How to clean brass handles (and stuff)


I still get lots of pins from this post and I really could do with revisiting this with one more brass handle from church!

Ok, so this post has been in the offing for a while. We've had the front of our church building decorated with the masonry painted, the front doors painted, new hanging baskets put up etc and it was decided that the front door furniture just wasn't going to cut it.

Before & After

I already did the two front handles, they both looked shiny, shiny, shiny when I'd finished with them like the one on the right there. But I took my time doing the inside handle and letterbox so I could show you how I did it.

So here's what I needed to clean.
Brass letter box, handle & Push sign
Well, at that point I assumed they were could be anyone's guess really!

I started with the push sign cos it was the smallest. I'm all about results me!

Gather the 'secret' weapons!

Ok, I'm fairly predictable! I must admit though that after doing scrubbing with these I had a hankering for pancakes with lemon and that's what we had!

Anyway, coat the items with sugar and then drop on enough lemon juice to saturate the sugar. You can leave it to soak for a while if you like.

With the small push sign I just used an ordinary green topped scrubby pad and a small amount of elbow grease and here's how it came out.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

So, onto the indoor handle.

It was so tarnished I wasn't sure what I would find when I scrubbed but I coated it and left it to soak.

I got at it with the scrubby and...urm....

....then I decided it wasn't hardcore enough and I needed back up scrubbers...

I didn't realise brillo was now part of the Mr Muscle range....anyway, moving on, I got scrubbing and discovered what was underneath all that browny tarnish.

Yet more tarnish! I think that the first layer of tarnish is on top of the layer of clear varnish which is on top of the brass. The actual spindly handle has come up lovely and shiny but I think I need some paint stripper for the next bit before I can scrub away that tarnish. Bah, I'd been hoping to do without chemicals.

Anyway, this one's still in my to do pile.

But I did move onto the letter box. As you do...

This letterbox took a lot of scrubbing. A LOT! This kind of cleaning is not for the faint hearted (or weak of arms). It took about 3 or 4 lots of 45 minute (ish) scrubbing sessions. I can't remember's all blurred into one LONG scrubbing sessions! Anyway, I did take a picture of it after the first two sets of scrubbing.

I was cheered up by uncovering that gorgeous braid trim along the bottom. Who would have thought that underneath that grimy browness (that's a new word, do you like it?) would actually be shininess! (apparently blogger accepts that as a word but not blogger...odd).

Anyway, some more scrubbing later and a good old polish up with this is called for.

 When this says to use a small amount it means SMALL! Put a teeny, weeny amount on with a soft cloth and polish it off again straight afterwards. Your cloth will go black where you've polished it off but the brass will be shiny!


Personally I'm not 100% happy with it, but that's cos I'm pernickity!

Here it is in situ on the front doors in my before and after.

Ok, let's be honest, with elbow grease it is easy peasy lemon squeezy but you have to be committed to scrubbing!

Psst! If you found this post useful, you can support my blog by visiting my sewing pattern shop on Etsy, Sewing Patterns by Miss H. Thank you :)

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  1. Wow! Those turned out so shiny! I love to see results like this! I enjoy cleaning when I can see the difference it made!

  2. That's amazing. I LOVE the transformation, and of course I always like to learn new cleaning tricks. :)


  3. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Oh, that's excellent work indeed. Metals have a long lifespan, but it needs a touch of cleanliness to make sure that it looks impressive. Nothing like something shiny to cheer the soul up, no?

    1. I agree Laurence, who can be glum when surrounded by shiny :)

      I couldn't email you directly as your profile is set to not show your email address so you show up as a 'noreplyblogger' unfortunately. Hopefully you see this though :) x

  5. Have just tried the lemon and sugar. .. wonderful, used the Brillo pads. really works...

  6. Thanks for the tutorial! Does the polish seal the brass from future oxidation? Before reading your blog I had tried to clean some brass part that had been darkened by oxidation. They were small and I could drop them in a small jar filled with vinegar. The vinegar turned the dark spots in gold-pinkish one and I was pleased enough with the result. Gradually weeks after weeks the oxygen in the air turned those pieces of brass back to their dark spots. Is it pointless to use vinegar? What do you use to seal the brass?

    1. Hi Guido, you can use a clear varnish over the brass items once they've been cleaned to protect against future tarnish. This should last around 10 years on an outside item but may need a bit more scrubbing when you come to clean it again!

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