Copper and Brass Tarnish Remover

Make Your Own Copper and Brass Polish

••• Homemade Copper and Brass Tarnish Remover. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Looking for a low-cost, low-elbow grease way to clean the copper and brass around your home? Then, try this:

What You Need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • A cleaning cloth

What You Do:

Mix baking soda and white vinegar together to create a paste. It'll fizz for a minute, but will quickly settle down. Then, rub the paste into the copper or brass object that you wish to clean, using your hands or an old toothbrush.

Let it sit for 30 minutes or so; Then, rinse, and buff with a dry cloth; and enjoy that like-new gleam!

Why This Works:

The acetic acid in the vinegar and the sodium in the baking soda work together to dissolve the tarnish. And the baking soda provides just the right amount of grit to scrub all that tarnish away, without scratching the surface of the piece that you're cleaning.

Benefits of Using a Baking Soda/Vinegar Polish:

  • inexpensive
  • chemical-free
  • food-safe
  • environmentally-friendly
  • fast-acting


1) Be sure to use a soft cloth. Stiff brushes, scouring pads and other scratchy tools can damage the copper and brass.

2) If the object you're cleaning is badly tarnished, you may need to repeat the process to get all the tarnish off.

3) No vinegar? Use lemon juice instead. The citric acid in lemon juice works just as well.

4) This homemade polish can also be used to clean bronze.

5) Do not use this method to polish lacquered copper or brass.

Warm, soapy water should be sufficient. In fact, if the lacquer is in good shape, the metal shouldn't be tarnished anyway.

Other Ways to Remove Tarnish from Copper and Brass

If you don't have vinegar and baking soda on hand, you can also use ketchup to remove tarnish. Just grab the ketchup bottle from your fridge.

Squirt some on the piece you want to clean, and work it in with your fingers. Let it sit for a little while, so it has time to go to work on all that tarnish. Then, rinse it off, and dry your piece thoroughly. Easy and kind of fun, too. 

Another option: lemon and salt. Simply slice a lemon in half, sprinkle the cut side liberally with salt, and rub it over the surface of the piece you're cleaning. Re-salt the lemon periodically, to maintain your scrubbing power. Then, rinse; dry; and you're done.

Is It Solid Copper/Brass or Copper/Brass Plate?

If a magnet sticks to it, it's plate. If it doesn't, it's solid copper or brass. Why does this matter? Because plate is just a thin layer over some other type of metal, you'll need to be extra careful that you don't wear off the plate with all of your polishing. That may not be an issue this time, but with repeat cleanings it could be.

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