View Full Version : brass cleaning

Alistair Hosie
02-04-2008, 01:19 PM
Hi What's the best thing to clean old brass?I heard sulphuric acid is good but don't like to have that stuff around.But if it works I will try it any thoughts?Alistair

02-04-2008, 01:57 PM
I've never tried this as most of my brass polishing is on small parts that I need to buff anyway so I just use a soft cotton cloth and clear-coat polish or a trip to the buffer with some Brownells 555 (http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=24792&title=NO.%20555%20GRAY%20POLISH), but, I recently saw this:
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Most commonly used kitchen cupboard or refrigerator ingredients that contain a natural acid, such as vinegar, Tabasco Sauce, ketchup, tomatoes, milk, and lemon or lime juice, will remove tarnish.

02-04-2008, 02:11 PM
Only one word you need to know - 'Brasso'

See here: http://www.stanleylondon.com/brasso.htm

I took army ROTC for 2 yrs in college, and used it almost every day to make the insignia shine. The stuff works like magic!!

02-04-2008, 02:20 PM
I agree with the Brasso.........but..........why clean it?? If you let it go long enough, it makes a very nice "GREEN" color.........LOL :D

02-04-2008, 02:22 PM
Citric acid will work and is more friendly than others.

One of my other pass times is handloading cartridges for my firearms. Often at the shooting range, other shooters will leave their brass behind. Sometimes this brass will get a bit tarnished and stained if left out in the weather. Tumbling in walnut shells and rouge or ground corncob will usually clean these up but for really stubborn stains I soak the brass in citric acid. Citric acid is available from your local drug store and they sell it for human consumption. It comes in powder form in about pint quantities.

I mix it a tablespoon full to a quart of warm water. I mix enough for an 8 x 12 Pyrex baking dish. The solution turns a little greenish as the acid works on the brass. Rinse it with water when you finish and I dry it in the oven at about 250 degrees.

I can't remember how much I paid but it wasn't a back breaker.

02-04-2008, 02:31 PM
When I was a kid, my grandfather used the best bright dip for brass I've ever seen. He made it by dissolving a cyanide egg in hot water & using *very* heavy gloves to immerse & wipe the brass -- outdoors & with a little breeze. OSHA would be OK with that, wouldn't they? 8)

Wouldn't let me do that when I got old enough, set up a buffing wheel & taught me to polish instead. :(

Sulfuric acid and the like will remove the um, patina, but won't give a reflective surface. For that you need Brasso for small stuff (did my time in Cadet Corps & ROTC, too) or buffing wheel (for small or large). I'd recommend Zam as a 1 step polishing compound.


02-04-2008, 02:39 PM
If you only want it clean, then citric acid or some of the other recipes work well, but if you want it to SHINE, then you must add the magic ingredient "elbow grease." I believe that Brasso has, along with its chemical mix, whiting or superfine chalk to give it that creamy texture. When you add the elbow grease it produces that wonderful gleam. None of the chemical dips can duplicate it. Duffy

02-04-2008, 02:57 PM
In a pinch toothpaste will work, we all have some of that around the house. (I hope)

02-04-2008, 03:00 PM
+1 on elbowgrease...
Dip a cork in some cigar(ette) ashes and rub.
To polish, repeat but with a soft cloth instead of a cork.
Ashes aren't as abrasive as they seem and the cork allows you to keep sharp edges sharp an flat surfaces flat...


02-04-2008, 03:57 PM
There's a product called Nev-R-Dull, which is basically Brasso-soaked cotton wadding. It comes in a navy blue can about 3 inches in diameter and about the same tall. You just pull off a chunk of the wadding and get to wiping. I like it because it's impossible to get a big orange-yellowish puddle all over the floor if you knock the can over.


02-04-2008, 05:46 PM
I have had the best results with metal polish made by "Flitz"-- available in liquid or paste. Cleans, leaves nice polish, and acts like "Brasso" but much, much faster. Cleans old brass cartridges in 1/3 the time required when using "Brasso"

Alistair Hosie
02-04-2008, 05:46 PM
This article I have is made up of a series of small thin wires and would be hard to do by hand.Alistair

02-04-2008, 05:58 PM
Nevr-dull, a Fireman Apprentice and a chit with his name on it for a weekend pass.
The brass on my tug never looked better!

loose nut
02-05-2008, 12:09 AM
Sulphuric acid works great, take standard battery acid, it's about 37% acid plus water, dilute 7 to 1 with distilled water, it will clean brass, copper etc. in a few minutes. It leaves a mat finish but very clean, good for cleaning before brazing and after brazing to remove flux from hard to get at spots. This is a weak solution but still dangerous to the eye's, it's best to wear goggles anyway, keep away from pets and kids and idiots. The best part is after you have used it for a while it becomes contaminated with the copper from the material you cleaned and if you dunk clean steel in it for a few minutes it will lightly plate out a copperish finish, great as a layout coloring. It will last indefinitely if stored in at tight sealing plastic pail, I use an old plastic 5 gallon oil pail with a rubber gasket in the lid to prevent evaporation.

02-05-2008, 02:16 AM
Sulphuric works well,but is perhaps overkill for a bit of brass.
I would stick with the citric acid,in your local supermarket in the baking aisle.
Hot water,a couple of teaspoons of the powder,and gentle agitation.if you leave it overnight,it won't eat the whole piece of material.
I don't know how big your piece is,Alstair,but if you happen to have one of those paint roller trays,use that.Other than that perhaps an old baking tray.
Btw,citric acid is also very effective at cleaning the scale out of your electric jug/kettle,and oh so cheap:)

Your Old Dog
02-05-2008, 07:41 AM
Only one word you need to know - 'Brasso'

See here: http://www.stanleylondon.com/brasso.htm

I took army ROTC for 2 yrs in college, and used it almost every day to make the insignia shine. The stuff works like magic!!

If you weren't using cotton balls it wasn't really shiney! Did the shoe polish on the Class A hat bill until it come up level with the piping that goes around the edge of the bill? Had a First Shirt come up to me during a final inspection and ask me "who do you think you are? F'ing Audie Murphy?" The implication being that was on crooked. He then reached up carefully and placed his thumb square in the middle of the bill to leave a calling card for me. I left one for him too, his thumb sunk into the shoe polish on the bill :D :D When inspection was over I went in to the can to check the hat in the mirrior and it was crooked!

Alistair, if you have a tumbler you can use walnut shells, they work really well. When you use the term brass without something like a brass ring or brass collar I immediately think of "brass" as in ammunition casings. Much to tedious to do with Brasso.

Alistair Hosie
02-05-2008, 09:38 AM
Y O D sorry laddie its too fine for a tumbler. It would get bent and bashed easily.Actually I bought this set of antique lamps in USA from the giant cartwheel market in Florida and they have many removable crystals which hang from the brass.Alistair

Lynn Standish
02-05-2008, 11:44 AM
Brasso and Never-Dull both work with a little elbow grease. They both smell like ammonia, which is a no-no with cartridge brass because of embrittlement. I know that a liquid product called CLR cleans it very quickly, but is not recommended for brass. It is used for removing mineral deposits and rust from bathrooms and other surfaces.

I also know that, when I was bluing guns with a home brew of Lye and Ammonium Nitrate at 295* F, brass sight beads and other brass bits came out of the bath VERY clean. You might consider some of the spray-on oven cleaner that is caustic/alkaline, similar to lye.

02-05-2008, 12:09 PM
Yep YOD, I still remember the cotton balls and spit-polishing shoes and cap visors. Took several polishings but finally one could achieve a mirror-like shine.
When I went to OTS we'd pay the shoe shiners at the barber shop to shine the shoes. They used some kind of solvent - solox I think it was called. They'd put just a drop or so on a rag and rub lightly after applying a thick coat of polish, and quickly build up a real high gloss finish.

I still spit shine my shoes ...whenever I get in a masochistic mood.

Your Old Dog
02-05-2008, 01:03 PM
ROFLAMO, you just reminded me of some non-Comms we had in basic. In the mid 60's Johnson floor polish company came out with a new liquid floor polish. They were putting it on their boots and they'd look like they were wet. Then the crap would dryup, flake off and leave the boots looking like hell !! It was a real hoot. I guess you had to be there :D