All that glitters is not gold. Sometimes it’s beautiful brass. Brass Hardware has the same luster and shine of gold with a great benefit; no one will want to steal it from your door frame.
Who knew a simple alloy of copper and zinc could become such a useful and versatile material? The same strong material used for coins in the ancient world is still in use today for something as beautiful as a bed or as delicate as a flute?
One of the reasons brass has been used for centuries is its strength and longevity. To ensure brass stays as strong and beautiful as possible it should be properly cleaned and cared for.
Brass Around the House
You should first identify what is actually made of brass around your house. Much door hardware such as brass door knobs and hinges are made of brass. But just because it’s a yellow/gold metal doesn’t mean it’s made of brass. Use a magnet to test. If the magnet sticks to the metal, it’s not brass.
If you have an older house you may have some brass fixtures you don’t know about because they haven’t been maintained properly and have a very dull and tarnished look.
A Note Before You Begin
Tarnish on brass occurs because of how the metal reacts with the air. Newer pieces should have a layer of lacquer or oil to protect the brass from the air. You may need to remove the lacquer before you clean. Either way, plan to add the layer after you are done cleaning any brass object.
Time to Clean
You can get some very good results with some soap and water or rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol). Brass can tarnish easily but a little elbow grease and light cleaning can get it off rather quickly. For brass items that have a more complicated pattern with engraving or other nooks and crannies, you can use a toothbrush to get into those hard to reach areas.
A simple polish can be made using toothpaste or a combination of water and white vinegar for stronger, yet still gentle, cleaning. Once clean, polish the brass with a soft cloth.
For larger objects or ones that have built up layers of tarnish, your best bet is to use easily available brass household cleaners. They are non-toxic and usually come with their own polishing cloth soaked in the cleaner. You can use the cloth like a mitten over your hand to clean the objects. Again, for detailed work, a toothbrush can be used to get into smaller places for cleaning.
Post Cleaning Treatment
To avoid having to clean your brass products too often, you should apply a layer of protection between the metal and the air. A thin layer of lacquer can do the job as well as a light coat of olive oil.
The oils in your hand can break down the barriers and cause brass to tarnish. So try to not touch brass pieces with your bare hands. A light dusting should be all that’s needed to keep your brass products looking shiny and new.