How to Polish a Brass Rail

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Things You'll Need

  • Bucket

  • Dish soap

  • Rough cloths

  • 1 cup vinegar

  • Salt

  • Boiled linseed oil

  • Lint-free cloths

Proper polishing returns brass rails to their full luster.

Brass rails, especially those that are well-used along stairwells, tend to tarnish and become dirty over time. They attract oils and dirt from hands and arms, which in turn ruins their luster. Return them to a high shine by first removing all the unattractive tarnish, then polishing them so they look like new. Brass mellows and develops a slight patina with age, so use the proper cleaners so that it retains this natural luster without looking grimy.


Step 1

Fill a bucket with hot tap water. Add two to three squirts of mild dishwashing soap.

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Step 2

Wash the rail with the soapy water and a rough cloth. Scrub away any dirt or grime. The soap will not remove tarnish.

Step 3

Heat 1 cup of vinegar in the microwave for two to three minutes. Soak a rag in the vinegar solution then dip it into a bowl of table salt.

Step 4

Scrub any heavily tarnished areas with the vinegar and salt until the tarnish is removed. Reapply the vinegar and salt to the rag as needed.


Step 5

Wash the vinegar and salt solution from the rail with the hot soapy water. Rinse with clear water and wipe dry.

Step 6

Moisten a lint-free cloth with boiled linseed oil. Rub the oil into the rail, polishing it to an even luster. Wipe the excess oil from the rail with a clean cloth.


Remove corrosion from brass by rubbing a cut lemon on the area. Dip the lemon in salt first to provide some abrasive action.


Enlist a professional restorationist to clean antique brass.


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