26 June 2014

How I Cleaned Heavily Tarnished Brass Knobs

 I'm back with a sideboard update: it's finally finished!! It took forever and a freaking day to get that thing painted, mostly because of the state that it was in before I got started. I had to do way more cleaning, prepping, and painting than I ever have on a piece of furniture. 

One thing I had to do was clean up the drawer and door knobs. I really wanted to keep the originals- I'm 99.99% positive that they are solid brass. 
But they were a mess- in all the years we had this in our house growing up, I actually had no idea these were even gold colored. 

Here they are on the sideboard before I took them off: 

And here is a close up of one of them just before I started trying to clean it:

I started out by trying to clean them with silver polish (don't have brass polish and wanted to use what I had on hand) and tweeted a picture yesterday of this same one after I'd sat polishing it for like a half hour. There were several bright patches of brass showing though but I still couldn't make a dent in most of the tarnish. 

I then wised up and went to Google, where I read several tips about using lemons and salt. 
I don't have any lemons and didn't want to make a trip to the store so instead I used lemon juice. 
I poured some in a bowl and heated it up in the microwave till it was hot, and then sprinkled a bunch of salt inside. Then I'd let two or three knobs soak in the juice while I took them out one by one and scrubbed them with a toothbrush and more salt. It was sooo much easier than the metal polish had been, and even before scrubbing them I could see them brightening up in the lemon juice. 

After getting most of the tarnish off I rinsed them in warm water, dried them really well and then did a quick buff with the silver polish to really brighten them up. 

Be careful though if you try this cleaning method to make sure that your brass is solid- if it's plated then the lemon juice and salt could ruin the finish. To test your brass to find out if it's solid, see if a magnet sticks to it. If it does, it's most likely plated. If it doesn't stick, it's more likely that it's solid. You can further test it at that point by using something sharp to scratch a spot on a hidden area of the object- if the scratched area still looks golden, then it's even more likely that the brass is solid. 

Here's how the sideboard's knobs look now, with just enough shine to look glamorous and just enough patina to show the history behind the furniture they're on. 

I'm so happy I was able to reuse them.

I'll have photos of the finished sideboard up soon!


  1. The original hardware is so beautiful, I am so glad you are able to bring it back to its former glory! Can't wait to see the finished sideboard!


  2. Never tried lemon juice and salt before! I have tried Bar Keepers friend and love the results too! Can't wait to see it all done Brooke!