Brass tarnishes over time. According to the How Much is it Worth website, brass is a mixture of zinc and copper that undergoes a chemical change when exposed to air, causing brass to turn green or black. To clean antique brass taps, you must remove the dirt and tarnish that has collected on the brass over time. Be wary of using store bought brass cleaners on your antique taps because these commercial cleaners can continue to corrode the aged brass if not used properly. Clean antique brass with a simple mixture of three common household ingredients: flour, vinegar and salt.
Stick a magnet against the brass tap. If the magnet doesn't stick, the taps are solid brass. If the magnet sticks, your taps are plated brass. When cleaning brass, be careful not to scrub the brass plating from the base metal.
Fill a bucket with hot water and enough liquid dish detergent to create suds. If you can remove the taps, do so and place them into the bucket to soak for about 20 minutes. If not, scrub the brass taps with a rag and the soapy water.
Scrub with a clean toothbrush in and between crevices to remove layered grime and dirt acquired from age. Rinse the taps with clean, hot water.
Mix together with a plastic spoon 1 tbsp each of flour, salt and vinegar to form a paste in a disposable container, such as a recycled margarine tub.
Apply the cleaning paste to a clean rag and scrub the antique brass taps until the tarnish is gone. If, and only if, your taps are solid brass and they are heavily tarnished, you may use a soft steel wool pad to gently scrub the mixture onto the taps. Only do this if the rag method has failed.
Coat the scrubbed brass taps with the paste and allow the paste to sit on the taps for about an hour.
Rinse the solution from the taps with hot water and liquid dish detergent. According to Repair Home, you must remove the paste to avoid the erosion of the brass by the homemade solution.
Put on cloth gloves and dry the antique brass taps thoroughly with a clean, dry rag. Wear the gloves as you reinstall the brass taps if you removed them in Step 1.
According to Ask the Builder, wearing gloves protects the brass from oils on your fingers that will leave prints that can be visible months after you clean the taps. Handling brass taps with bare hands leaves behind oils that lead to tarnishing over time.