Brass can be commonly found in many household items such as antique headboards and footboards, light fixtures, kitchen and bathroom faucets, doorknobs, door plates, hinges, serving trays, and many types of locks. Musical instruments like trumpets, French horns, bells, and trombones as well as items like vintage telescopes, old candlesticks, lanterns, and beautiful pieces of jewelry are also commonly made of brass.
Other common things made of brass include zipper pulls on jeans and jackets and even the thumbtacks you use to pin notes to bulletin boards. While you probably wouldn’t want to worry about polishing a thumb tack, you certainly do want to keep the other brass objects—especially your expensive musical instruments, fine antiques, and your favorite brass decor features in your home—all shiny and bright.
Over the years, people have tried various and genius ways to clean brass, including natural ingredients to clean the objects like cream of tartar, lemon, salt, ketchup, or vinegar. But these ways are messy and require a lot of mixing and measuring. There are chemical brass cleaners, but which one works best? Do you know how to clean brass and what is the best brass cleaner to use? We’ll explore the answers to these questions and more in this article, so read on.
What Exactly is Brass?
Brass is a bright and golden metal alloy primarily made up of the elements of copper (usually 85 percent) and zinc (usually 15 percent) along with small proportions of a variety of other elements and metals. It’s similar to bronze; however, bronze is made up of copper and tin, not zinc.
The amount of zinc gives the brass piece its distinctive color. A higher percentage of zinc creates a brass color that’s lighter and a lesser percentage of zinc produces a brass color that’s darker. Colors in a brass object can range from a dark, reddish, earthy brown to a light, silvery yellow.
Highly malleable, it can be easily shaped by craftsmen into a brass piece of lasting quality. Brass is also very durable, and is utilized in places where it’s critical that sparks aren’t created such as in tools and fittings used near flammable or explosive materials. It’s also a good conductor of heat and doesn’t tend to corrode in salt water. It can be used to make architectural trim pieces in a building or a house, screws, radiators, and even cartridge casings for firearms.
Ancient metalworkers as early as 3000 B.C. made brass without realizing it when they were melting copper and tin to make bronze since tin and zinc ore deposits are sometimes found together naturally. The two metals have similar properties and colors. Sometime between 20 B.C and 20 A.D., craftsmen around the Mediterranean Sea could tell the difference between zinc and tin and began to make coins and other objects out of brass.
More than 300 years later, metalworkers in what is now Germany and The Netherlands caused the brass industry to flourish, but it wasn’t until 1781 that the process for combining copper with zinc to make brass was patented in England.
Today, not only can you find gleaming brass in your home in a variety of decorative and functional uses, but you can also visit museums to see unique brass objects made long ago like chess sets, tea sets, swords, bells, military buttons, incense burners, intricate lecterns, and miniature sculptures of animals.
Demand for brass still shines brightly after thousands of years!
Does Brass Tarnish?
The answer to this question is a definitive yes. All metals, when exposed to oxygen, will eventually tarnish and will require polishing to make them gleam again. But what is tarnish? Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion on metals—a chemical reaction (oxidation, to be exact) between a metal and non-metal, environmental elements.
Tarnish can appear on brass as a dull, black film or coating and can even take on a bluish or greenish patina called verdigris. At first, your brass object loses its original sheen and begins to haze into a dull, misty appearance. If allowed to sit too long and not polished, the tarnish will thicken to a point where it is difficult to remove. While some people may like the look of overly tarnished brass, dull-looking fixtures and decor can disrupt your home’s aesthetic.
Thankfully, though, brass tarnish is only a problem on the surface of the object. Unlike rust—which can eat away at all levels of other metals—brass tarnish only affects the top few layers. Unfortunately, though, the surfaces of pure brass objects can also corrode when exposed to moisture, chlorides, acetates, ammonia, and certain acids, so take care to clean brass regularly with a clean cloth and store your copper and brass items carefully when not using them.
How Do You Clean Brass?
While there are many cleaning methods and various cleaners on the market (like a cleaner cream) the best way to clean brass objects is to use the Champion Polishing Cloth. First, wash the surface of your bass item with soap and water. All of the crevices and details must be free from dust and grime. Then, rinse and let your item air dry thoroughly before wiping with a soft, clean cloth. Then, you’re ready to clean and polish.
The Champion Polishing Cloth comes ready for immediate use. Simply roll the cloth into a ball and rub it gently onto the brass piece. One Champion Polishing Cloth with built-in cleaner will last longer than a gallon of regular metal polish and it gently cleans and removes dirt and stains.
Soap and water won’t work well to clean a layer of tarnish and neither will other home remedy methods, so the best way to remove tarnish from your brass valuables is to use a good, quality material like the Champion Polishing Cloth which cleans and will buff your finest brass items; it is a brass polish and cleaner rolled into one cloth. This polish made into a cloth is safe for your valuables and is the best cleaning method. Simply use the cloth and buff dry.
How to Polish Intricately Detailed Tarnished Brass Items
No matter how good your housekeeping habits are, all brass items in your home will eventually tarnish and it can be difficult to safely remove the tarnish without scratching the intricately detailed finish of jewelry or scrollwork on your decor items. Never scrub tarnished brass and copper. To polish these types of items and make them shine again, use the Champion Polishing Cloth and gently clean to restore the natural beauty of the brass. It is the best brass and copper polish.
Home Improvement Projects with Brass are on Trend
Once considered outdated, decorating your home with brass is now one of the hottest home trends for 2020 and beyond. So, if home improvement ideas are at the top of your New Year’s resolution list, be sure to include a lot of brass: Planters, bookends, lamps, candlesticks, clocks, light fixtures, shelves, picture frames, and even armories and bookcases. Use a brass item as either a focal point in a room or as a base neutral to build upon and you’ll be right on trend.
In a recent online article in Better Homes & Gardens, DYI blogger Carrie Waller says of brass: “Often interchangeable with gold, this on-trend texture adds undeniable class and elegance to any room. It reads as both sophisticated and worldly, but it doesn’t sport the massive price tag that often goes along with such adjectives. . . it boasts more styling tricks and pairings than anything constricted to a color wheel, taking savvy styling solutions to the next level.”
Brass in Home Decor Will be Hot for the Foreseeable Future
In an online article titled “The Hottest Interior Design Trends for 2020—And Beyond” by Natalie Way and Jennifer Geddes from realtor.com, brass in home decor is a sizzling trend, according to interior designers. “There’s no two ways about it: Brass is here to stay. But this isn’t the chintzy stuff you may have seen in your grandmother’s house. ‘Brass is not the brass we have known from the ‘90s,’ says [Karen] Gray-Plaisted.
In the same article, the authors state that the best way to work brass into your decor is to combine it with other metals. “Mixing metals is a great way to ensure brass doesn’t feel dated in a few years’ time,” [Amy] Kartheiser says. The authors add that “Contrary to what you may have been told, combining warm brass tones with its cooler cousins (silver, chrome) is definitely allowed.”
Brass Cleaning Supplies
With all of that brass in your home improvement project or in your newly purchased decor, you’ll want to keep it looking its best. What is the best brass cleaner for the job?
Soap and water won’t work well when removing a layer of tarnish and neither will other home remedy brass cleaners, so the best way to remove tarnish from your brass (or copper) valuables is to use a good, quality brass cleaner and copper polish and cleaner like the Champion Polishing Cloth. This cloth polishes like no other tarnish remover.
What About Coating My Brass Pieces with Lacquer?
While a layer of inert lacquer doesn’t actually hurt the surface of the brass itself, the lacquer can become easily scratched and wear off. It may also cause a color distortion and doesn’t completely prevent tarnishing. It is not recommended as a way to take care of your brass pieces. Another drawback is that the lacquer is difficult to apply evenly over the surface of your item. It’s better to use a good, protective copper and brass polish.
Getting Married? Consider Wedding Rings Made of Brass
In an online article titled “Brass Wedding Rings and Bands—Should I Buy or Avoid?” on the website weddingknowhow.com, the author says “The warm tones of brass and its beautiful luster make it perfect for use in jewelry. Brass has been used to create intricate and detailed jewelry pieces in certain regions of the world, like India and Thailand, for centuries. It’s also an excellent non-traditional metal choice for wedding rings and is durable enough for daily wear.”
The author goes on to say that “Unlike bronze, brass can achieve a look very similar to gold. In fact, this is why it’s often called ‘the poor man’s gold’. Brass gives you the look without the cost.”
A word of caution, though, if you are considering a brass wedding ring: Sometimes, cheap base metals can be plated with a brass coating. Here are a couple of tips from the author to tell if your selected ring is solid brass or simply plated with brass:
Use a magnet to test the authenticity of your ring. If it’s solid brass, it will not react to the magnet, but brass-plated items will.
You can also scratch a hidden corner of your ring with a sharp pin. If the color under the surface layer is also gold, you know it’s brass, but if it’s white or gray, it’s cheaper metal that’s been plated over.
Of course, it’s always best to buy from a trusted jeweler or speak with an appraiser. If you choose brass wedding rings, you’ll be buying affordable, uniquely colored, and durable rings. But, be aware that brass wedding rings aren’t hypoallergenic due to the zinc in the brass, but brass rings are nickel-free. Your brass rings will tarnish so you’ll need to clean them regularly.
What is the Best Brass Cleaner?
We’ve come full circle back to our original question: What is The Best Brass Cleaner? There are many ways to clean brass, but simply put, the best way to clean dirty brass objects is to use the Champion Polishing Cloth. Cleaning and buffing with the Champion Polishing Cloth will leave your objects shiny without scratching. It leaves surfaces with a deep, golden glow.
When cleaning a scratch or a stain on a brass bathroom or kitchen fixture, make sure the surface is dry first. Do not wash the Champion Polishing Cloth after use. Discoloration of the cloth does not affect its efficiency in any way. The chemicals in the cloth will not evaporate before the cloth wears out, if, after your brass is cleaned, you store the cloth in an airtight plastic or glass container. Cloths can be used until the material is tattered.
When cleaning jewelry like brass wedding rings, use warm water and a mild, liquid soap and a soft cloth to remove daily dirt and grime. Dry completely. Then clean and polish with the Champion Polishing Cloth.