Testing 5 Popular Ways To Clean Badly Tarnished Brass Door Handles

I can’t wait for you to see the results of five different types of cleaners on badly tarnished brass door handles. Will the winner be a DIY product or a commercial product? Let’s find out!

clean badly tarnished brass door handles

We bought our property from an 80-something-year-old woman who had recently lost her husband.

Mary* (not her real name) had lived on the property for 50+ years, raised her kids there and every corner of the home held a lot of precious memories for her.

The house was very far from her kids and it hadn’t gotten a lot of love in a while because she was so old and could barely walk.

So they convinced her to sell it and grudgingly she sold it to us.

Even though we were going to completely renovate the property and modernise it, we decided to keep a few touches as a nod to Mary.

That’s why we kept the old brass door knockers and door handles. I initially was adamant about changing it but the builders thought it was solid, quirky, and fun so they convinced us to keep it and so we did.

Testing Different Cleaning Methods On Brass

I did a ton of research on how to clean brass and five different methods kept coming up. I will be testing these methods with brass polish as well as some DIY methods with ingredients from the pantry.

Let’s find out the best brass cleaner there is, shall we?

#1 Ketchup

ketchup for cleaning brass

You Need:

  • Ketchup/ Tomato Sauce/ Tomato paste
  • Soft Cloth


  • Apply ketchup to the brass piece and let it sit for 10 minutes
  • Wipe with warm water and a damp cloth
  • Repeat till all the ketchup is completely wiped off
  • Dry with a clean cloth

My Observation

cleaning brass with ketchup

Within five minutes I noticed the brass had started to change colour. I think the science behind this is pretty simple. Ketchup contains vinegar and vinegar is excellent for cleaning brass. So I am not at all surprised that this worked.

I only left the ketchup on for 10 minutes and it didn’t get all the stains off but maybe leaving it on a little longer will do the trick.

Score: 6/10

#2 Brasso

brasso for cleaning brass

You Need:

  • Brasso
  • Clean cloth or sponge


  • Apply a thin coat of Brasso to the cloth or sponge
  • Buff over the metal/ brass piece
  • Repeat for badly tarnished areas
  • Clean and polish with a soft dry cloth

My Observation

Cleaning brass with brasso

First of all, it smells bad. Really bad.

Brasso is a great product and it was made for…well brass. It’s also the only product that didn’t need water to get the product off. However, it can be quite difficult to get every bit of the polish off completely.

Be careful not to leave it on too long or clean too regularly. Regular cleaning will remove the top layer completely and any engraving on the brass might be completely erased.

Score: 8/10

#3 Lemon and Baking Soda

lemon and baking soda for cleaning brass

You Need:

  • Lemon
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • Ceramic bowl
  • Soft cleaning cloth


  • Squeeze 1 lemon into a bowl and add some of the baking soda. It should create a fizz.
  • Dip the cloth into the mixture and rub over the brass piece
  • Wipe off with a damp paper towel
  • Buff and shine with your cleaning cloth

My Observation

lemon and baking soda to clean brass

This is an all-natural method that depends heavily on the acidity of the lemon to remove the stains from brass.

I don’t want to be the girl that knocks natural methods but this was not impressive at all.

Another flaw in the recipe is that there is no opportunity for this to sit as I think one could get better results that way.

If you ever want to try this method, let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cleaning it off with a damp microfiber cloth.

Score: 4/10

#4 Bar Keepers Friend

bar keepers friend for cleaning brass

You Need:

  • Bar Keepers Friend
  • Clean cloth or sponge


  • Apply a thin coat of Bar Keepers Friend to the surface of the brass
  • Buff over the brass piece with a sponge concentrating even more on badly tarnished areas
  • Let it sit for no longer than one minute if badly stained
  • Rinse off completely with clean water
  • Dry and polish with a soft dry cloth
  • Repeat if necessary

My Observation

Cleaning brass with bar keepers friend

The shine and ease of the Bar Keepers Friend is superior to many products I tried. It has no weird smells, removes stains and actually buffs and shines the product too. What’s not to love about this product?

From the photo above you can actually see the difference in shine and that was just one wash. I repeated it to give some extra shine.

Score: 10/10

#5 Flour, Salt, and White Vinegar

flour and vinegar for cleaning brass

You Need:

  • Flour
  • Table salt
  • White vinegar
  • Small bowl
  • Clean cloth or sponge


  • Mix some flour, salt, and white vinegar till it forms a paste a little lighter than pancake mixture
  • Let it sit for 5-10 minutes
  • Rinse off and buff with a clean cloth

My Observation

cleaning brass with vinegar, salt and flour

This was my favourite DIY method. I think the reason why the recipe calls for flour is so that the vinegar gets direct contact with brass and gets a fair chance to really work its magic.

The pictures speak for themselves. This was such a great DIY and is a great substitute for store-bought or commercial products.

Score: 7/10

The Winner

Bar Keepers Friend

before and after cleaning badly tarnished brass

As you can probably tell from the scores, my favourite product is Bar Keepers Friend. It’s so brilliant. It provides shine, doesn’t smell bad and actually polishes the brass.

My second favourite is the vinegar, flour and salt mix. If allowed to sit just a little longer, it could potentially produce results that rival Bar Keepers Friend.

I hope this test helps you make a decision on what to use to clean your brass goods.

How to test for real brass

Before you test any of these cleaning products, it’s important to check if the brass object you are looking to clean is actually real brass.

The absolute best way to test real brass is to put a magnet to it. If the magnet sticks, then it is not solid brass. It might be brass-plated stainless steel.

Some of these cleaning methods might damage them if they are not real brass so be sure to check before you start.

Another way to check is by lifting it. If it feels heavy, it is likely brass. You can then double-check by scratching a corner with a sharp object like a knife. If the scratch point has a yellowish cast to it, then it is most likely brass.

You do not want to clean brass-plated items with harsh chemicals as they are coated with a very thin layer of brass.

Other Cleaning Posts You May Like:

3 Genius Ways To Clean Shower Doors With Vinegar (No Streaks)

11 Amazon Cleaning Products That Do A Damn Good Job

6 Minimalist Cleaning Supplies You Need (That Don’t Include Baking Soda)


Hey you, I’m Torera

Hey there! I am Torera, a home care and cleaning enthusiast with a mission to make cleaning as fun and easy as possible for women like you. As someone who had to learn everything from scratch, I have the mindset of a beginner and know exactly how to take you from A to Z. Let us ditch the overwhelm and create a space that is clean, cozy, and totally you!