How to Clean Tarnished Brass with Household Items

I often pick up old brass pieces at flea markets or garage sales, and I love cleaning them up to reveal their “inner beauty”…that deeply hidden “SHINE” that never really disappears, but just gets a little soiled over time! Perhaps even a little like we, ourselves…over time, we become a bit “soiled” from life’s experiences…but if we look closely, and do a little “cleaning”, we can reveal our own inner beauty for all the world to see; though I would not recommend using this process for that type of cleaning…I’m not sure it would work, and it might be downright uncomfortable!

For a simple, effective, safe and inexpensive method for cleaning tarnished brass, using items and products that virtually everyone already has on hand, follow these easy instructions:

Items Needed:

Small pail or other container large enough to hold the piece(s) to be cleaned (plastic is ok). I suggest using a container you wouldn’t normally use for foodstuffs; not that vinegar, salt and water is all that dangerous, but “why would you”? The tarnish removal process is not without some “ugliness”; after all, you’ll be removing years of “dirt”!
White vinegar
Table salt
Hot tap water
Rubber gloves
Soap/steel wool pad (‘Brillo’, ‘SOS’, etc.)
Clear enamel spray paint–(optional; only for non-food, non-heat use items).


Place the brass piece(s) in the container
Pour in approximately 1/2 cup of white vinegar
Add 1 tablespoon of table salt
Add enough hot tap water to cover the brass piece(s)
Let soak for 15-20 minutes

Final Clean:

Suggestion: Since the salt, vinegar and water solution can be quite strong on skin contact, you may want to wear rubber gloves for this part.
Remove piece from container (I usually take out just one item at a time, allowing the rest to soak a bit longer).

Using soap-pad and warm, clean tap water, gently rub the brass piece until you see the shine come through. Repeat all around the object until entire surface shines equally.

Rinse under warm, clean water.
Dry immediately with soft cloth or towel, to prevent water spotting.

If the piece(s) you’ve just cleaned are purely “decorative” and are not designed to be used for any foodstuffs nor to be subjected to heat, you may want to preserve the new “shine” by spraying the piece(s) with a clear enamel, available at most home centers or hardware stores. Remember to spray two or three light coats rather than one heavy coat, to prevent “runs”.

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