As expected, our hunt of new door handles is turning out to be slightly more difficult than we would like. On most doors, we still have the art nouveau door handles but sadly some of them have been replaced with ugly cheap ones and we now have to find 13 new ones to match original period ones.
I still have no idea why anyone would ever remove original features especially as the original door handles we’ve been looking at cost in excess of 100€ – each! Yikes!
While we’re still searching for new handles we figured that it was about time that we at least made the most of the ones we do have! They’re all in a good condition but they have been neglected, painted on and overall could all do with a really good clean.
While doing some research on how to clean brass I came across loads of different methods and it started to feel a bit overwhelming. Sometimes there’s just too much information out there and it can be difficult to sift through all different options to find out which is best for you.
How do you know which method is best? Well, we didn’t and we figured we couldn’t be the only ones confused by all of the different ways to clean brass so we thought we’d just try them all! A lot of the methods we tested just use household products that you probably have lying around!
Yep, I tried every method I read about! And if you’re wondering about the best way how to clean brass here are our results!
1. Tomato Ketchup
It felt very weird squeezing some tomato ketchup onto a door handle and even as I was applying it honestly felt like it was a method that just couldn’t work.
After wiping the ketchup over the door plate I left it to work. Surprisingly, after just 5 minutes I could already see the brass change colour and being impatient as usual, I rubbed it off about 10 minutes later. I’d still not expected to see a big change but just look at the difference!
That’s the result with no scrubbing or rubbing at all – I literally just wiped off the ketchup!
Yep, it just keeps getting weirder! I’d read how sour milk, buttermilk and yoghurt could all work when cleaning brass. We figured they all work in a similar way (I assume it has something to do with the acidity in all of them) so we tried to clean our brass with yoghurt.
We applied a layer of yoghurt onto the plate and let it rest for around 10 minutes before rinsing under water and rubbing the plate dry.
As you can see, this method worked surprisingly well, too and there was no scrubbing involved at all!
3. Salt, Flour & Vinegar
Sticking with the theme of using food to clean brass the next method we tried was a thick paste made of roughly equal parts of salt, flour and vinegar.
I rubbed in the paste with a toothbrush and then waited about half an hour before cleaning the door handle and patting it dry with a soft cloth. I have to admit, that I was a bit nervous about this method as I’d read that brass can easily scratch and I was worried that the salt might be too abrasive. It was also a bit of a sticky mess.
I only used a fine salt and didn’t rub on the mixture as I was worried about scratching the brass but as you can see, the mixture worked really well. It was a bit smelly though!
4. Lemon Juice & Baking Soda
This method is very similar to the flour, vinegar and salt cleaning method that I just mentioned. I used about half a lemon and a teaspoon or so of of baking soda to make a thickish paste which I then rubbed all over the brass.
Almosts instantly you can see the brass change colour and the dirt disappear. It really was quite amazing!
I would definitely recommend mixing the paste in a separate bowl and not attempting to mix it directly on the brass. The lemon juice seems to be really harsh and you could end up with a patchy result otherwise. You should also definitely give the brass a rinse under some warm water when you’ve finished cleaning it, too!
Admittedly this sounds like another weird method but we figured if yoghurt and ketchup clean brass why not give toothpaste a try, too.
As with the other methods, we just smeared some toothpaste onto the brass and waited. Because the paste is thicker than both ketchup and yoghurt it somehow felt like it could work – but it didn’t.
Out of all methods, we tried this one was by far the least effective. Basically, it didn’t work at all.
6. Brass Polish
Given how well some of our (almost) free household brass cleaners worked I probably wouldn’t have bothered purchasing a proper brass cleaning product but figured that, for this comparison post at least, it only made sense to see how well a professional brass cleaning product would work compared to the other methods that I tested.
Following the instructions of the cleaner I used (we used this brass cleaner called Elsterglanz which translates to magpie shine) I rubbed the paste over the brass and gave it a good polish with the provided cloth.
The cleaner worked really well and definitely left a much shinier and more even finish than the other methods I tried.
Having said that, it required a lot of muscle power to rub away the dirt on the very tarnished brass so I’d definitely recommend giving the item a clean with another method first and then switch over to polishing with a brass cleaner.
It wasn’t an expensive product and we have a ridiculous amount of door and window handles so it’ll definitely get used for day to day maintenance!
So, which method worked best?
I have to say that I was surprised at how well most of the methods we tried worked. My favourite method though was the ketchup! Other than wiping it on and off the handles there was absolutely no work involved.
The shop bought cleaner also worked really for polishing items and, as we already mentioned, left a much more even and shinier finish than we managed to achieve with any of the other cleaners (although that may not always be what you want to achieve, especially if you have a patinated antique!).
Here are the brass cleaning methods we tried in order of our preference:
1. Ketchup. Almost no work involved. Cover the brass, wait and rinse off. Couldn’t have been easier!
2. Lemon Juice & Baking Soda. I really couldn’t decide which method I liked best and it was a close contest between the top 3. This method left a super clean and even finish (like the brass cleaner) and worked almost instantaneously with very little effort.
3. Yoghurt. This method worked as well as the ketchup.
4. Bass Cleaner. Worked well and left a shiny and even finish. I found it very tough to clean really dirty brass though and would recommend pre-cleaning it with another method before just using the brass cleaner as a polish. It’s also the most expensive method we tested.
5. Salt, Flour & Vinegar. Worked really well but inevitably it smelt a bit and was super sticky which meant it was the most work to clean (I’m being super picky here!).
6. Toothpaste. Basically, it just didn’t work at all!
Now that we have lovely clean door handles we just need to replace our missing ones. Luckily we have been making some progress on that front and hopefully, we’ll be able to share something soon! I may need to take out a second mortgage to afford them, though!
Have you ever tried any of these methods to clean brass? Do you have a random product that works well for cleaning brass (or anything else!)?
PS. As you can see, we’ve not yet cleaned off the messy paint that someone has kindly left all over our door handles. We will, of course, be cleaning all handles some more but for the sake of comparing which cleaning method works best (for day to day dirt) we figured we’d save the fun of stripping paint for another day!