Whether in the form of fixtures or ornaments, brass is a beautiful enhancement to a home. Unfortunately, the necessity of cleaning it can conflict with the desire to be kind to the environment, not to mention the home budget. Fortunately, there is a natural way to make brass shine without exposing the environment or yourself to the toxins in expensive commercial cleaning products.
Cleaning brass the natural way simply requires finding food items around the house that have a natural acid content. That half-finished bottle of Worcester sauce that's been sitting in the fridge for ages has suddenly acquired a new purpose.
Fruits and Vegetables
Cleaning brass the natural way is as easy as slicing a lemon. Cut the lemon in half, sprinkle it with enough salt or baking soda so the juice does not dissolve it, and rub it on the brass. For a less-abrasive cleaning option, mix together a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and enough baking soda to form a gritty paste. Apply to a cloth and scrub, then rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a clean cloth, ArchitecturalClassics.com recommends.
Another option for cleaning brass is to use an onion. Put a couple inches of water in a small pan and chop enough onions (not too finely) to fill the pan, with the water covering them. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours. Remove the onions with a strainer and use the water (not the onions) to polish the brass with a soft cloth.
This method is as simple as the lemon. Apply Worcester sauce or ketchup to a cloth and polish away. Try the cloth method first and if the item is still dirty, coat it in sauce and let it sit for about a minute. If it is still dirty when you wipe off the sauce, re-apply and let it sit an extra minute, and so on until the item is clean. To evenly clean an especially dirty item, immerse it in sauce instead of just coating it and let it sit. This prevents the gravity effect of some spots being cleaner than others, says ArchitecturalClassics.com.
That lactic acid in sour milk has never been so useful. Simply immerse the item in the milk and let sit for a couple of minutes. When the time is up, wash with warm water. If you do not want to deal with the smell of sour milk, immersing in whey or coating with natural unflavored yogurt also works. You will still have to wash the item well to get rid of the dairy smell.
White distilled vinegar is a well-known, versatile, cheap household cleaner with the powerful active ingredient of acetic acid. Use vinegar to clean brass by making a paste. ArchitecturalClassics.com recommends a recipe of equal parts salt, vinegar and flour mixed together to form a paste. Let the brass soak in hot water while you make the paste. Coat the item with the paste and leave it on for half an hour. Check on it and if it still needs cleaning, leave it for another half hour. For a bit more polish, let the salt act as an abrasive by buffing with a cloth while the paste is still on. When it is clean, rinse with water and dry with a clean cloth.
Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar
ArchitecturalClassics.com cautions that you may get a reddish discoloration effect after cleaning brass with vinegar. Prevent this by removing all of the solution from the item, including the valleys of surface detail or engravings, with a toothbrush and water, then dry with a cloth instead of allowing the item to air dry. Also note that for a truly green clean with vinegar you should always check the label to make sure it does not contain synthetic ethyl alcohol, which can be derived from petroleum and fossil fuel products.
Never use abrasive methods on brass-plated items, ArchitecturalClassics.com cautions. To test if your item is brass plated, first do a magnet test. The magnet will stick to steel or zinc underneath brass plating, but not to solid brass. If the magnet does not stick, however, there could still be a nonmagnetic metal underneath. To test for this, scratch an inconspicuous spot with a sharp kitchen knife. If the color in the scratch is bright yellow, the item is solid brass. Also remember to do a spot test before trying any homemade cleaning recipes to make sure the method works with your item.
- Photo Credit lemon image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com
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