A Variety Of Ways You Can Clean Brass, Copper & More

Here’s a list of homemade cleaners I’ve collected over the years to help remove tarnish and buff metals to a shine, some of them may surprise you!

Door KnockerDirections For Use:

  • Using a damp cloth or toothbrush, scrub with one of the following then wipe off with a damp cloth and buff to a shine with a piece of flannel or other soft material. If the piece has a lacquer coating for protection, simply wipe with a damp cloth then dry with a soft one.

(For Brass)

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Ketchup (allow to dry then scrub off with a cloth or soft bristle brush)
  • Tomato Juice Soak: Cover the piece with tomato juice and allow to soak for a few hours. Rinse off with clear water then buff dry.
  • Milk Soak: Mix two parts milk with one part water, soak pieces for a couple hours then rinse with clear water and buff dry with a cloth. If you’re out of milk, try plain yogurt (undiluted) or sour milk instead.
  • Vinegar Soak: Mix two parts vinegar with one part water, soak pieces for a couple hours then rinse with clear water and buff dry.
  • Cream of Tartar & Lemon Juice: Make a paste then scrub into piece. Rinse off with clear water and buff.
  • Vinegar & Salt: Pour vinegar on a cloth, sprinkle with salt then gently rub into piece.
  • Lemon Juice & Salt or Baking Soda: Sprinkle salt or baking soda on a wedge of lemon, this will provide a gentle abrasion for removing grime.
  • Old-timers Tip: Rub piece all over with olive oil then with a dry rotten-stone (tripoli), remove with a cloth and buff to a shine.

Protect From Tarnishing: Keep things shiny by polishing with olive oil.

Lacquer Finish: Some pieces have a lacquer finish to help prevent tarnishing. If you wish to remove it, boil piece in a large pot of boiling water with 3 tablespoons baking soda and 3 tablespoons washing soda. Polish dry with a soft, dry cloth once the lacquer has been successfully removed.

  • Why do things like Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce & Lemon Juice work? It’s the acidic content that eats away at the tarnish. Milk also contains a lactic acid and that’s why soaking a piece in milk will help.

For Copper & Metals:
*First published November 1, 2006 and moved to this page for better organization

Kettle1 TBSP Flour
1 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP White Vinegar


  • In a small bowl, combine salt and flour. Stir until well blended.
  • Make a thick paste by adding vinegar to the salt and flour.
  • Using a damp sponge or cloth, smear on the paste. Rub gently.
  • Allow polish to dry for approximately one hour.
  • Rinse piece well with warm water.
  • Buff dry with soft cloth.

Suitable For: Brass, Bronze, Copper, Pewter
Not Suitable For: Silver, Silver Plate, Jewelry

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    • Drummergirl

    Thanks! I was looking for a homemade drum cymbal cleaner. This looks perfect.

    • Marilyn

    Be careful using catsup – used on a very old badly tarnished copper tray and it turned pink where it sat. Not pretty.

    • Lynn Stine

    We have a very large (30″ by 40″) antique tray that is copper and silver. It has an engraved scene in the center. It is badly tarnished because we have been afraid to touch it but now something needs to be done to it as you cannot even see scene. Do you have any suggestions for cleaning this item? Any help/guidance would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • DUSTIN

    Found a Brass looking candle holder at a flea market. Used the Salt, Flower and Vinegar mixture and it worked GREAT!! Glad I didn’t buy a cleaner/polish. I was not sure the type of Metal but it worked AWESOME. THANK YOU!

    • Julia

    I had a lot of brass to clean for a client, used the vinegar, salt and flour. It works incredibly well. Will never use anything else on brass. Can not say how good it is enough. Awesome indeed, thank you!

    • Marianne Whitley

    I have a number of silver pieces of costume jewelry where the silver has turned pink. How do I clean that off?

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