When I was a child, I would always wonder How to clean brass utensils and shine them as my mother does! I have seen my mother scrubbing away at brass and bronze idols with chunks of tamarind. The tamarind had its own special container with a small brush, tucked away under the sink. A special muslin cloth would appear out of the cabinets every Thursday morning to take its place amidst the cleaning arsenal on the countertop stacked to the edge with idols and figurines.
Tamarind was the prerequisite for cleaning then and was prepared by soaking it in warm water and muddled to form a paste. The fibres that came apart while muddling was used as a scrub to remove gunk from the vessels and idols. Eco friendly and gentle! These days, however, there are numerous chemical alternatives that are easier to use but could erode and scratch away at the metal surface. You can shine your brass and bronze easily at home with knowledge and some elbow grease!
But before we delve into that, let us understand the difference between Brass, Bronze and Copper.
What is the difference between Brass, bronze and copper?
Brass and bronze are both alloys, whereas copper is a naturally occurring element.
Brass is made of 60%-80% of Copper and 40%-20% of Zinc. It has a bright gold shine and hence, is used in making appliance/furniture fittings around the home.
Bronze is made primarily of Copper and approximately 12% of Tin. Unlike brass, bronze has a dull gold colour. On close inspection, you can also see faint rings on bronze surfaces. Upon knocking the surface, bronze produces a prolonged ringing sound, unlike brass.
Copper, on the other hand, has a reddish-brown colour. When pure copper is cut and exposed without any oxidation, the metal looks pinkish-orange. On slight oxidation, it appears a reddish-orange or an orange-brown. Significantly oxidised copper may brownish-red.
Now that we know what the difference between the metals is, let us take a look at other factors that you might need to keep in mind before you proceed to cleaning and stripping away the outer surface of your favourite piece.
Also, do I need to keep the patina?
Patination occurs when the metal is subjected to the elements outside. The outer surface is oxidised when it comes into contact with atmospheric humidity and oxygen. This leaves a darker layer on the surface and can differ in colour based on the reactivity of the metals (in the alloy). Most patinas start off as yellow tones and proceed to get darker over time.
Verdigris is also a product of oxidation and exposure but is mostly blue-green in colour. This is primarily seen in copper vessels and also splotched over brass and bronze artefacts. The Statue of Liberty is a great example of Verdigris as it stands near the seawater and is constantly exposed to the elements.
Both the patina and Verdigris are great and protect the metal underneath the oxidised surface. However, if the damage is extensive on thin surfaces, restoration procedures might be necessary. The choice to strip the metal of its patina is mostly dependent on the desired final aesthetic of the piece.
Many as how to clean brass without brasso? You can learn all the methods of cleaning brass and bronze without brasso with the steps listed below
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump right into the methods of cleaning.
How to Clean Brass Utensils ? 5 ways to clean brass, bronze and copper
Cleaning brass, copper and bronze vessels is not only restricted to the metal but the form as well. Artefacts and vessels come in numerous shapes and sizes with different frequencies of usage. Regularly used items with smooth surfaces can be easily cleaned and polished, whereas figurines or intricately designed items might retain buffing solutions and abrasive agents in the nooks and etchings and many wonder how to clean brass pooja items easily ?
Tools: Soft/medium bristled brushes to get into small nooks, reusable wipes/towels/rags for cleaning, muslin cloth for drying, natural cleaning sponges, soft sponge for buffing
- Identify the metal, any excessively dirty areas and make a choice about retaining the patination.
- Dismantle removable pieces of the artefact like screws, lids, chains.
- Wipe away dust and clean each piece with a paper towel or absorbent cloth to remove grease and oil residue.
- Clean and rinse idols and figurines of Chandan and kumkum residue.
a. How to clean kansa utensils by Boiling water with tamarind and vinegar: Set some water to boil and add tamarind paste and a bit of vinegar to it. Clean greasy items first with an absorbent cloth and submerge them into the boiling hot water. The duration is dependent on the amount of grease and oils on the piece and it is recommended that they are checked at regular intervals. Remove the piece and if any grease remains, wash off with mild dish soap. Rinse and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. This method is very effective for cleaning lamps.
How to clean bronze utensils / brass/ copper with Natural cleaning agents
a. Vinegar/lime and salt technique: Vinegar/lime and salt is the easiest way to naturally clean kitchen utensils. Vinegar strips away the outer layer and salt acts as a dissolvable abrasive that pulls the grime away. Pour some vinegar over the surface and sprinkle salt over it. Gently scrub with a kitchen scrubber. Rinse and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. This method is perfect for flat surfaces and kitchenware.
b. How to clean copper utensils with Tamarind pulp and dishwashing powder/liquid: Soak tamarind in warm water for a couple of hours and muddle it to a pulp. Leave a few fibres in the pulp and use them to scrub the pieces clean. Once scrubbed, wash off the residue with warm or room temperature water. Follow it with some dishwashing cleaner and rinse and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.
c. Vinegar or lemon juice with flour: Flour might seem like an unusual ingredient to use for cleaning but it makes for a very mild abrasive. Flour also holds the cleaning agents in place and allows for a uniform cleansing. Rinse and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.
How to clean Brass utensils using Natural scrubbing agents
a. Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring abrasive powder. This powder is available online at reasonable prices and also at gardening stores. Ensure that the product is food grade without any chemical additives. Start by spreading a paste of diatomaceous earth and water on the piece. Leave it on for a few minutes and scrub with a soft sponge or cloth. This method needs some serious elbow grease and if not done properly, it may leave scratches instead of uniformly buffed marks on the piece.
Cleaning brass with ketchup is an interesting method! Squirt a little ketchup on a clean cloth and rub over the brass item to clean it.
How to clean brass utensils using Soap and warm water
a. Soap and water is by far the best way to clean antiques and retain their patina. A naturally developed patina is protective in nature and always benefits the piece by minimizing contact with the underlying surface. Dish soaps without abrasives work best and they can be scrubbed with soft rags or sponges. This can be followed with a warm water rinse to rid the piece of residual soap and dried thoroughly.
Post cleaning routine
Tools: Soft cloth, protective wax
- Thoroughly dry all cleaned pieces and leave them in the sun to rid them of any residual moisture.
- Wipe once again to dry and remove dust particles and loose fibres.
- Apply a very thin layer of protective wax on decorative pieces to protect them from tarnishing. Buff this wax thoroughly to ensure even and thin application. DO NOT use wax on kitchenware and utensils.
Hope your answers on How to clean brass utensils have been elaborated ! Cleaning metal wares seems like a difficult process but it really isn’t. All you need is a bit of experience and once you understand what works best for you, the routine will become very simple.
Drop a comment below to let us know if we missed anything in this article on How to clean Brass utensils at home!
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Frequently asked Questions
Can I use vinegar to clean brass?
Vinegar/lime and salt is the easiest way to naturally clean kitchen brass utensils. Vinegar strips away the outer layer and salt acts as a dissolvable abrasive that pulls the grime away.
What is the fastest way to clean brass?
Squirt a bit of ketchup on the brass utensil and rub over with a cloth to clean the brass item
What is the best cleaner to clean brass?
Soap and water is by far the best way to clean brass and bronze and retain their patina.Dish soaps without abrasives work best and they can be scrubbed with soft rags or sponges. This can be followed with a warm water rinse to rid the piece of residual soap and dried thoroughly.
Is toothpaste good for cleaning brass?
Yes, toothpaste (not the gel ones) cna be used to clean brass effectively