How to Clean Grimy Copper Cabinet Hardware

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Simple pastes made from common cleaners can remove tarnish from copper cabinetry hardware.
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Often called brightwork, handles, pulls, knobs and other copper cabinetry hardware are an impressive addition to the kitchen.

They fit well with nearly any décor and can offer a touch of elegance in traditional spaces, rustic charm in a farmhouse style or an industrial look to a bank of boring kitchen cabinets.

But these fixtures can look dull when fingerprints and greasy spills build up on the surface. Cleaning copper and brass hardware in a kitchen and bathroom can bring a tarnished fixture back to life. It can also be hard work if there are layers of dirt and grime. The best way to clean brass hardware is with patience and care.


Simple pastes made from common cleaners can remove tarnish from copper cabinetry hardware.

Cleaning Copper Cabinet Hardware

Brass and copper are often cleaned with the same types of cleaners and methods, according to Bounty Towels. Use a soft, dry cloth to clean the copper fixtures before applying cleaners to remove fingerprints and dirt.

Make sure to protect the surrounding cabinetry with painter's tape if you are worried that the material can be adversely affected by the copper cleaning paste or commercial cleaner you plan to use.

Pastes for Cleaning Copper and Brass

There are a few simple pastes that use common household items to bring up the shine on copper hardware. Many of the pastes use an astringent, such as vinegar, to degrease and shine up the metal hardware and can stain granite or some wood cabinet facades.

One of the easiest pastes is made from 1-part baking soda and 1-part warm water. This is pretty basic but effective. A mix of baking soda and water makes a good copper cleaning paste in a pinch, as does toothpaste.

Handles 4 Doors suggests a mix 1 tablespoon of flour, salt and vinegar for tarnished brass and copper. Stir until the ingredients form a thick paste, adding more of the dry or wet ingredients as needed. It should be as thick as toothpaste and able to cling to the hardware without falling to the ground or spreading to the surrounding cabinetry.

Restore Brass Door Handles

To restore brass door handles and return the fixtures to their original gleaming condition, you can use commercial cleaners or homemade concoctions that are affordable and highly effective. To clean oxidized door handles, you can use a paste or commercial liquid polish, such as Bar Keeper's Friend.

If the drawer pulls or handles are still stained, then cut a lemon in half, dip it in salt and rub it over the tarnished hardware to take down more stubborn spots and discoloration. Follow this with another layer of paste slathered and left on for 20 minutes, if not overnight.

Maintaining Shiny Copper and Brass

Regular cleaning is important to keep the gleaming hardware in tip-top shape. Give the metal hardware a pass with a clean, dry cloth as you work around the kitchen. Once a week, take time to thoroughly wipe the copper or brass handles, knobs and pulls from top to bottom to keep grease and dirt from building up.

Once a month, use a mild polish to shine up the copper or brass fixtures in your living space. This can also be done every few months to maintain the shine.


Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at

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