While solid brass and brass plated bathroom fixtures may radiate the same brassy shine to the naked eye, you need to know the difference so you can properly clean and maintain each. Items made of solid brass can withstand more frequent and rigorous cleaning than their brass plated counterparts. Because brass plated hardware contains only a few layers of brass and is generally topped with a clear coat, using an abrasive cleaner can remove the topcoat and brassy finish over time. An easy way to determine if your bathroom faucet is brass or brass plate is to conduct the magnet test -- a magnet won't be attracted to a brass fixture, but it will to a fixture that's brass plated.
Mix mild dish detergent with hot water and wipe it on the brass bathroom fixtures with a soft cloth. Use firm pressure to wash the fixtures thoroughly before rinsing with hot water and drying with a clean cloth.
Soak a paper towel in white vinegar and tuck it around faucet handles or wrap it around the shower head where hard water stains are visible. Plug the drain and pour 1/2 cup vinegar into the sink to remove hard water deposits from the brass drain. Allow the vinegar to soak for an hour or more; longer is better.
Remove the paper towels and lift the drain plug before scrubbing away the hard water deposits with an old toothbrush. Rinse off all traces of vinegar using hot water.
Remove the seeds from half of a lemon and coat it with table salt. Rub the salted lemon over the entire brass surface, focusing on any residual stains and reapplying salt as needed. Wear rubber or plastic gloves. Buff the brass surface with a clean, soft cloth until it shines.
Apply linseed or mineral oil to the cleaned brass bathroom fixtures with a soft cloth to prevent tarnishing.
Cleaning Brass Plate
Wash the entire brass plated surface with a mild detergent mixed in warm water. Wear plastic gloves to prevent fingerprints as you gently rub the surface with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with warm water, and dry completely with a clean cloth.
Apply a mild commercial polish designed for use on brass plate to remove any remaining heavy tarnish. Test first in an inconspicuous area before applying with a soft cloth to the brass plated bathroom fixtures.
Wipe down the cleaned fixtures with warm water to remove all remaining traces of cleaner or polish, and then gently buff dry.