This helpful how-to shows you how to clean brass hardware, with tips on how to remove tarnish by using the right cleaners and brass polishing techniques.

Is your home’s brass hardware looking brown and tarnished? If it is, you’re missing out on some of the visual pizzaz that your home could offer.

As the expression goes, “The devil is in the details.” And, in the case of home design and decor, the details are your home’s hinges, knobs, fixtures, and hardware—especially if they’re brass.

Well cared-for brass can be beautiful—gleaming details of style and substance. But when brass is tarnished or begins to show the signs of age and use, it can detract from your home’s beauty. That’s when it needs a little TLC.

In this article, we’ll show you how to get your home’s brass hardware looking great.

But first, a caveat: Be aware that the charm and value of certain brass objects may include their tarnished appearance. Removing that antique-like finish can diminish their charm and value. Think twice before polishing these types of items.

In addition, if hardware is brass-plated rather than solid brass, be careful not to polish down through the plating. Doing this will ultimately expose the metal beneath the plating, which defeats your purpose.

Also, with some fine brass hardware, such as high-end faucets, you will need to be VERY careful not to scratch the surface. Look up the faucet-maker’s recommendations regarding maintenance and care.

Okay, now on to polishing your brass.

If you’re dealing with hardware that can easily be removed, such a a door knob, begin by removing it. Otherwise, mask around it to protect the adjoining surface.

The Right Brass Polish or Cleaner

For polishing, you have a couple of choices. The preferred method for most people is to use a brass polisher/cleaner, such as Brasso, which you can buy online.

If you prefer to use a natural cleaner to remove brass tarnish, you can make your own cleaner from lemon and baking soda. Combine a teaspoon of baking soda with the juice from half of a lemon and stir it until it forms a wet paste.

Brass Polishing Techniques

If using a chemical brass polisher/cleaner, wear latex or rubber gloves. For a natural paste, this isn’t necessary.

Apply the cleaner according to label directions, or apply paste with a soft cloth. Let the natural paste sit on the surface for about a half hour if the brass is heavily tarnished. Polish with the soft cloth and rinse with clear water. Repeat if required.

For a higher gloss result, you can buff with a soft buffing wheel, fitted into an electric drill.

To protect the finish from future tarnishing, spray on a light coat of clear lacquer or brass sealer.

If your hardware is beyond this type of simple cleaning, you’ll need to step-up your approach. Remove badly tarnished hardware and place it in undiluted ammonia for about an hour. Rinse with clear water, then polish as directed above.

If you want to speed-up the polishing process for everyday brass items, consider using a very-fine sanding block as shown in this video:


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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” served as MSN’s home expert for several years, and is featured as Yelp's home improvement expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort