Spring Cleaning Volume 3: Brass Plate (Learn from my mistakes!)

I’m doing a little series on the blog this week, on tips and tricks I’ve used to clean household items.

Today we’re going to talk about how to clean brass and brass-plated objects.  All brass-looking objects are not created equally.  Trust me.

I hate having to write “learn from my mistakes” posts because they usually mean I really screwed something up.  In this case, the mistake was cleaning brass-plated drawer pulls with Brasso.

I should have known that breaking my golden rule (use what you have to clean things) would turn out badly, but look at what I was dealing with:

See that black spot on the left side of the handle I’m holding?  I knew there had to be a good way to rescue these drawer pulls from the state they were in.  With a name like Brasso, this cleaner seemed like the obvious solution.

I put some Brasso on a rag and wiped it onto the handles.  With a clean section of the rag, I gently polished it off.  At first it seemed like nothing was happening, so I rubbed a little harder…

Whomp whommmmmp!

Instead of restoring the blackened spot to a nice brassy finish, the Brasso actually removed the brass-plate from this section of the handle.  I quickly rinsed off the remaining Brasso to check out the damage.

It didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would, but can you see where the spot on the left side of this handle is silver instead of gold-toned?  :(

I KNEW I’d read somewhere that Brasso can actually be used to remove brass plating and turn a gold-toned object silver.  Here’s an example of what you can get from ugly ol’ brass:

(source)

That would have been excellent information if I was going for silver drawer pulls, but the piece these came from is 100% mid-century modern and silver wouldn’t work.

Turns out these were brass-plated drawer pulls and the black spot was rust, not tarnish.  I decided the spot wasn’t noticeable enough to get in a tizzy over, but here’s what I wish I would have known before my little cleaning experiment.

The Lesson: Brass and brass-plate are not created equally.  Brass will tarnish and brass-plate will rust.  To know how to clean the brass-looking object, you have to know if it’s real brass or not.

The Test: Stick a magnet to it (Sound familiar?  Check out my How to Clean Stainless post!).  If it sticks, the object is NOT real brass.

(source)

The Cleaning Process for Brass-Plate: After a Google search, I found a great blog called How to Clean Things.  They recommend cleaning brass-plated objects with mild dish detergent, water, and a soft rag.  The key here is being gentle with the finish so you don’t remove the plating.

The Cleaning Process for Brass: The same site also includes additional tips for cleaning brass if the dish detergent method doesn’t work.  You may or may not have to remove a clear coat of laquer from your brass object before you can polish away the tarnish, so boiling the object can help you remove that laquer.  They also give tips on how to make a lemon juice + baking soda polish that will really bring the luster back to your brass.

Household Products Used to Clean Brass: Can you tell this is my favorite part?  No more buying specific products to clean specific objects if I can find a solution in my fridge!

Before you run out and buy brass polish, try one of these:

  • Lemon juice + baking soda (or salt)
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • White vinegar + salt
  • Yogurt!
  • Boiling milk + water

Pretty amazing right?  For more info, check out the blog How to Clean Things, and good luck shining up that brass (it’s coming back, you know)!

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