How to Clean an Old Brass Bed


Old brass beds can be a challenge to clean, especially if the tarnish buildup is decades old. The job will take some elbow grease and an effective yet gentle cleaner. There are commercial chemical brass cleaners; however, if you prefer a less expensive and more environmentally friendly method, you have several options. Also, how much tarnish you remove is entirely up to you; some people prefer an aged patina, while others prefer to keep the bed frame free of tarnish and polished to a high shine.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Cola
  • Salt
  • All-purpose flour
  • Detergent powder
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Unflavored, natural yogurt
  • Toothbrush
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Soft cloths
  • Place the bed on a drop cloth to protect floors and help keep the mess to a minimum.

  • Remove grime and dirt by gently wiping the bed frame with a soft cloth dampened with vinegar or cola. Rinse well with warm water after the initial cleaning. It is important to remove all of the dirt before beginning to clean and polish the bed; residual dirt may be gritty and could scratch or etch the brass.

  • Test the cleaning method you choose on an inconspicuous area of the bed. If it appears to scratch or etch the brass, discontinue using it and select another method. If the brass has a lacquered finish, rub the finish with a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove it if desired.

  • Make a vinegar paste by mixing 1/2 cup salt, 3/4 cup distilled vinegar, 1/2 cup detergent powder, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup warm water. Apply the paste to the brass bed and let stand for 15 minutes. Rinse the paste away with lukewarm water and a clean, soft cloth. Polish the brass with a clean, dry, soft cloth.

  • Spread ketchup onto the brass and let it dry. Remove the dried ketchup with a soft, dry toothbrush. Rinse well with water and buff with a clean, dry, soft cloth. Adding a small amount of Worcestershire sauce to the ketchup will boost the cleaning power of the ketchup.

  • Saturate a sponge or soft cloth with distilled vinegar or lemon juice and sprinkle it with salt. Rub the cloth on the tarnished brass until it is clean. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Buff to a shine with a soft, dry cloth.

  • Coat the brass with unflavored, natural yogurt and let stand until it is dry. Wash it off with warm water and buff with a soft cloth.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is important to thoroughly rinse the brass with warm water after using any of the cleaning methods listed above.
  • Brass will age and tarnish unless it is lacquered. The aged look, or patina, of old brass is often preferred by collectors. Removing it may reduce the value of an antique brass bed.
  • Vinegar may discolor the brass if it is left on too long. Use it in small areas at a time and rinse well with warm water.
  • Do not attempt to dismantle the headboard or footboard on an old brass bed that has evidence of corrosion. It is better to use a small toothbrush to clean hard-to-get to spots than to risk causing damage that cannot be repaired.
  • Avoid touching the brass you have cleaned with your bare hands. The oils in your skin will tarnish the metal.

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  • Photo Credit ketchup image by dinostock from
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