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How to Clean Copper Metal: The Homeowner’s Guide to Removing Tarnish

Muntz Metal

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, copper is the third-most consumed industrial metal worldwide, trailing only aluminum and iron. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if you had something made of copper in your home right now. Since copper is highly prized for its durability and brilliant shine, it is commonly used in wiring for electrical components, plumbing, cookware, and utensils.

Over time, however, copper will begin to lose its shine and you may begin to notice that sections are starting to become discolored. This is called “tarnish” and it happens because of a natural chemical reaction between copper and oxygen. As a result, copper items begin to look dull. Luckily, this process can be reversed with a little effort on your part-–and the best part is that you can easily do this with everyday items you already have laying around at home.

How do you clean copper metal using household items? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you clean copper, remove tarnish, and make these copper items look like the day you bought them:

1. Identify if the object is lacquered or unlacquered

Due to copper’s propensity to oxidate and tarnish, some manufacturers may decide to add a protective layer to copper objects (lacquered). Before you can start with the actual cleaning, it’s definitely a good idea to check if the object in question has this protective coating or not. This is important because your cleaning method will change based on the object’s finish. This guide will focus on unlacquered copper.

If you have a lacquered copper item, but you’ve noticed that the coat is starting to break down, you may opt to remove the coating and turn the item in question into unlacquered copper. This will allow you to follow the rest of the steps without worry.

2. Determine the extent of the tarnish present on the surface

Next, you’ll need to take a good look at the tarnish present of the copper surface. Not all tarnish are “created equal”. Older items that have been left unmaintained for long periods of time, will have more stubborn tarnish. If this is what you have on your hands, try washing the surface with a special mixture first.

Take a cup of vinegar, four cups of water, a tablespoon of salt. Place this all in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place the copper item inside the pot. The vinegar will help “soften” the tarnish on the surface, making it easier to remove in the next step. Generally, you want to soak the copper for a good thirty minutes to an hour to give the vinegar enough time to work its magic.

3. Identify the homemade cleaning agent you want to try

As the cleaning agent boils, now is the perfect time to set up the cleaning solution you want to try. Although there are different types of cleaning solutions for copper, the three methods outlined below are equally effective at cleaning copper sheet metal. Given this, simply choose which one is more convenient for you to make at home:

Fresh Lemon and Salt

Take a fresh lemon out of your refrigerator, as well as some salt (rock, table salt, etc.). Slice the lemon in half, while placing some salt in a small container for easy access. Grab the lemon, dip it in the container with the salt, and start slowly rubbing the lemon slice over the surface of the copper item. If you’re running a little low on lemon juice, squeeze the lemon lightly to release more juice.

Vinegar and Salt

Grab a relatively large container for this method. Pour ¼ cup of salt and vinegar into the container. Make sure that the salt is completely dissolved prior to applying it to the surface of the copper. Once the salt is dissolved, use a clean cloth to apply the cleaning solution to the copper item. When cleaning the tarnish off of the copper, make sure to slowly clean it using long, circular motions for the best results.

Ketchup

Ketchup is more than just something we can put on our hot dogs, burgers, and fries. The use of ketchup in cleaning certain metals has long been documented. This is because the acidic content of ketchup is just enough to loosen up tarnish, making it easier to remove. All you have to do is squirt a bit of ketchup onto a clean rag and start cleaning the surface. It’s that simple!

4. Rinse the copper item under running water

Regardless of how you chose to clean copper metal, all three methods mentioned above will leave some form of residue on the copper items. Make sure you run the copper item under running water to clean up any residue. Otherwise, the residue will only attract more dirt, resulting in the copper becoming tarnished faster. After you’ve washed it, wick away excess moisture with a clean towel or microfiber cloth.

 

Best Way to Polish Brass: Three Cleaning Mixtures You Can Make at Home

Best Way to Polish Brass: Three Cleaning Mixtures You Can Make at Home

Best Way to Polish Brass: Three Cleaning Mixtures You Can Make at Home

There is no denying that brass is one of the most popular metals for crafting ornamental pieces. This is mostly because brass has a unique shine and luster, as well as the fact that it’s a cost-effective material for metalworkers to use. In fact, you probably have more than a few brass items in your home, especially if you are living in an older house or heritage home.

Although brass is renowned for its visual appeal, it doesn’t stay that way forever. Over time, brass will begin to lose a lot of its shine due to tarnish.

Why Does Brass Tarnish?

Brass is not a natural occurring metal like gold or silver. It’s actually a combination of two different metals: copper and zinc. The standard ratio of copper to zinc is 67 percent to 33 percent, although this ratio may change depending on the type of brass the manufacturer requires.

This is important to know because the chemical changes brought about by combining copper and zinc makes brass quite susceptible to a process called oxidation, where the brass interacts with oxygen in the air. The result is “tarnish” or discoloration of the exposed layer.

Tarnish, however, is not irreversible. A good, thorough cleaning and polishing will often be enough to restore the shine and luster of any brass object. How do you polish brass?  The process itself isn’t unlike how you would clean any other part of your home. What is important is that you use the right kind of cleaner and polish. The best part is that you don’t really need to buy a chemical brass cleaner. You can easily make brass cleaner and polish from items you already have at home!

Before You Get Started!

There are a few things you’ll need to do before you attempt to polish brass using household items.

First, you’ll need to make sure that what you have on your hands is actually made of brass. The quickest way to check is to press a magnet against the surface. Pure brass is not magnetic so your refrigerator magnet should just slide off. If it sticks, the item in question only has a thin brass coat, which makes the item incompatible with the cleaning methods outlined below.

The best way to polish brass is to make sure the surface is clean. Once you’ve determined that the item is made of pure brass, it’s time to pre-wash it. This will help get rid of dust and dirt build-up, assuring you that the solution you’ll use to polish the item actually comes into contact with the brass itself. A simple mixture of warm water and a mild detergent is more than enough for this step.

Pro tip: Use a microfiber cloth to clean the brass. This will help minimize the risk of accidentally scratching the surface as you clean it. Ideally, you should have two different cloths: one for washing and another for polishing. This will help you avoid accidentally reapplying the dirt and grime back onto the surface of the brass.

Cleaning and Polishing Solutions You Can Make at Home

1. Fresh Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

Prepare a clean, glass bowl. Take a lemon from your refrigerator and and squeeze out its juices into your bowl. Pour a tablespoon of baking soda into the lemon juice. You should notice the mixture fizzle. Mix it slowly into a nice, thick paste. Get a bit of paste onto your microfiber cloth and apply to the tarnished section of the brass item, rubbing in a circular motion. Allow the paste to dry, and then use a damp microfiber cloth to remove the paste. This should leave the surface of the brass looking much shinier than it was previously.

2. Vinegar and Salt

For this polishing solution, you’ll need to find a plastic container large enough to fit the brass object. Once you have a suitable container, grab a bottle of vinegar and a container of table salt. Pour the vinegar and the salt into the container. Mix it until the salt is completely dissolved in the vinegar. Use a microfiber cloth to rub the polishing solution onto to the brass. Once you’ve finished, soak the brass in the solution for 45 minutes to an hour before rubbing the surface of the brass again. Repeat the process as necessary.

Alternatively, you can add flour to the cleaning mixture to form a paste. If you prefer this option, simply follow the same process outlined in the first point.

3. Ketchup

The fastest way to polish brass is to use one of the most beloved condiments in the world: ketchup. It’s the fastest because there’s no advanced preparation necessary. You can simply use the ketchup straight out of the bottle. Squirt some ketchup onto a microfiber cloth and start polishing the surface of the brass. Once you’re happy with the results, use a damp microfiber cloth to clean up the ketchup residue.

Brass Metal Cleaner

What is a Good Metal Cleaner and How to Clean Brass Items Properly

What is a Good Metal Cleaner and How to Clean Brass Items Properly

There is no doubt that metal’s illustrious shine is what makes it such a commonly used material for many everyday items like jewelry, doorknobs, and the like. Unfortunately, everyday wear and tear can take its toll on metals like brass, which result in the metal coating losing much of its shine and luster. In some cases, you may also begin to see tarnish forming due to exposure to the air and even the natural oils secreted by our skin.

Fortunately, a good cleaning and polishing is all it takes to restore the vibrancy of most metals. What is a good metal cleaner? That would depend. You’ll need to use the right type of cleaning solution based on the type of metal you’re working with.

Different Cleaning Solutions

The best thing to clean metal varies based on the metal itself. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to use anything with a high ammonia content when cleaning the surface of brass. Large concentrations of ammonia will only lead to further corrosion via large swaths of bluish deposits.

In the case of brass, there are a wide range of cleaning solutions that you can use without fear of tarnishing the metal. These include:

Quality Brass Cleaners

There are many different chemical brass cleaners available in your local hardware stores or supermarkets. These cleaners are specially formulated to thoroughly clean the surface of brass items without tarnishing the surface. Chemical brass cleaners are also designed to add a protective layer onto the surface of brass. This layer helps keep brass looking brand new for longer and helps protect the metal from corrosion.

Vinegar, Salt, and Flour

What can I use to clean metal if I’m looking for a green solution? Try using this combination of everyday items that you probably already have in your cupboard or pantry. Take a teaspoon of salt and pour it into a half cup of vinegar. Stir this initial mixture until the salt is completely dissolved. Once that’s done, add flour to the mixture until it becomes a thick paste. This paste can then be applied to the surface of brass. Leave the paste on for no more than ten minutes. Rinse the item in warm water and wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda

If you want to shine something that you don’t want to go through the hassle of dismantling (doorknobs are a great example), you may want to try this cleaning solution instead. Take a lemon and squeeze its juices into a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of baking soda and mix it well. You can then use a clean cloth to apply the mixture onto the brass surface. After the mixture has dried, use a wet cloth to remove any residue. Reapply the cleaning mixture as needed. Once you’re happy with the results, use a clean cloth to apply polish.

Cleaning Tips to Avoid Damage

The goal of cleaning brass items is to restore its original luster. However, a lot of things can go wrong when cleaning brass if you aren’t careful. The last thing you want to happen when cleaning is accidentally leaving scratches and other forms of damage. Here are a few tips to help you avoid such a situation.

Make Sure It’s Actually Brass

Some items may look like they are made of brass, but actually only have a brass coat on top of a different metal. If this is the case, there is a risk of accidentally scrubbing the brass layer off during cleaning, and there’s no guarantee that the metal underneath is compatible with the cleaning solution you use. The best way to check is to hold a magnet next to the item in question. Magnets won’t stick to pure brass. If you have an item with a brass coat, a simple cleaning mixture of warm soapy water will do.

Use a Clean Microfiber Cloth

Microfiber cloths are specially designed to be much softer and gentler than typical cloths and rags. As a result, clean microfiber cloths are much less likely to leave scratches on the surface of brass items. Of course, the operative word there is “clean”. Avoid using a dirty microfiber cloth when wiping off the cleaning solution. There may be tiny bits of debris stuck to the cloth and rubbing it over brass will lead to scratches. Ideally, have separate cloths for applying and removing.

Wear Gloves When Cleaning

Our skin naturally produces a thin layer of oil. This layer of oil can easily be transferred to the things that we touch. This can be a problem when cleaning brass since the oil from our skin is actually a substance that can tarnish brass. To avoid this, make sure you wear gloves while cleaning anything made of brass.

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