While brass-plated light fixtures in your bathroom may lend a look of elegance to your home, it takes only a little bit of rust to mar their appearance. While many rust-removing products boast the ability to remove it nearly effortlessly, you may have all you need for the job in your home already.
Decide whether you want to use a commercial brass cleaner or make your own. There are many good store-bought options to choose from, but you can make your own with household products.
Before You Start
It's important to remove the light fixture from the wall or ceiling and take out the light bulb. Even with the light turned off, it's still unsafe to use moisture where electricity is. So turn the power off to that light fixture. Depending on the light fixture, you may need to unscrew it, so have the right tools for the job ahead of time and use caution.
Ensure that the fixture is indeed brass plated and not solid brass by holding a magnet to it. If the magnet sticks, then it's brass plated with another metal underneath. If the magnet falls off, it's brass and the discoloration is tarnish.
Try This First
It's best to start with hot, soapy water and a microfiber cloth, says Bob Vila. Wash the entire surface thoroughly, using a toothbrush to get into crevices. Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly before putting the fixture back. If the rust stain is small, this may be all you need to do. If the stain remains and can't simply be scrubbed away, consider other methods.
You should avoid abrasive cleaning cloths, metal-bristled brushes or steel wool. These will scratch brass-plated items.
Remove the Rust
Using a mild acid, you can easily eliminate lingering rust. Vinegar and lemons, which are both mildly acidic, are a natural alternative to removing rust. To use vinegar, mix equal parts salt, flour and white vinegar into a thick paste. Use the paste to cover the rusted area. Leave the paste on the rust for at least an hour before rinsing it off.
To use lemon, slice it in half, remove the seeds and sprinkle salt all over it. Scrub the rust with the salted lemon half, adding more salt if needed until the rust is gone. Once you've covered the surface, buff the surface until it shines using a clean, dry cloth. Alternatively, you can make a paste with 2 parts cream of tartar powder to 1 part lemon juice. Rub this on the brass, let it sit for a half hour, rinse with warm water and buff.
If you want to try a commercial product, consider trying Brasso Metal Polish, which is safe to use on brass-plated items.
After the Rust
Wash the area with warm, soapy water. Use a mild soap such as a bleach-free dish soap and rinse the area well. Dry the light fixture with a soft absorbent dry towel and set it aside to finish air-drying. Depending on what the piece looks like after the rust has been removed, it may need to be repainted.
To prevent tarnishing, use a thin coat of linseed oil or mineral oil to clean brass. Use a soft, terrycloth towel to apply.
Melynda Sorrels spent 10 years in the military working in different capacities of the medical field, including dental assisting, health services administration, decontamination and urgent medical care. Awarded the National Guardsman’s Medal for Lifesaving efforts in 2002, Sorrels was also a nominee for a Red Cross Award and a certified EMT-B for four years.