How to clean brass, copper and pewter

Wondering how to clean brass? Do you need to clean copper pans or want tips on cleaning pewter? Read on.

16 August 2019

How to clean brass, copper, and pewter
Floor and surface cleaning

You might have several different pewter, brass, or copper items in your house – everything from pots to tankards, jewellery to belt buckles, and coins to candlesticks. How do you clean and polish these metal items?

You can find specialised metal cleaners that can be used to clean copper, brass, and pewter – just read the labels on these products to find the best one for you. Bear in mind that you should be careful when cleaning any valuable or antique goods – you may feel more comfortable asking the advice of an expert in this situation. You can also clean these metals using other cleaning products.

Here is a handy guide on how to clean copper, pewter, and brass.

You can buy commercial copper products to achieve shiny results, but if you don’t have time to go to the shops, then there are also household products that can effectively clean copper. Believe it or not, the vinegar in tomato ketchup will help clean copper and brass, too! Just remember to test any cleaning product in a small area first, and to read the directions on the label before using.

How to clean copper

Copper products are durable and look luxurious, and copper is used not only for domestic but also decorative purposes. Copper cookware has a good thermal conductivity, which allows you to heat food quickly and efficiently, and copper jewellery looks elegant.

While copper tarnishes over time, fortunately, you can return copper products to their original shine at home. Here are some of the best ways to clean copper pans and other copper items:

  • There are commercial copper cleaning products available in shops – when using these, be sure to follow the directions and safety guidelines on the label
  • Cleaning copper with lemon is a good method. Simply apply some salt (preferably sea salt or coarse salt) to a half of a lemon, and then use the lemon to scrub the copper surface. This mildly abrasive cleaner should swiftly make your copper bright again. Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth afterwards.
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  • To make the copper item shine, rub it with a mixture of flour, coarse salt and vinegar, and then polish with a soft cloth
  • It is also possible to polish the copper with a newspaper crumpled into a small ball – the timeless method our grandmothers used to use to clean windows
  • You can also clean copper with tomato ketchup! The vinegar in the sauce will help clean the copper. Apply a thick layer of ketchup on the product and let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse with water.

How to clean pewter

Pewter is an alloy made primarily of tin (along with copper, antimony, and small amounts of other metals). It is often used to make tankards, mugs, ornaments, bowls, and flasks, as well as other household items.

Here is some advice for cleaning pewter:

  • As modern pewter does not tarnish, it is easy to maintain. However, antique pewter can contain lead, and thus can tarnish
  • You can wash pewter kitchenware – like tankards – with washing up liquid and warm water
  • After washing, thoroughly dry the pewter item with a soft cloth
  • Pewter tankards, mugs, and bowls should not be cleaned in the dishwasher, as this may damage the metal. Also, avoid scrubbing pewter goods too hard or using abrasive products, as this may also cause damage and scratch your item.

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How to clean brass

Like pewter, brass is also an alloy. Brass is made of copper and zinc, and is used to make many different items – everything from doorknobs to musical instruments!

Here are some strategies for cleaning brass items.

  • First, try washing the brass item with washing up liquid and warm water. Do not scrub too hard – you may scratch the brass
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  • Like copper, brass will also respond well to tomato ketchup! Apply ketchup to the brass and then rinse after leaving it for at least an hour – you will be able to see the difference
  • You can also clean brass using the lemon and salt method described above
  • Again, do not use abrasive products when cleaning brass items, as you might damage the surface.

Key steps:

  • Ketchup can be an effective cleaning solution for brass and copper
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaning products to prevent damaging the surface of any metal item
  • Always test a cleaning solution on small area first to check it doesn’t react with the metal