How to Clean Brass. Brass is a metal alloy made from a combination of zinc and copper. Originally a sparkling goldish color, brass has a tendency to tarnish with age. Tarnishing is caused by oxidation from exposure to air. In order to keep brass looking good, it's necessary to clean off tarnish and polish your brass objects as needed.
Clean Brass to Restore Its Appearance
Lay down newspapers to protect your work surface. Cleaning brass can be a messy job.
Determine what is making the brass look dirty. Brass objects that are not tarnished can be cleaned with a simple soap solution.
Clean off surface oils with a mild solution of detergent and water. Dampen a soft rag or sponge and wipe down the object. Stop here if the luster is restored.
Use a paint or varnish remover to remove the lacquer coating from the brass object if one is present. Lacquer protects brass from oxidation, but it must be removed in order to clean off tarnish.
Polish the brass with a small amount of brass polish, available at any home improvement or hardware store. Use a clean, soft cloth for the application, and apply it in the direction of the brass grain.
Buff brass with a clean, soft rag until it shines. This may require some elbow grease.
Re-lacquer the brass to prevent exposure to air and oxidation. Spray lacquer on in several thin coats for best results.
Let the lacquer dry completely before moving the brass object off the newspapers or touching it at all.