Want to make one household chore a lot easier without spending a lot of money? I know a good, reliable, easy to find, and most of all, cheap household product that works wonders on one of the most onerous tasks imaginable — polishing brass.
If youÃ?Â¹ve ever spent hours polishing brass, you know that about two minutes into it, you wish you could — ala “I Dream of Jeannie” — blink your eyes and have the job instantly, magically done. Instead, the scene you probably most relate to is that moment in “Karate Kid,” when the boy is learning how to block punches by spending all day waxing the floor — “Wax on, wax off; wax on; wax off…” Between the elbow grease you put into the job and the fumes you inhaled, the brass looked pretty good, but it took so long and was such a pain that you know youÃ?Â¹re going to put off the job until the brass turns black again. You also know, and have probably tried, a zillion different miracle compounds people hawk that cost good money and either donÃ?Â¹t work or worse, ruin your brass. I remember years ago when my high school band director bit on a case of some snake oil that was supposed to put a brilliant shine on brass instruments — trumpets, baritones, trombones, etc — with nothing more than “a flick of the wrist.”
Sure enough, it took off all those unsightly smudges, smears, and fingerprints. Unfortunately, it also took the lacquer and brass finish right off the horns. When it was over, they looked almost like– but not quite as good as — those tin chimney pipes you see on old pot bellied stoves. And when it gets that bad, thereÃ?Â¹s no alternative but to spend huge bucks refinishing and relacquering.But guess what? There is a miracle fix and the best part is, itÃ?Â¹s cheap and itÃ?Â¹s probably in your home right now. ItÃ?Â¹s called rubbing alcohol, and for putting a shine on brass with a minimum of fuss, itÃ?Â¹s pure magic. It wonÃ?Â¹t etch into the metal, like vinegars and some abrasives can. It wonÃ?Â¹t leave smears and stains — indeed it takes that greasy film right off — and it doesnÃ?Â¹t cost a fortune. How much does a bottle of rubbing alcohol cost? Last time I bought some, it was about 79 cents for a 12 ounce bottle.
You see, all you are doing is spreading the polish on with a cloth, or in my case, paper towels. DonÃ?Â¹t worry about rubbing it in and rubbing it back out; just get it on the brass surface. Next, soak a paper towel or two in rubbing alcohol, and start gently wiping the polish off. It doesnÃ?Â¹t require heavy rubbing or hard pressure, just a gentle wipe. YouÃ?Â¹ll be amazed at one, how easy it is, and two, how much verdigris and gunk you take off. And what a shine!
I polished a great big fireplace screen my Dad brought back from Vietnam, all intricate etchings and studded rivets, and detailed designs. Normally, a can of Brasso and a lot of elbow grease would make this about a 30- 45 minute job. With the polish/rubbing alcohol, it took less than ten minutes. A word of warning — I donÃ?Â¹t know what else rubbing alcohol does work on, but I know it absolutely DOES NOT work on silver. NEVER, EVER, USE RUBBING ALCOHOL ON SILVER. But feel free to try it on your brass. In fact, I bet the first time you try it, youÃ?Â¹ll definitely feel free.