Cleaning Brass Using Vinegar

A brass doorknob on a red door.
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-30
What You'll Need
Brass item
White flour
Soft cloth
Olive oil

Cleaning brass can be easy or it can be a challenge. It all depends on what you know about how it tarnishes, how to remove tarnish, and how to reduce tarnishing. Brass tarnishing is a natural process of oxidation that will happen when a brass surface is exposed to air. You can keep your brass shiny and untarnished by covering its surface with lacquer. You can also remove the tarnish with a commercial brass cleaner and by cleaning it with a household brass cleaner such as vinegar. Here are a few ideas on how to make and use a vinegar brass cleaner.

Step 1 - Identify Lacquered Brass

As said previously, in order for it to tarnish, brass must be exposed to air. If yours is lacquered, it will not be exposed to air and will not likely become tarnished unless the lacquer becomes compromised. To clean fingerprints and other marks off lacquered brass you need only to wipe it with a clean damp cloth. Then, dry the brass, and buff it. You can usually tell if it’s lacquered, because a lacquer finish can scratch. If you see scratches or marks on your brass surface that you can widen with your fingernail, it is likely lacquered.

Step 2 - Clean With a Vinegar-Water Solution

Make a vinegar-water solution by mixing one part water and two parts vinegar in a container. Be sure your container is large enough to allow your brass item to be completely submerged. Sink your object into the solution and allow it to soak for two to three hours. Then, remove it, rinse it with clean water, and dry it.

Step 3 – Clean With a Vinegar Paste

Alternatively, you can make a paste to clean it using equal parts vinegar, salt, and white flour. Use a soft brush (a toothbrush will work) to apply the paste to the non-lacquered brass surface, and work it in. If you don't have a brush, you can use your fingers. Allow the brass item to sit with this paste on it for up to one hour. If it sits longer, the paste will dry, lose its effectiveness, and be more difficult to remove. Rinse the paste off with clean water and then dry with a soft, dry cloth, and polish.

Step 4 – Buff Your Brass

Once your piece has been cleaned and dried, use a soft cloth such as flannel to buff. Rub the cloth against the brass finish in fast circular motions to produce a brilliant shine.

Step 5 – Prevent Tarnish

Avoid unnecessary cleaning by protecting brass from exposure to air. You can do this by lacquering these surfaces, or by applying several thin coats of olive oil with a soft cloth.