All-Natural, 2-Ingredient Brass Cleaner

Using common, kitchen ingredients you can clean brass without adding a toxic load to your home. If it was good enough for our mothers and grandmothers, it is good enough for us!Brass has been having a real ‘moment’ in home décor in recent years – and it does not seem to be abating. Everything from ceiling fixtures to lamps, from kitchen hardware to door knobs to quirky and seasonal home décor – you cannot open a home style blog or magazine without seeing beautiful brass adorning the home, whether it be in sprinkles or a full spread.

While I am more naturally drawn towards silver fixtures, I am a big fan of eclectic styling. This includes mixing metals. Done well, it can be a high-impact style statement in a home. For me, the best time to experiment with mixing silver and gold finishes is during the holidays, Christmas in particular, but also in the fall, when we begin re-introducing warmer, autumnal tones into the home. And there is no better time to introduce brass than when we are already changing out our summer décor – throws and pillows, for example – for the deeper, richer hues of autumn. Brass and copper really shine through in a fall colour scheme, making the home that much more cozy.

So it was with this thought in mind that I’ve begun collecting some bits and bobs of gold-accented decor at local home goods and thrift stores. But while brass can be pricy when purchased new, you can find great deals at your local thrift store, like this collection of brass candlesticks I purchased at just $3-$5 a piece:

6 thrift store candlesticks.

As with any brass thrift-store-find, these had lost quite a bit of their lustre. When I first brought them home, my mother-in-law (a brass and copper aficionado) cleaned and buffed the two on the right using a simple brass cleaner you can find at your local grocery store. They turned out so beautifully and create real interest in the home. A side-by-side comparison of one of the dirtier candlesticks (on the left) next to a cleaned and buffed one (on the right) shows just what a little cleaning can do:

candlesticks - side by side comparison of dirty and cleaned candlesticks

But if you’re like me (and I know my mother-in-law would agree), it’s important to find natural products that can do the same thing. It is surprising just how easy this can be. By using just two common kitchen ingredients – namely baking soda and lemon juice – you can bring back the shine in your dull brass thrift-store-find. Here is a quick tutorial on how I brought back the lustre to the candlestick on the left by using this all-natural, 2-ingredient brass cleaner recipe.

You will need the following:

ingredients needed - all-natural brass cleaner

  • ½ lemon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • bowl to mix your paste
  • soft cloth or rag

Step 1: Make sure you’ve purchased real brass!

It’s hard to tell if what you’ve purchased at the thrift store is actually brass or not. The easiest way to check is to grab a magnet and check if it attaches to the object. If it does then it’s not brass but some other element. Brass is actually an alloy of copper and zinc. (And there ends the science lesson 😉 )

If you’ve got the genuine article, then move onto the next step.

Step 2: Squeeze juice from half a lemon into your mixing bowl,

add juice

Step 3: Add baking soda…

…and watch your mixture fizz!

add soda

Let it settle down before mixing your ingredients.

soda settles

You can either wait a few minutes for your paste to thicken or simply move onto the next step.

Step 4: Dip your cloth into the mixture & begin to clean.

soft cloth

Start to apply your wet cloth to the brass. Instead of rubbing back and forth, you may find that the coating removes far better when moving your cloth in a single direction. At first, I was not sure if anything was being removed. At this point, especially in the early stages, it is important to remain patient! I began to see results after about 10 minutes of cleaning. And once the first layer was removed, I found that the dirt began coming off more and more easily. It will, however, depend on how dirty your brass is and how much elbow grease you are willing to put into a thrift store find. For me, my limit was 20-25 minutes to see the results I was looking for.

Step 5: Wash off your piece & reapply the paste as necessary.

Step 6: Buff to a beautiful shine using olive oil.

Wash off the excess paste, making sure you’ve removed it completely. Dry your piece with a clean, dry towel. You can either use a dry towel to buff or simply use a small amount of olive oil, using your towel to rub it in.

Since my candlestick was not new, I was not expecting a miraculous restoration. But, I’d say, it’s not too shabby:

Using common, kitchen ingredients you can clean brass without adding a toxic load to your home. If it was good enough for our mothers and grandmothers, it is good enough for us!

And here is the rag I used. It does not look like much came off, but it sure did the trick.

dirty cloth

Here is the before and after comparison:

Using common, kitchen ingredients you can clean brass without adding a toxic load to your home. If it was good enough for our mothers and grandmothers, it is good enough for us!

There are several variations of this natural brass cleaner recipe. In a pinch, all you need is an acidic astringent of some kind, like lemon juice or vinegar, and baking soda or even salt as your second ingredient, and you’ve got the makings of a great brass cleaner on your hands!

Feel free to share your own brass cleaner tips and tricks below!





  • Reply
    September 11, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Hi Jelica! We used to have many brass decorations at home when I was growing up, and I remember mom making her mix of baking soda and lemon. I totally forgot about this, and now it all came back to me! I don’t have any brass at my current home, I think I have too many gold accents and I steer away from the color when I go to home goods stores. But those candlesticks are GORGEOUS and what a steal! – Good job! Would love to see how you display them. Have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Reply
      September 11, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Hi Flavia! My mom was more of a copper gal and so we had a lot of copper as opposed to brass. She loved the Old World copper cappuccino sets especially – have one of my own, too 🙂 Both copper and brass are lovely in their own way. I do tend toward silver accents myself but am just loving the gold trend right now. I’ve got a few ideas for the brass candlesticks as I get the home ready for fall 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  • Reply
    September 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Jelica, this is so awesome! I hate using all of those chemical-filled cleaners! Now I just need to get me some brass ;p

    • Reply
      September 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Lol! Yes, having brass is most definitely the first place to start 😉 And when it comes to cleaning products, I tend to use more eco-friendly, natural products as much as I can. It’s surprising just how good some of the natural cleaners are at getting the job done!

  • Reply
    December 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Your recipe says baking soda and your picture shows baking powder?

    • Reply
      December 30, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      Both will work 🙂

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