How to Clean Corroded Brass

Updated February 21, 2017

Brass is a metal alloy made from a mixture of copper and zinc. Known for its soft yellow colour, it is an affordable alternative to gold itself. It is used to make products ranging from musical instruments to jewellery. In the home, brass tends to be used to make items such as lamps, hardware and decorative metal trim. Over time, brass tends to build up a black coating called "tarnish." Tarnish is a type of rusting, or corrosion, that is caused by exposure to the air. Fortunately, it is simple to remove this tarnish using readily available household products.

Disassemble the item as much as possible. This makes it easier to reach joints and closed spaces. This will enable a more thorough cleaning.

Remove any old coatings of wax or polish using a rag and paint stripper Apply a small amount of paint stripper to the rag and gently rub it onto the brass object. This coating must be removed before the corrosion under the seal can be removed.

Scrub the item with a fine steel wool pad to remove the corrosion. Once all the corrosion spots have been removed, give the item a final scrub with the steel wool. On this final scrub, move the steel wool in one direction, using smooth and even strokes.

Use water and a mild detergent, like dish soap, to remove any remaining residue from the item. Dip a rag into the water and detergent mixture. Use it to clean the item thoroughly. Use another rag or a towel to dry the object before proceeding.

Apply a small amount of brass cleaner to a polishing cloth. Wipe it over the surface of the brass. The brass cleaner provides a seal to prevent future corrosion and damage to the item.


If you can't disassemble the item, use a toothbrush to clean tight areas.


Work in a well-ventilated area when using paint stripper. The fumes can be dangerous.

Things You'll Need

  • Rag or towel
  • Paint stripper
  • Fine steel wool (0000)
  • Water
  • Mild detergent
  • Brass cleaner
  • Polishing cloth
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About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.