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:
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:
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:
- 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,
Step 3: Add baking soda…
…and watch your mixture fizz!
Let it settle down before mixing your ingredients.
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.
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:
And here is the rag I used. It does not look like much came off, but it sure did the trick.
Here is the before and after comparison:
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!