Brass is Back!
How to Clean and Display Brass Decor
Brass décor items are back in style! I see it all over Pinterest and on home décor websites.
I decided to clean up some vintage brass pieces that I had stored away.
Plus—I recently picked up a unique, vintage brass tray at an antique mall.
Is Your Brass Piece Plated or Solid?
I have two vintage pairs of brass candlesticks, a brass vase, and the recently acquired tray. You can see in the photo that these pieces were all quite dirty and tarnished.
Do you see the little refrigerator magnet stuck to the brass vase in the photo above? The Magnet Test tells you if your piece is really solid brass, or brass plating over some other metal.
If a magnet sticks to your piece, then it is brass plating over another metal. If the magnet does not stick to your piece, then you know it's solid brass.
In the case of my little collection, the two short candlesticks and the vase are brass plated (the magnet did stick to them). The two taller candlesticks and the tray are solid brass (the magnet did not stick).
One of the reasons for testing your brass in this way is that you want to be careful not to use cleaners that might remove brass plating from metal.
An Interesting Vintage Brass Tray
The photo above is a “before” shot of the vintage brass tray. It is covered with years of black grime and tarnish.
The tray has an interesting engraving of Egyptian pyramids, columns with Egyptian hieroglyphics, and a sphynx in the foreground. Also, the edges and handles are quite intricately decorated.
But, the tray was so tarnished and dirty that you could barely see the exotic scene.
Cleaning Brass with Natural Products
- Baking soda
- Paper towels
- Soft, clean cloth
- Old toothbrush
First, I decided to try cleaning the solid brass pieces with ketchup. This is a cleaning method that I have read about from several online sources.
In the photo above, you can see how the black, grimy tarnish was immediately coming off the tray onto the paper towel that I was using to apply the ketchup.
To let the ketchup act on the brass, I allowed the tall candlesticks and tray to sit with the ketchup on them for about 30 minutes. Then, I wiped the ketchup off and washed the pieces with Dawn dishwashing liquid and water, rinsed, dried thoroughly, and polished with a soft cloth.
Next, I tried making a paste of vinegar and water to clean the vase and the shorter candlesticks. These pieces are not as tarnished as the tray and the tall candlesticks, so I thought that vinegar and baking soda would do the trick.
The vinegar and baking soda cleaning did not make these pieces as shiny as I wanted them to be. So, I used the ketchup-cleaning method on these pieces, too. I followed the same steps as I did for the tray and the tall candlesticks.
I found that the ketchup-cleaning method had an excellent effect on the short candlesticks and the vase.
The Results of Cleaning Brass with Ketchup
In the photos above, you see the short candlesticks and the vase after cleaning with ketchup. I was pleased with the result and did nothing more to these pieces.
After cleaning with ketchup, the tall candlesticks and the tray are cleaner but not bright and shiny.
For the candlesticks, I like this result. They have a warm glow that emphasizes their vintage quality, and they do not look tarnished or dirty. So, I didn’t do anything else to them.
For the vintage tray, however, I wanted a cleaner, brighter effect. Because there is an interesting scene engraved on the tray, I wanted to go a step further in cleaning this piece.
Warning about Cleaning and Polishing Antique Brass
If you have a piece of real antique brass, you might want to check with an expert before cleaning and polishing it. In some cases, the blue-green patina that develops on old brass contributes to the antique value of the piece. For this reason, you might want to leave the piece alone.
In the case of my tray, I decided that the black grime and tarnish were probably NOT adding to its value. I wanted to give the piece some further treatment to clean and polish it.
Cleaning Brass with Brasso
My next step was to purchase some Brasso from Home Depot. It comes as a thick liquid that you apply to brass, wipe off, and polish.
When using Brasso, you should be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, as it has a strong smell.
Rubbing in a circular motion, I wiped the Brasso on the tray with paper towels. For the intricately decorated edges and handles of the tray, I used an old toothbrush to get the Brasso down into the grooves.
I did not let the Brasso sit on the tray, as I had done with the ketchup. After rubbing it in, I wiped it off with clean paper towels, repeating this process a couple of times, as layers of grime and tarnish were coming off. Finally, I washed the tray with Dawn dishwashing liquid and water, rinsed and dried thoroughly, and polished with soft cloths.
The Results of Cleaning with Brasso
In the photo above, you can see that the vintage tray is brighter after cleaning with Brasso.
The candlesticks and the vase became clean and shiny enough with the ketchup-cleaning method. But, the tray needed Brasso.
Don’t you think the engraved Egyptian scene is interesting?
Displaying Brass in Your Home Décor
You can display brass pieces in so many ways in your home décor. Let your imagination go!
Here, I’ve used the tray, tall candlesticks, and the vase in a vignette on my coffee table.
Mr. B. brought home the wooden elephant sculpture from a mission trip to India following the tsunami of 2004. Doesn’t it look nice with the brass pieces?
Cleaning Brass: How-To Posts from Around the Web
Do you have any brass pieces that you’d like to clean? Check out these articles for ideas.
- How to Clean Brass Naturally from Mother Nature Network
- How to Clean Brass from Wiki How
- How to Clean Brass with Natural Ingredients from Apartment Therapy
- How To: Clean Brass from Bob Vila
Decorating with Brass: Inspiration from Around the Web
Maybe you’d like to use brass in your home décor. These articles might give you some much-needed inspiration!
- My Brass Candlestick Collection from Lindsey at Better After
- The Trendiest Materials for Your Home Decor in 2017 from Brabbu
- Decked Up Entrance (Diwali Special Part 1) from Pinky at Pinkz Passion
- Touches of Brass and Gold from Kate at Centsational Girl
- Why Matte Brass Might Be the New King of Metallics by Emily at Style by Emily Henderson
- Bar Cart Styling Ideas and Tips from Kristin at Bliss at Home
- Coffee Table Talk from Ceres at The Pink Dream
Takeaways from this Project
- I like the idea of cleaning with natural products whenever possible, so I’m glad that most of my brass pieces needed only ketchup for cleaning.
- Brass décor items are fairly easy to come by, and they make nice accent pieces in your home décor.
- The vintage tray is the only new-to-me item that I cleaned for this project. All other items were stored away in my home for years. I’m delighted to bring these pieces out of hiding, clean them up, and begin to display them again in my home decor.
What do you think? Do you decorate with brass? Have you used an effective method for cleaning old brass? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Enjoy Life Creatively!