Brass jewelry is beautiful when shiny and new, but it inevitably loses its luster over time. Exposure to air causes brass to tarnish, forming a dark layer of oxidation that hides its lovely golden color. While you can pay to have your brass jewelry professionally polished, it’s easy and inexpensive to clean it yourself at home. This guide covers simple, non-toxic DIY methods for removing tarnish and restoring shine to your brass jewelry.
Why Brass Jewelry Tarnishes
Brass is an alloy made primarily of copper and zinc. The copper gives brass its golden color, while the zinc makes this metal harder and more durable than copper alone.
Unfortunately, the copper in brass jewelry readily reacts with oxygen in the air, causing a layer of oxidation to form on the surface. This oxidation appears as tarnish, which can range from faint dark spots to a thick dark coating.
Tarnish not only dulls brass jewelry’s color, but it also degrades the metal over time. As oxidation builds up, it corrodes the surface of the brass. So it’s important to clean brass jewelry periodically to keep it looking beautiful.
The good news is that tarnish is only superficial surface oxidation. With the right gentle cleaning method, you can safely remove it at home without damaging the underlying brass.
Supplies for Cleaning Brass Jewelry
You likely already have most or all of what you need to clean brass jewelry at home. Here are some common ingredients and supplies:
- Distilled white vinegar
- Lemon juice or lime juice
- Baking soda
- Aluminum foil
- Small bowl
- Soft cloth or microfiber towel
- Toothbrush or other soft-bristle brush
Avoid using chemical jewelry cleaners or harsh abrasives, as these can damage the soft surface of brass. The items listed above provide safe, effective options for DIY brass cleaning.
How to Clean Brass Jewelry with Vinegar
One of the easiest and most effective ways to clean tarnished brass jewelry is by soaking it in white vinegar. The acetic acid in vinegar dissolves the oxidation on brass, while being gentle enough not to harm the underlying metal.
Here’s how to clean brass with vinegar:
- Fill a small bowl with undiluted white vinegar.
- Place your brass jewelry in the vinegar and let it soak for 2-3 hours. For heavily tarnished pieces, you can soak overnight.
- After soaking, use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to gently buff off any remaining tarnish.
- Rinse the jewelry under warm running water and pat dry with a clean towel.
The brass jewelry will look freshly polished, with its original shine and luster restored!
Cleaning Brass with Baking Soda
For jewelry with engraved patterns or set gemstones that can’t be soaked, baking soda provides a great alternative for tarnish removal. When combined with some water, baking soda forms a mildly abrasive paste that lifts oxidation off brass.
Follow these steps for cleaning brass jewelry with baking soda:
- Add a spoonful of baking soda to a small bowl. Mix in just enough water to form a paste.
- Dip a soft toothbrush or cloth into the paste. Gently scrub the tarnished areas of the brass jewelry.
- Rinse the jewelry under running water and pat dry with a clean towel.
- For stubborn tarnish, make a thicker baking soda paste and let it sit on the jewelry for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing. The longer dwell time allows it to break down the oxidation.
Baking soda is abrasive enough to remove tarnish, but safe and effective for most jewelry when used carefully. Rinse well after cleaning.
Using Salt and Vinegar to Clean Brass
For an extra polishing boost, you can combine the tarnish-removing power of vinegar with the mild abrasiveness of salt.
To clean brass jewelry with this dynamic duo:
- Sprinkle salt onto a piece of aluminum foil. Place your brass jewelry onto the salt.
- In a small bowl, stir together equal parts vinegar and warm water.
- Dip a soft cloth or toothbrush into the diluted vinegar. Gently scrub the tarnished brass jewelry.
- Rinse thoroughly with water and dry.
The salt provides just enough gentle abrasion to aid the vinegar in dissolving the tarnish for a deeper clean. This works well for intricately engraved or detailed pieces.
Clean and Shine Brass Jewelry with Flour
Ordinary flour can also be used to clean tarnished brass when made into a paste. The fine particles in flour help remove oxidation and leave behind a polished finish.
Follow these steps to use flour for brass cleaning:
- Add a spoonful of flour to a small bowl. Gradually mix in water until you get a paste consistency.
- Apply the paste to the brass jewelry using a soft cloth. Gently rub to remove tarnish.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water. Dry the jewelry with a clean soft towel.
- For a brighter shine, you can buff the dry jewelry with a microfiber cloth.
Flour is an inexpensive, non-toxic way to clean brass and provide a gentle polish. Just be sure to rinse away all traces of the paste after cleaning.
Also read: How to clean stainless steel jewelry?
Maintaining a Shiny Brass Finish
Once you’ve removed tarnish and restored shine to your brass jewelry, you’ll want to keep it looking its best. Here are some tips for maintaining a brilliant polished finish:
- Store brass jewelry in an airtight container to limit air exposure. Add anti-tarnish strips to the container.
- Apply a thin coat of brass polish or anti-tarnish lacquer after cleaning. This helps prevent oxidation.
- Clean brass regularly before heavy tarnish builds up. Light surface tarnish is easier to remove.
- Remove brass jewelry before bathing, swimming or cleaning with chemicals. Avoid wearing brass during strenuous activity.
- Use a polishing cloth to buff brass jewelry after each wear. This removes fingerprints and other compounds that cause tarnish.
With proper care between cleanings, you can keep your brass jewelry gorgeously shiny for years to come.
5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Brass Jewelry
1. Can I use lemon or lime juice to clean brass jewelry?
Yes, you can use lemon or lime juice to clean tarnished brass. Like vinegar, the citric acid in lemon/lime juice dissolves oxidation on the surface of brass. Simply soak the brass item in lemon or lime juice for 2-3 hours, then rinse and dry.
2. How do I clean brass jewelry with patina?
For brass with an antique patina finish, avoid using acidic cleaners like vinegar or citrus juice. These will strip off the patina layer. Instead, gently clean patinated brass with mild soap and water. Use a soft brush for engraved areas and rinse/dry well.
3. What’s the best way to clean brass jewelry with stones or crystal accents?
Soak stone-set brass jewelry in warm, soapy water and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. Avoid vinegar or baking soda solutions, as these can damage softer stones and crystals over time. Rinse and dry thoroughly after cleaning.
4. Can I wear brass jewelry in the shower or pool?
Avoid wearing brass jewelry while bathing or swimming. The heat, soap and chlorine can accelerate tarnish and corrosion. Remove your brass jewelry before getting it wet.
5. How often should I clean brass jewelry?
Clean brass jewelry whenever you notice tarnish forming, generally every few months with occasional wear. For brass jewelry worn daily, aim to clean every 4-6 weeks. Regular cleaning prevents heavy tarnish buildup that can permanently damage the metal.
With its warm golden glow, brass jewelry is a timeless accessory choice. While brass tarnishes naturally over time, you can easily revive its shine and luster at home. Using gentle ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and salt, you can safely remove tarnish without harsh chemicals.
Implement a regular practice of DIY brass cleaning along with proper storage and handling. Your cherished brass jewelry will maintain its beauty and sparkle for many years of wear. The satisfaction of restoring a favorite brass pendant, watch or ring yourself makes the simple process well worthwhile.