How to Remove Tarnish From Brass & Copper

Written by cathryn whitehead
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Brass and copper are soft materials that need to be carefully cleaned. Usually all that's required is washing with warm water and mild detergent and drying with a soft, clean cloth. However, when brass and copper become tarnished, some creative methods need to be used that will remove the tarnish without damaging your brass or copper item.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Brass cleaner
  • Copper cleaner
  • Soft cloths
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups warm water
  • Orange oil
  • 3 tbsp cream of tartar
  • Plastic or latex gloves
  • Coca-Cola
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Clear lacquer
  • Olive oil

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  1. 1

    Use a chemical brass cleaner like English Custom Metal Polish and Restorer or a commercial copper cleaner like Copper Glo or Wright's Copper Cream. Make sure it's not an abrasive cleaner--you don't want to scratch the brass or copper.

  2. 2

    Make a paste by mixing 1 cup of white vinegar with 3 tbsp of flour and 3 tbsp of salt. Put the paste on the copper or brass, rub it in and let it dry. Rinse it off with cold water and polish it with a soft, dry cloth. If you're out of vinegar, you can use lemon juice.

  3. 3

    Soak brass and copper pieces in 2 cups of milk mixed with 2 cups of warm water. The lactic acid in the milk will remove the tarnish.

  4. 4

    Mix 1 cup of lemon juice, 3 tbsp of cream of tartar, and 5 drops of orange oil to make a paste. Put latex or plastic gloves on and rub the paste into the brass or copper. Let it dry. Rinse the surface with warm water and dry it with a soft cloth.

  5. 5

    Soak the brass or copper in Coca-Cola for two days to fade and loosen the tarnish. Use a soft toothbrush and Brasso Cleaner to remove the tarnish.

  6. 6

    Rub olive oil into the brass or copper in a circular motion with a soft cloth after cleaning to keep tarnish away.

  7. 7

    Spray a coat of clear lacquer like Krylon onto the brass or copper to protect it after tarnish is removed. Wait 5 minutes and add another light coat.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't use cleansers with ammonia as it can cause cracking, etching and premature ageing of brass and copper.
  • Don't use steel wool as it can scratch the brass and copper.

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