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topic 9922

How Do I Clean Brass?

A discussion started in 2001 & continuing through 2017


Q. How would I clean and protect a badly tarnished outside brass ornament?

Lucy A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Corona, California


A. Make a paste of equal parts of salt, flour, vinegar. Rub on, leave for a hour, clean with soft cloth, buff.

Jim S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Gateleg brass table


thumbs up signI have just used the brass cleaning solution on a large oval heavily detailed brass table insert to a Burmese gateleg table. It works a treat. I have never seen the brass so clean since my mother owned the table 40 years ago. Thank you!

Gordon L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


thumbs up signThank you for the information on cleaning brass, it works great. It's something everyone has around the house.

Melinda F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
house wife - St. Catharines, Canada

Brass clocks and bell


thumbs up signThanks for the info on flour vinegar and salt It has worked a treat on my very tarnished brass clocks and bell. I have tried them all and this simple treatment is the best.

Thanks again

Ken U [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Gold Coast, Australia

Door knocker


thumbs up signI tried the vinegar, flour and water it worked beautifully. I had a door knocker that was black and nothing I tried worked. Then I thought "google". The internet is a wonderful tool and thanks to the lovely person who put the tip here.

Jennifer C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Augusta, West Australia, Australia

Brass bucket


thumbs up signI just used the salt/vinegar/flour concoction on a large brass bucket that has sat outside for several years and it worked like magic. This bucket was so tarnished, I wasn't sure it was actually brass until I applied the paste and the effect was instantaneous. I followed up with a good cream polish (Maas metal polish [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]) and the bucket is now truly as good as new. Thank you!

Helen S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


thumbs up signWow, that is amazing, I have just cleaned all my brasses and I am not filthy, It is the best I have ever seen them.

Thank you, I will never use brass polish again, Pat, UK.

Patricia Sharp
- Sunderland, England.


Q. I like the idea of the vinegar, flour and water but I am not sure which vinegar to use apple cider or distilled?
sss in OKC a homeowner

Shirley Swaim
homeowner - Warr Acres, Oklahoma


A. Hi, Shirley. I'm confident that it makes no difference and you can use whichever you have at hand. But the amateur scientist in me says don't introduce extraneous variables into a reaction, so if you already have both on hand or if you are going to buy specifically for the purpose, go with the distilled because it is purer. Good luck.

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


thumbs up signThank you for the tip, it really works, cuts out all the hard work, thanks again.

Janet C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Folkestone, Kent, England

Brass jam pan

April 7, 2008

thumbs up signI'm not easily impressed but this paste is amazing. I had tried to clean an old brass jam pan using everything that I could think of. My success was conspicuous by its absence! One application of the paste and after a couple of hours the pan cleaned up with very little effort.

Thank you.

Ray Thorpe
- York, Yorkshire, UK

January 20, 2009

thumbs up signJim, You are my HERO! Can't believe that this concoction works so well! Who would have thought .... salt flour vinegar! EEESH!

Steve North
- Durban, South Africa

August 15, 2008



January 2014

A. Hi Jane. Jim S. suggested equal parts, so I'd say 2 cups of vinegar. Good luck.


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

October 14, 2010

Q. I'm going to try the flour, salt & vinegar on badly tarnished door knockers. One of them has been lacquered so I'm hopeful that it will come off.

Wilson Cowden
- Northern Ireland

March 2011

A. Hi, Wilson.

It's better to remove the lacquer first with lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or Acetone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Trying to wearing it away, with flour as your abrasive, sounds time consuming :-)

Luck and Regards,

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


Q. I have 2 brass lamps that have fingerprints on them. What is the best method to remove them? Brasso didn't work and I wasn't sure where to go from there.



A. Brass tarnishes very quickly, Colleen. If your brass does not do so it is because the brass has been lacquered. In that case the fingerprinting is probably in or underneath the lacquer. To remove it you must strip the lacquer with lacquer thinner and apply new brass lacquer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon].

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

March 22, 2011

thumbsdownJust tried the flour/salt/vinegar trick. Didn't work.

Dave Williams
- Renton, Washington, USA

March 22, 2011

A. Hi, Dave. The flour/salt/vinegar has obviously proven a great success for so many others that the question must be what was different in your situation? Please give us some details of the things that you are trying to clean. Might they not be solid brass? More likely, might there be a lacquer coating or clearcoat on them? If so you must remove it first. Thanks.


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

To minimize searching and offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined multiple threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.

Q. Hello All,

I have a polished brass table that is now tarnished. Thanks to my toddler who has put his hands all over it. I would love to hear from anyone who knows if there is any product to re-polish brass or any company that can re-polish my tables?

Rose Louder
- Fayetteville, North Carolina

A. Polishing brass is a never ending jog. However, I use a gun shell casing cleaner called Quick Brite, which dissolves the tarnish immediately. Naturally it needs to be washed off immediately, then protect the bright brass finish with a polish or spray.

Dan Valley
Retired - Ruskin, Florida USA

Brass ship's stern lantern

(2004) -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I've a brass ship's "stern" lantern made in Peterhead, Scotland, that is badly tarnished and needs cleaning. Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] isn't strong enough. Would you give me your advice as to how I can clean the lamp and bring it back to it's original luster.

Dr. Steve A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


A. Dr. Steve,

I don't know if you found an answer to brass cleaning but I would like to tell you about a product that I found that you don't need a lot of muscle to get it to work.

Brass Guard-brass polishing paste (comes in a small tube in a white box). The cream is pink but works better then other brass cleaners that I could find. I know because I clean brass in my church. The company on the box is
Monarch International, Inc.
4471 E. Santa Anna #A
Ontario, CA 91761

God Bless You.... Hope this works for you.

Mrs. Maynard
- Monroe, Michigan

April 30, 2008

Q. My husband and I just recently purchased a new happens to be the 2nd oldest house in the town and all the hardware on the doors is brass, but it has 200 years of black crud just caked on it...I went through an entire tin of Nevr-Dull and only got 3 door knob plates clean. I'm going to try the salt/vinegar/flour method but I cannot take the hardware off the doors. I would love to have the original brass back but do not want to go broke buying cleaning supplies! Please help.

Megan Burdick
Apprentice Engraver - Olean, New York

October 2, 2009

A. Friends throw away your nasty flour, salt and water. There is a product out there that will do the job. Non abrasive, non toxic and non smelly. It's cheap, mess free and oh sooooo easy. It'll clean badly tarnished brass and copper in minutes. It's called Barkeepers Friend [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. A white powder that dissolves in water. Just use a cloth or sponge, slightly wetter that damp, sprinkle some magic powder on the item to be cleaned, just a little, and rub gently. Rinse in clean water and buff with a dry cloth, or you can use a little metal polish. It's truly amazing.
I have just refurbished a brass bed, a lot of brass. One end took a whole week, and then it was far from perfect. When I used Bar Keepers I completed the other end in two days. Including stripping the old lacquer, cleaning all the brass, applying new lacquer and re-assembling.
Give it a try!

Philip Lacey
- Norwich, UK

July 19, 2010

Q. For how long does the sheen last after one has cleaned brass with the salt/flower/vinegar past. Will it in any case require a followup with a metal polish?

Gerhard Vermeulen
Collector of Antiques - Cape Town, Western Province RSA

Microcrystalline "Museum Wax"

Brass Lacquer

January 2014

A. Hi Gerhard. Brass tarnishes -- that's the way it is. For indoors you can use museum wax, and re-do it every few months, or brass lacquer and re-do it every few years. If the brass is outdoors the lacquer will probably only last a year or two. Good luck.


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

To minimize searching and offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined multiple threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.

Brass Handrail shows every fingerprint


Q. I have been surfing the metal finishing forum and hope you can answer my question or point me to someone who can.

We have just installed a brass handrail that we bought at our local home-improvement store. We have been unhappy with it because it shows every fingerprint and within a few days looks very dull and dingy. We have to polish it every few days with Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. I also have a brass headboard but it rarely shows fingerprints and always looks bright and shiny. I don't know if you can help with this problem or not, but we are looking for some sort of finish that we can apply to our stair rail (it's indoors) that will solve our problem. Does such a product exist?

If you can help us in any way, we would really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance,

Lisa Armstrong


A. Well, you have described precisely what brass does. It tarnishes. Unfortunately, brass is a very reactive alloy and it doesn't take much to ruin the polished surface you create by polishing with Brasso. The only way to protect the coating is to lacquer it with a good organic coating. You can experiment with store bought aerosol cans but I doubt you will get an acceptable finish with those. My advice is to remove the hand railing and take it to a custom finisher in your area who will buff the brass and apply a protective coating with professional spray painting equipment. I have finished brass bed railings with this method and it works very well. It isn't cheap by any means but you get what you pay for. Good luck.

Daryl Spindler
- Portland, Tennessee


A. This note is probably too late for your application but it worthwhile for future use by others with the same situation. Brass will tarnish unless the surface is sealed with some sort of coating. Handrail does not lend itself to lacquer coatings unless it is little used. Normal wear and tear from rings and traffic will cause the lacquer to chip or wear away. Once this occurs, the exposed area will tarnish and you will not be able to make spot repairs (without looking shoddy). The whole unit will need to be removed and sent out to be stripped and re-lacquered.

The best option for handrail is to apply a wax coating. Any good paste wax will do. Many railing installers actually use car wax (i.e. Turtlewax Car Wax [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] ). This will still require that the handrail be buffed to remove fingerprints but, if the wax wears away and the material tarnishes, you simply use Brasso to remove the tarnish and rewax.

The best way to avoid fingerprints is to not use a brass handrail with a "mirror finish". This high polish finish -- which everyone seems to love -- will show imperfections and fingerprints. It is the "nature of the animal".


Tony Leto
- Morton Grove, Illinois, USA

Can't clean polishing wax out of threads on brass faucets

December 29, 2014

Q. I have a big problem with polishing wax after plating. We clean the parts (brass faucets) with hot cleaning and electrocleaning but it is not enough, and parts have wax in threads and small holes. How can I clean brass?

elham bolouri
- mashhad. iran

December 2014

A. Hi Elham. If vapor degreasing is permitted in your area, it will usually remove all wax quickly and easily. Then proceed with your hot cleaning and electrocleaning. Good luck.


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

December 30, 2014

A. Elham,

Not sure what the temperature of your hot cleaning is, but usually for polishing residue, a temperature of nearly boiling is required to remove it. There are also proprietary compound removers that may be available in your area that will be more effective than a standard brass cleaner. Good Luck!

Kris DeBisschop
- Stratford, Connecticut USA

December 30, 2014

A. You have a couple of good ideas to follow up on; however, if high heat is a problem you might want to look at ultrasonic cleaning at lower temperatures

tony kenton
AF Kenton
Nova Finishing Systems Inc.
Hatboro, Pennsylvania

December 31, 2014

Q. Hi,
What type of ultrasonic to use for cleaning wax and sand of brass faucet?

What type of wax is more suitable for polishing brass parts? In addition, the wax can be easily cleaned before plating. We use wax made of ghee and it is very hard to clean before plating.

I have a problem when we use hot water for cleaning brass: we have some spots. When the time is prolonged, we have this problem -- the color of spot is pale red.


elham bolouri [returning]
- mashhad.iran

Thick, black, oily goop on brass knobs after dipping in vinegar

August 10, 2015

Q. Hello. I am a first time home-buyer and an avid, but novice DIYer. Yesterday, I removed the grimy brass "knobs" from my kitchen cabinets to clean and hopefully restore. I put them in a bucket filled with hot water, white vinegar and table salt and let them sit for 2 hours (I got this recipe from the internet). When I fished them out of the bucket they were covered in a really really thick, black, oily goo. It smears when I wipe it and it's REALLY hard to wipe off. (The black goop was visible on the underside of the knobs (where you place your fingers) when I first unscrewed them from the cabinets but it seemed harder/more solid and I thought it was just dirt and grime.)
I scrubbed them in hot soapy water with a hard bristle brush and put them to soak overnight. They look a bit better today (my neighbor could tell they were brass) but they are still covered with the black goo and I think they might be permanently stained. Can anyone please advise me?

PS: These knobs are 30 years old and have never been taken down to be cleaned.

Lisa Taylor
Novice DIYer - Phoenix, Arizona USA

August 11, 2015

A. Good day Lisa.

Nice to see that you are an avid DIYer. From the info you have given, I am only speculating.
I think the black, oily goop you have on these brass knobs is actually an antique finish (black), covered with a lacquer(possibly nitrocellulose based, based on the age of the fixtures).
I would like to suggest to use a solvent-acetone/thinner to dissolve this "oily goop". Please use proper PPE.
A soft brass brush/fine steel wool should take care of the stains.
A clear coat of lacquer will provide tarnish protection for the brass once the knobs are clean.
Hope this helps.


Eric Bogner
- Whitby, On., Canada.

July 24, 2016

Q. I have a 1800 century brass bed that my Dad had polished in the late 70's. I'm not sure if it was lacquered. Is it safe to use Brasso? Suggestions on a better way. The bed is high ornate and has a 1/2 canopy. Thank you.

Valerie Jernigan
- New Braunfels, Texas

July 2016

A. Hi Valerie. If there is any shine at all 40 years after polishing, it almost surely was lacquered (or clear coated). If there is no peeling 40 years later, it probably does not have a lacquer or clear coat.

Brasso is made for polishing brass, and won't hurt it. It's relatively mild compared to some brands of brass polish and things like vinegar + salt (which are mild on people but extremely aggressive on brass). I would try the Brasso on a tarnished area; it will act quite slowly on severe tarnish but if it does nothing at all, the brass has lacquer or clearcoating on it. But be prepared for the fact that polished brass is bright shiny yellow, not soft brown. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

February 3, 2017

Q. I have a brass table 60 years old solid brass a friend of mine put car wax on it and I have not been able to clean it -- what would you suggest?

William White III
- OKC Oklahoma USA

February 4, 2017

A. You might try a little acetone.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

1950 brass lamps -- need to remove pink dye (from a sticky-note)

June 1, 2017

I was gonna surprise my boyfriend with his grandmother's brass lamps. Now I have hand marks on neck that's tarnished and, to my horror, my pink sticky note ended up staining it.
How in the heck do I get this stain off this brass lamp, so he won't kill me?!

Leslie Probasco
- Chandler, Arizona
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

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