How to Clean Brass Ornaments

Brass is beautiful — be it personalized brass Christmas ornaments or custom brass ornaments that you keep on display year-round. To keep them in lovely condition, they should be cleaned every so often. Seasonal decorations will need to be cleaned before you present them, and those that you show off all the time can gather dust and fingerprints.

If you’re wondering how to clean brass ornaments, let’s take a closer look at our step-by-step instructions:

1. See If Your Brass Is Lacquered

A brass ornament manufacturer may use a finish option such as lacquer, a shiny clear topcoat, to prevent tarnish. Because brass tarnishes rather quickly, it most likely isn’t lacquered if you see signs of it. Similarly, if it looks like the finish is chipping or flaking, it probably isn’t lacquered. In the case of tarnishing, you’ll want to have your brass professionally refinished. 

2. Check For Plated Brass

The test is simple: use a magnet! Brass isn’t magnetic, but plated brass will be layered over a magnetic metal. If your magnet sticks, then you know you have a plated brass. If your brass is plated or lacquered, refer to Step 3. If not, skip to Step 4.

3. Clean Plated and Lacquered Brass

Plated and lacquered brass shouldn’t need to be polished, and when cleaning, you’ll want to take care to avoid damaging the top layer. Avoid abrasives or harsh chemicals that can scratch or erode the finish. To clean, simply use a damp cloth to wipe the item down. For serious cleaning, soap and warm water with a sponge or cloth will do the trick.

4. Wash Brass With Household Items

If you’ve determined that your brass isn’t lacquered or plated, then you can use a variety of things to remove tarnish and bring back its golden shine. Try any of the following:

  • Ketchup. This is a tried and true brass cleaner. Put a little bit of ketchup on the spot and let it sit for a few seconds. Wipe it away to remove tarnish and grime. Once you’re sure ketchup won’t damage the item, you can clean the rest of it this way.
  • Vinegar paste. Add one teaspoon salt to half a cup of vinegar, then add enough flour to turn the salt and vinegar into a paste. Vinegar is an acid that will remove stains, while the salt acts as an abrasive to scour away anything that is caked on. Rub the paste onto your brass ornament, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse and dry with a clean cloth.
  • Lemon juice paste. Mix equal parts lemon juice and baking soda. Rub the mixture onto the item and buff it away to remove tarnish and grime.

With any of these methods, you can bathe your brass in warm water and soap afterward to remove excess cleaning mixtures. For engraved brass Christmas ornaments or other pieces with small nooks and crannies, use a soft toothbrush to remove cleaning products from those tiny crevices.

5. Or Use a Commercial Brass Cleaner

The methods listed above are great for getting brass clean and tarnish-free, but you can also rely on store-bought brass cleaners to do the job, too. Some of the best products include Brasso, Bar Keepers Friend, and Wright’s Brass Polish. To use these products, follow the instructions on the packaging.

6. Let Your Brass Age

One of the beauties of brass is that it builds a gorgeous patina, a green or brown film, over time. So, you don’t have to polish it if you don’t want to! Some brass pieces, particularly antiques, are best left alone because removing that patina can devalue them. The choice is yours, of course. If you love the look of bright, shiny brass, then rely on the instructions above to bring back their luster. Otherwise, skip the polishing entirely and enjoy the vintage look that aged brass gives you. And if you have any other questions about cleaning brass or creating custom brass ornaments of your own, contact Beacon Design today!