How to Clean Copper and Brass Without Chemicals
Cleaning Without the Use of Chemicals
It seems that every cleaning supply under the kitchen sink has harsh chemicals in its list of ingredients. These chemicals can attack respiratory systems, cause skin irritations, and in some cases, can bring long-term health concerns. Cleaning copper and brass has been a task that brings up such concerns because of the caustic nature found in these chemical-based tarnish removing supplies.
No Harsh Chemicals for Brass and Copper Cleaning
The patina that forms on brass and copper over time is caused by a reaction to the surrounding air. In the past, harsh brass and copper cleaners requiring you to 'glove-up' have been employed. For me, this is a sure sign that it is time to find something in the home that can not only get the job done, but do it without dangerous chemicals!
Foods That Clean Copper and Brass
Over the years I have recalled a few of the techniques for cleaning Brass and Copper that my mother and Grandmother employed. Some may be among the things that you have in your everyday pantry and refrigerator. Here is a list, and how to use chemical-free food items to make your brass sparkle and your copper gleam!
8 Great-Tasting Copper and Brass Cleaning Foods
- A1 Steak Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Tabasco Sauce
- Flour, Salt, and Vinegar
- Real Lemon and Salt
- Yellow Mustard
How to Use A1 Steak Sauce to Clean Copper
Using a soft cloth, rub A1 Steak Sauce on tarnished copper. The acid from the tomato puree combined with the vinegar in the recipe removes the tarnish in no time at all.
How to Use Ketchup to Clean Copper
To devour the tarnish on your precious copper items, cover them in a layer of ketchup and then let them stand for 10 minutes. Rinse off the ketchup with running water to find that the copper has returned to a shiny bright finish.
Cleaning Copper With Worcestershire Sauce
By simply rubbing Worcestershire Sauce on the tarnished surface of your dull utensils using a soft cloth, and then rinsing with water, you will show off copper that is as bright as bright can be!
How to Use Kool-Aid to Clean Brass Tarnish
This one is a favorite!
- Using any flavor of kool-aid you have around, mix it with 2-quarts of water (use a bucket so the food coloring doesn't stain the sink).
- Soak your brass items in the fruity drink for about 10 minutes. The citric acid will clean the tarnish on the surface of your brass pieces.
- Make sure to throw out the used kool-aid afterwards so no one takes an unwitting swig of the tarnish laden beverage!
How to Clean Copper With Tabasco Sauce
The various acids in the Tabasco recipe vigorously eat away at copper tarnish. All you do is rub it on with a soft cloth and then rinse away that dull tarnish.
Clean Copper and Brass With Real Lemon and Salt
This one may not be the most unusual, but it certainly gets the tarnish removal done! Combine 1 tbsp salt and 2 tbsp real lemon juice. Rub this mixture onto copper until the shine peeks through. The chemical reaction cleans copper and brass tarnish almost instantly!
How to Clean Brass and Copper With Flour, Salt, and Vinegar
This one has an actual formula for cleaning your brass or copper tarnish!
- Simply mix 1 tbsp of flour, 1 tbsp of salt, and 1 tbsp of vinegar until it becomes a paste.
- Spread the paste on tarnished copper or brass, and leave it until completely dry.
- Rinse with running water, dry and wipe clean!
How to Use Mustard to Clean Tarnish From Copper and Brass
Rub any tarnished brass or copper object with regular old yellow mustard and wait about 10 minutes. Rinse with running water and dry. The vinegar in the yellow mustard helps to break down the tarnish, leaving your now untarnished items wonderfully shiny!
How to Keep Brass and Copper Tarnish-Free Using VO5 or Bounce
These may have a few chemicals, but they are also less harsh than most copper and brass cleaners we find to specialize in the task. So, when you want to keep your brass and copper clean, head to the laundry room or bedroom vanity for a sheet of Bounce or a can of VO5!
VO5 to Keep Brass and Copper Tarnish-Free
Using the iconic hairspray, shower your clean and shiny brass and copper items with a light coat of VO5 Hairspray. The spray will coat the items preventing tarnish from ruining your sparkling table settings and objects.
Bounce Keeps Tarnish Off Clean Brass and Copper
Using a clean (but used) sheet of Bounce fabric softener, rub down your tarnish-free brass and copper. The anti-static elements left behind in the sheet not only help to clean away tarnish, but will assist in keeping tarnish from forming for some time.
What You Think Really Does Matter!
Would you rather use chemical free cleaners for brass and copper?
Don't Use Ammonia on Brass!
Some may suggest using ammonia to clean away tarnish from precious brass objects. This is NOT a good plan in any way. The ammonia brings an unfortunate chemical reaction that can cause stress fractures in brass. This is a big NO-NO, especially when it comes to firearms that have any brass work on them. Not only can the brass fracture, but the danger of serious injury is also of concern.
Why Should I Remove Residue From Brass and Copper?
If you notice that your brass and copper have a greyish-white or greenish-white powdery substance tucked away on the detail work of a piece, you should remove it. Over time, past owners have applied harsh tarnish remover which has built up in those details, causing a degraded surface patina to grow. (The colored debris you are seeing is residue from past harsh cleaners.) You can gently remove it using a toothpick and warm water. Leaving powdery stuff on your brass or copper can slowly eat away at the soft metal, especially in the detail work.
Clean Brass and Copper Gently
Because these items are both rather soft metals, when cleaning the tarnish from their surfaces it is important to have a gentle touch. Every time you clean brass or copper a little bit of the surface will also be rubbed away, it is just the nature of the material. Using soft cloths and light cleaning strokes can help to reduce the surface erosion due to years of cleaning the items.
Applying a Wax Coating Keeps Brass and Copper Shiny and Tarnish-Free
After cleaning the tarnish from your treasured brass and copper, a coat of wax can be applied to keep it clean and bright; as well as protected. A simple wax formula is:
Equal parts mineral of spirits (Shellsol, or Varsol, as an example) and high-quality white furniture wax (Renaissance, or any bleached paste wax). Mix them together, being sure to keep the mixture in a tightly sealed container.
How to Apply a Protective Wax Coating to Brass and Copper
- Wipe or brush the wax all over the object.
- Set it aside so the mineral spirits can evaporate.
- Even coating is paramount.
- If the piece is not adorned with heat sensitive materials, using a hair dryer to melt the wax can get it into the tiny recessed areas of the decorative details to protect them.
- Blot off any wax drippings while they are still warm.
- Polish the wax after it has set, using a clean lint-free cloth.