Brass is known for its bright luster and golden gleam. When new and cleaned, this metal has a shine as good as gold. However, over time, brass tends to get dull and tarnish and therefore needs to be properly cared for to maintain its look.
Returning brass to its original look is not difficult. Using a few natural household ingredients, you can bring out the shine you want from your brass jewelry.
Preserving brass patina
It can be easy to assume that the greenish layer of tarnish (called patina) that covers brass is undesirable. But in fact, many people love the look of this patina, as it ads color and character to your piece of jewelry.
If you are one of these people and wish to preserve the patina on your brass jewelry, all you have to do is clean your pieces with soap and warm water every now and then to remove the dirt and grime build up. Don’t use a polishing cloth as this will remove the patina. Simply wipe gently with a soft cloth and dry the jewelry well, to avoid water stains.
Removing the tarnish on brass jewelry
If you wish to remove the tarnish on the brass jewelry, there are a number of ways you can do this easily at home. Most of the methods detailed below make use of common household ingredients that are safe and natural to use.
Lemon juice is a good cleaner of light tarnish because of its acidic properties. Squeeze the juice of a lemon and pour into a glass or plastic bowl along with one cup of water. You can add a teaspoon of salt for a deeper clean.
Place your brass jewelry into the mixture and allow it to be completely submerged. Leave in the juice for about 15 to 30 minutes, swishing it in the liquid every now and then. You can use a soft cloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently remove the tarnish. Once the jewelry is clean, rinse thoroughly with water and wipe dry.
Salt and lemon or lime
This method allows you to use the lemon or lime itself to rub the brass jewelry. Cut a lemon or lime in half, then put a good amount of salt on the cut side and rub the brass jewelry with this. Add more salt if required, and rub the jewelry until clean. Take care as salt can be abrasive, so keep the rubbing gentle.
Use a soft toothbrush to get to the hard to reach parts of the jewelry. Once you’re satisfied, wash and dry your items.
Use the tomato ketchup in your fridge for this method for an easy and quick way to clean brass jewelry. Just like lemon and lime, tomatoes also are acidic and therefore a good way to clean brass jewelry gently and without damage.
Apply some tomato ketchup onto a soft cloth or directly onto the jewelry. Use your fingers, a soft brush or cloth to rub the ketchup into the jewelry, removing the tarnish in the process. For a more thorough clean, you can leave the ketchup on the jewelry for several minutes.
Wash the jewelry with water thoroughly to remove the ketchup. If the jewelry is not as clean as you would like it to be, you can repeat the process another time. Once finished, don’t forget to dry the brass jewelry well to avoid water stains.
Don’t have any ketchup in your kitchen? Try Worcestershire sauce instead. You can use it in the same way detailed above for ketchup.
Soap and water
Sometimes simply using soap and water works perfectly to clean your brass jewelry naturally and easily.
Wash your brass jewelry in warm water and a mild liquid soap. Use a soft cloth or brush to gently rub away any dirt on the jewelry. Once the pieces appear bright and clean, rinse the soap off and dry thoroughly. For a deeper clean with soap and water, scrub the brass jewelry with a cloth or brush while keeping it submerged in water.
This is ideal to remove light tarnishing and dirt and grime build up.
The Vinegar and Flour Paste
You can create your own cleaning paste using basic ingredients in your pantry as opposed to buying expensive and harmful chemical cleaners on the market. Often, these two options produce the same results.
The vinegar and flour paste is one of the most effective brass cleaning methods. All you need is a teaspoon of salt, half cup of vinegar and some flour. Mix these three ingredients to create a smooth paste, adding flour as required. Apply this mixture onto your brass jewelry and leave it for about 15 minutes. Next, use a soft brush to gently scrub the mixture off under warm running water.
Toothpaste has always been used for cleaning various metals and brass is no exception. Simply put some toothpaste onto a soft bristled toothbrush and apply all over your brass jewelry, rubbing softly as you do.
Note that gel toothpastes are not as effective. Also, it is best not to use this method too frequently as it can scratch your brass items over time.
Vinegar and salt
Vinegar and salt make a good combination to combat tarnish on brass jewelry. Mix a half cup of vinegar with one teaspoon of salt in a glass or plastic container (avoid using metal containers).
Heat the mixture up in the microwave and then put your pieces of brass jewelry into the mixture. Ensure that the pieces are completely submerged and leave for several minutes. Use your fingers or a cloth to rub away stubborn stains. Once the brass is clean, remove from the solution and wash thoroughly.
Vinegar and baking soda
Another method for cleaning brass jewelry involves making a paste using vinegar and baking soda. The acid in the vinegar and the sodium of the baking soda when combined effectively removes tarnish.
Mix the two ingredients to create a smooth paste. Note that as you mix the two, the ingredients will fizz at the start. Don’t worry, this is completely normal. Use your hands, a cloth or a soft brush to rub this paste into your brass jewelry and leave for 15 to 30 minutes. Afterwards, rinse the brass jewelry well and dry.
Ammonia is a safe and natural product, so don’t let its chemically name scare you away. However, take care when using ammonia as it can sometimes cause some negative reactions such as burning eyes and throat. Use gloves, goggles and work in a ventilated space if you decide to use ammonia.
Dilute one part of ammonia with 8 parts of water in a container. Soak your brass pieces in the liquid for several minutes. You can use a brush or cloth to rub the tarnish off the pieces while it soaks. Once the brass is gleaming, remove from the mixture and wash it thoroughly.
Plated brass or complete brass?
Identify whether your jewelry is brass plated or completely brass, as this will impact how you should clean it. Plated brass is when a thin coating of brass is layered over another metal.
One way to test this is to see if the piece is magnetic. Hold a magnet next to your brass jewelry and watch for a reaction. Complete brass does not react to magnets. However, plated brass often does.
If you think your piece is plated, take extra care when cleaning as the plating can wear off quickly if you polish it too much too frequently. In this case, it is best to simply clean the jewelry with the soap and water method.
Other components in brass jewelry
Some brass jewelry is designed with other components such as gemstones, shells, corals, fabric or other materials. You have to take this into account when cleaning the jewelry, as the methods we have described above are meant for cleaning only brass and there is the danger that you could damage these other parts of the jewelry. When in doubt, stick to warm water and soap as that works for anything.
Brass cleaning tips
Brass retains water spots which can create unsightly whitish stains on your jewelry. Always ensure that you have dried brass jewelry thoroughly before wearing or storing to avoid these water stains. Also, when cleaning brass, don’t go against the grain as this can cause scratches.
If you are planning on buying a commercial jewelry cleaner, make sure that it is one that can be used with brass. Check the label for this and if it does not specifically state that it is meant for use with brass, it is best to avoid this.
Finally, take care if your brass jewelry is antique brass and has beautiful patina. The methods described above can damage this antique touch. Use warm water and soap to simply clean the brass jewelry and once rinsed and dried, apply a touch of olive oil across the surface of the piece to retain its shine. You can also opt to buff with a polishing cloth.