, it seems toilet bowl cleaner and stainless don't mix well.

Thanks for the help!

Leah Bonnett
- Waterford, Michigan

A. Hello Leah.
The #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon affil links] you used is the finest grade available and can't be expected to do a good job at abrading away lacquer or anything else, but steel wool (like sandpaper) comes in many other grades, including 000, 00, and grade 0. And grades 1 and 3 [on eBay or Amazon affil links] are even coarser.
Luck & Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Hello...I am finding your questions and answers very interesting, but most of the brass beds mentioned here are around 25 years old. Mine is over 100 years old, wide pipes, ball connections. My grandparents bought it second hand and slept in it together for 65 years. They've been gone since the early 70's. It will cost me $1000 to have it cleaned and lacquered, I sleep in that bed, so whatever I do I will have to do in a day or sleep on the couch. I work on it a bit at a time but by the time I get to the end I have to start over...Please give me your very best hint...I am ready to try the toilet bowl cleaner, but that sounds dangerous.


Laurel Hart
- Belleair, Florida

Now that my kids are gone off to college, I pulled my antique (very tarnished) brass bed out of the attic & set about trying to clean it up. The local brass refinishing business wanted $1200 & 3 weeks to do it so I started with brasso -- a long arduous, smelly process. I happened across this website where someone suggested CitriSurf 77 from Stellar Solutions [a supporting advertiser] for brass cleaning Though not advertised for brass cleaning as such), I thought what could I lose. I know this sounds like an infomercial -- but it worked awesome. I sprayed it on, used very fine steel wool & good polishing cloth-and in 3 days it was gorgeous. I've used it on all my brass around the house and its great, candle sticks, mail box, etc. Its clean, little or no odor, and works like a million bucks! I highly recommend it!

Debra Hall
- Santa Clara, California

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