To maintain luster and prevent discoloration, the best brass cleaners can remove tarnish and polish brass in as little as one easy step. But before you start shopping it's important to note that brass cleaners are only meant to be used on unlacquered, solid brass items. If your item is brass-plated or has a lacquered finish, a brass cleaner may damage it.
Lacquered Vs. Unlacquered Brass
To determine if your brass object has a lacquered or unlacquered finish, look at the name at the time of purchase. Lacquered brass will usually be described as polished, satin, or brushed, but if you don't have that information, then the next easiest thing to do is inspect the item up close: If your item has a matte, tarnished finish, it's probably unlacquered. Conversely, if it's still nice and shiny despite having not been cleaned, it's probably lacquered. And if you're still unsure, then you can do a small sample test using a soft cloth and tiny amount of metal cleaner, if there are any black deposits on the cloth it is unlacquered.
Solid Brass Vs. Brass Plating
To figure out if your item is solid brass or brass plated, grab a magnet from your fridge, if it sticks, it's likey brass plating because solid brass is not magnetic. Brass-plated objects require a much more gentle touch to polish because the coating is so thin, and if you rub too hard or use too harsh a formula, the brass layer may wear off. While some cleaners indicate they can be used on both solid and plated metals, you should first attempt to polish the latter by wiping the surface with a simple soft cloth, mild soap, and water.
To get you started restoring and brightening your brass pieces, you'll find a list of the best brass polish solutions you can buy on Amazon below. They come backed by enthusiastic reviews and impressively high ratings, not surprising since many of these brands have been a household name in brass cleaning for decades.
1. The Overall Best Brass Cleaner
While a chemical cleaner, Wright's polish is notable for the gentle and odor-free nature of its formula. With your purchase, you'll get two 8-ounce jars that are safe to use on a variety of unlacquered brass objects, including cookware, home decor, hardware, and jewelry. The brand recommends wearing rubber gloves to protect your skin when you apply, but from, there, all you have to do is rinse your object with warm water and then dab on the cream with the included sponge (or with your own cloth). After rinsing again, dry and buff with a soft cloth. The drying and buffing process results in a glossy finish that will help prevent future tarnish. Note: The manufacturer promises that this cleaner is both mild and scratch-free, making it a suitable cleaner for both brass and brass-plated objects. Still, to be extra-cautious, skip the buffing stage for any brass-plated objects and avoid rubbing too hard.
Helpful review: “I work at a boutique hotel and we have a staircase that is very long and wide. The railing is brass. I needed a product that was easy to use and not chemical smelling. I tried it today and I love it. It was so easy to use and the brass railing has never looked this good. It took a quarter of the time to clean the railing, compared to the old product and no smell."
2. The Best Brass Cleaning Kit
With this Twinkle brass and copper cleaning kit, you receive two boxes of cream cleaner with a reusable sponge applicator, perfect for cleaning, polishing, and dissolving tough brass tarnish. Like the first pick on this list, this cleaner dictates that you pre-rinse the object before applying the cleaner, and then rinse again to remove the cleaner. Afterward, you only need to wipe the object dry with a clean cloth to reveal a restored, shinier, and less tarnished surface — no buffing is needed.
Helpful review: “We have a coffee table with square brass legs. Over the years the spots and tarnish have built up despite my using the leading brass cleaners along with homemade brass polishes. Decided to try Twinkle and wow! 2 sessions and we have a showroom quality coffee table. And the effort was minor: wet, apply cream, wash off, dry.”
3. The Most Affordable Brass Cleaner
Not only is this Brasso metal polish one of the most affordable options you'll find for a cleaner, but it's also the only liquid cleaner on this list that doesn't require any rinsing with water. Using a cloth or sponge applicator, you'll apply the formula to the object, and then dry and buff it with a separate clean cloth. In addition to brass, you can also use it to clean copper, stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, pewter, and bronze. Note: Because of its low price, this cleaner does not come with any extras (like an applicator sponge or cloth), so you'll need to purchase those separately.
Helpful review: “Worked perfectly on some old brass candlesticks. So, I used it on some cheap, tarnished jewelry with a toothbrush and lightly rubbed it with a fluffy washcloth. Very pleased!”
4. The Best Brass Polishing Cloths
These Cape Cod polishing cloths make removing tarnish and restoring shine to brass objects so simple. Each pouch comes with two separate, reusable 4 by 6-inch cloths that are pre-moistened in a cleaning solution. To use, you'll need to first ensure there's absolutely no visible dust or dirt on your brass object, then, take the cloths to buff around it and you'll notice a glossy coating is left behind. As a plus, these cloths give off a pleasant vanilla scent and can be used on a range of different metals, including brass and copper. Per the brand, each cloth can be used over and over again until they disintegrate.
Helpful reviews: “I saw this product on YouTube and decided to give it a try. It works excellent! I refurbish and condition luxury handbags and used it on tarnished metal hardware. It Works very well polishing brass providing you don’t rub too hard. This product will strip away any gold tone. It’s heavy in its conditioning grease on each cloth. Works very nice and I recommend!”
5. The Most Natural Brass Cleaner
Cleaning experts often tout white vinegar as an effective, natural approach to cleaning brass that doesn't rely on harsh chemicals. The acidic properties of vinegar supposedly help dissolve tarnish and restore brass metal's shine, all while being safe to use around children and pets. If you don't already have vinegar handy, this multipurpose Natural Armor vinegar boasts a potent, concentrated 30% formula (compared to the 5% vinegar that is more commonly sold).
For badly tarnished unlacquered brass, some recipes on the internet call for mixing vinegar with salt or baking soda to make a cleaning/polishing paste. However, it's important to note the effectiveness of these DIY solutions has not been proven, so you may want to spot-test this approach first.
Helpful review: “Someone recommended 30% vinegar for cleaning oxidation off of metal siding so we got a gallon just to try. It worked better than expected so ordered 3 more gallons to complete the job.”
You May Also Like: These Polishing Cloths
Backed by a near-perfect rating on Amazon, these cloths are worth considering if your preferred cleaning solution doesn't already come with the right accessories to help you buff away tarnish. This set of polishing cloths comes with five separate 7.5 by 5-inch reusable fabric squares, making it an excellent value for the price. Plus, they will not only help you get your brass pieces looking new, they are safe to use on mirrors, glass, and other metals (like gold, silver, and copper), too.
Helpful review: "I would definitely recommend the Sunshine cloths. I found them from a recommendation on a site where I bought some jewelry. They work on silver, gold, and brass. The best cloths I have ever used"