How to Clean Old Brass Hinges

Updated February 21, 2017

Brass hardware is a popular and stylish choice for many home cabinet, furniture and door hinges. While these hinges may look great over time they can tarnish and may be hard to clean. Because brass tarnishes quickly when exposes to oxygen most brass hinges are coated with some form of lacquer for protection. The lacquer may also break down over time, leaving the brass exposed and in need of cleaning or polishing. Basic maintenance and cleaning of brass hinges may be done at home unless the brass is severely tarnished or damaged. Damaged brass hinges should be examined by a professional prior to attempting any cleaning at home.

Dampen a soft cloth in a solution of mild dish detergent or hand soap and wipe the brass hinges with the cloth to remove surface dirt and debris. Use only hand soaps that do not contain added lotions.

Dilute a small amount of white vinegar or lemon juice in water using a ration of 1 part vinegar or lemon to 9 parts water.

Use the dilution made in step two to clean any tarnish, discolouration or stubborn spots from the brass hinges. Protect any wood or surfaces surrounding the hinges from the solution to prevent damage. Do not leave vinegar or lemon juice on a brass hinge for longer than a minute as they could corrode the brass.

Wipe the cleaned brass hinges with a damp cloth soaked only in water to prevent any breakdown of the brass from extended contact with the vinegar or lemon juice dilutions.

Dry the hinges with a cloth to prevent water stains on the brass.

Polish hinges with brass polish, if desired, being cautious not to get polish on any material other than the brass hinges.


Test any brass polish on an inconspicuous area of brass prior to use and some polishes may destroy the protective lacquer on hinges. To determine if a hinge is brass place a magnet on the hinge. Brass is not magnetic and therefore a magnet will not be attracted to a brass hinge.


Do not use harsh cleaners, hard bristle brushes or abrasives to clean brass hinges. These items will damage the finish on brass and make is susceptible to corrosion. Never use rubbing alcohol, ammonia or silver polish to clean old brass hinges as they will destroy a brass hinge.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft cloth
  • Mild dish soap or hand soap
  • Vinegar or lemon
  • Brass polish
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