Sometimes the best feature of an old piece of furniture is it’s vintage hardware. Brass knobs and pulls are some of our favorite hardware to work with. Usually brass hardware on old furniture is tarnished and covered in years of dirt and grime. The good news is that you can clean brass hardware pretty easily to restore it to its original glory! Below we share with you 5 ways you can bring the shine back to old brass hardware.
But first, is it solid brass or brass plated?
Before we share with you how to clean brass hardware, you will need to know if your hardware is solid brass or brass plated. Brass plate is a thin layer of brass, usually applied over a metal such as zinc or steel. If a magnet sticks to the piece, it is probably brass plated and not solid brass. You can also do the scratch test – on a non-visible area of the piece, make a small scratch with a sharp knife. If you see a dark colour, not shiny brass, it is probably brass plated.
If your furniture hardware is brass plated, do not use these cleaning techniques as they will ruin the finish. Use mild soap and water to clean brass plated hardware.
How to clean brass hardware
1. Cleaning brass with ketchup
The best part of this brass cleaning technique is that almost everyone has ketchup sitting in their fridge already! Use a cloth to rub a generous amount of ketchup over your brass hardware. Let it sit for 4 to 6 hours. Use warm water and soap to clean off the ketchup and voila! Cleaning brass with ketchup is a surprisingly effective technique that doesn’t take a lot of money or elbow grease.
2. Cleaning brass with coke
Another way to clean badly tarnished brass hardware is to use coke. This is another really simple technique – put your brass hardware in a container and fill it up with coke until the hardware is fully submerged. The worse the tarnish, the longer you can leave the brass to soak. We usually leave it overnight before rinsing with soap and water.
3. Cleaning brass with vinegar paste
You can make a simple paste to clean brass using equal parts flour, vinegar and salt. You can apply the paste and let it sit on your brass hardware, giving the acidity of the vinegar time to eat away at the tarnish. Usually we will use a paste when we are looking for quick results and, rather than let it sit, we usually scrub our brass hardware with a toothbrush. After scrubbing the tarnish away, gently rinse with dish soap and water.
4. Cleaning brass with lemon paste
Similar to the paste described above for cleaning brass hardware, you can squeeze half a lemon and mix it with a teaspoon of baking soda. Apply the mixture to your hardware and either scrub with a soft brush or cloth or let it sit and do it’s magic. Make sure to rinse away all your paste once the tarnish is removed from the brass to your satisfaction.
5. Bar Keepers Friend or Brasso
If you don’t feel like raiding your kitchen, we have used both Bar Keepers Friend and Brasso to clean brass hardware with great results. To apply, first dampen your hardware and sprinkle a small amount of the cleaner on it. Rub gently with a wet cloth or sponge. Rinse the cleaner off completely. You can repeat this until your hardware is as shiny as you like it.
Sometimes brass finishes are lacquered. Usually the lacquer will prevent the brass from tarnishing but you should be aware that if there is a lacquer finish, cleaning brass with ketchup, coke, pastes or cleaners will likely remove the lacquer finish.
Finally, while we hope you’ve learned something about how to clean brass hardware, sometimes we choose NOT to clean our brass furniture hardware. If you want a vintage or aged look, sometimes a good tarnish will enhance that aesthetic. Check out this amazing furniture flip where we opted to keep the tarnished finish.