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Cleaning Brass Products

Cleaning Brass Products

Cleaning and polishing tarnished brass objects can be a real chore. There are numerous brass polishing/cleaning products on the market. Some of the compounds (ammonia based products - caustic!) will react and actually dissolve the brass. Other compounds (acidic compounds such as citric acid or Maleic or Tartaric) will not dissolve the brass. These compounds aggressively attack the compounds on top of the brass. The mild acids soften the compounds allowing you to easily remove them. The partially oxidized brass remains. Often you can polish this with minimal effort.

Brass restoration can be an ordeal if it is severely tarnished. In these instances you may have to use a two step process. The first step is to apply a caustic tarnish remover. Often these are brushed on and left to work. Some products require you to use a mild acid neutralizer to stop the caustic from dissolving the brass. This is vital! If you leave the brushed on solution on the brass, it can continue to eat into the metal. Always follow instructions!

Light tarnish can often be removed with simple liquids that react quickly with the oxidized brass. You will have to simply read the instructions on the can or jar to see if you feel the product will work on your brass object. Remember, the degree of tarnish determines the product you will use! Many off the shelf products work just fine.

If you have brass specialty shops in your city/town, I urge you to call or stop in. These stores always sell excellent brass cleaning and polishing compounds. Remember, the store owners deal in brass everyday. They know which products to recommend and the best methods to use for each product. Don't re-invent the wheel. Ask for advice.

  • Brasso - A liquid for lightly tarnished surfaces
  • Colonial Metal Polish - a liquid that contains very fine abrasives for tougher jobs.

  • Gillespie's - a three part kit. Works great for heavily tarnished objects. Follow directions!
  • Nev'r Dull - require work and leaves very fine brushed look due to the fine abrasives.
  • Noxon - light tarnish disappears with a soft cloth.
  • Parks - a two step process for heavy tarnish

  • Tarn-X - another liquid that attacks light tarnish
  • Red Bear - available at many fine brass shops. Works well and washes off with water.
  • Wenol - in a tube like toothpaste. It contains no abrasives and works really well on light tarnish.
  • Remember: Wear cotton or rubber gloves in the final stages of cleaning and polishing. The oils from your hands will leave fingerprints that will show up months later! Always wash the brass with soap and water after cleaning to remove all polishing and cleaning compounds!

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    6 Responses to Cleaning Brass Products

    1. I have a brass bed. It spent 20 years outside. It was in a shed but no door so no water, but hot and cold with summer and winter. I tried Brasso and it took 2 hours of hard work to do one-square-inch. I tried Tarn-X and after it did nothing, I noticed it mentions a bunch of metals but brass was not included. Catsup, for the acid, worked...kind of... but did not leave a shiny finish. I've got A LOT of area to do and wearing out trying.

      • harbor freight has a kit for about $21 that contains 3 bars for cleaning and polishing, and 11 or so other tools for buffing/polishing the brass with the aid of a power drill, they also sell a smaller kit with 3 wheels, 2 small bars (brown and white) for polishing, and lastly they sell a single pack 6 inch sewn buffing wheel that fits perfectly on Ryobi's 18v or corded angle grinder (with the guard off, so remember to wear eye protection).
        you can use a corded or cordless power drill with a majority of the smaller items to hit the nooks and crannies, then for your final polish, use the largest wheel from the kits that can get into the nooks and crannies and the 6 inch wheel on the angle grinder for the final polishing.
        Once you've gotten it shining like you want, there are numerous ways to coat and protect it so that you don't have to do it all again in the near future.
        I hope this helps
        Bill M

    2. Wright's Brass Polish works the best. So pleased with the results and easiest product yet! Just wipe with wet cloth and dry afterwards.

    3. Hi
      I am a Elvis Tribute Artist and have several costumes with lists of brass on them that tarnish often body sweats ext the material is polyester is there anything I can just spray on that will get the tarnish off and not damage the material? Have used Wenol works very well but very time consuming also The Works shower spray works to a degree?

      Any help will be awesome!

    4. @Alan Graveen: not sure about what polish would work best, but have a suggestion to help protect the fabric...get a sturdy large plastic lid for a cup, the kind with an “x” cut for a straw (Racetrak and QT have good sturdy ones). Then cut from one outer edge into the center so that your cut lines up with one of the slits already cut in the middle. You can add tape to front and back of lid to seal off the other slits and tap on the top to cover the cut made to get to the center (you’ll need to remove that piece of tape each time you switch buttons). You just slide the lid under the button so the thread (and little brass loop the thread goes through) go through the slit, then you’ve got a plastic barrier between your fabric and button.

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