How to Clean Metals

‘Tis the season for decorating as you brighten and spruce up your home for the holidays and the new year. Whether you’re bringing cherished keepsakes out for display or changing your home’s seasonal theme and switching pieces for a few months, winter is the perfect time for updating every room in your home.

When it comes to metal knick knacks, from an ornament with personal meaning to a family menorah to a special heirloom, you always want to handle them with care. There are many types of metals and many ways that you can polish and clean them to make sure they store well, without rusting or tarnishing. You also can easily keep your metal pieces looking their best when they’re out on your mantel, your display shelf or your Christmas tree.

How to Clean Metals


Brass brings a delightful gleam to your home, but it is also susceptible to tarnish and wear over time. If you’re bringing decorative brass items or furniture with brass details out from storage or getting ready to put them away, there are easy steps you can take to have them looking their best.

First, if your brass piece is an antique, you may want to start by discussing its value with a reputable dealer — the tarnish may in fact enhance its beauty and its value, in which case you won’t want to do much, if any, cleaning.

If you are comfortable cleaning your brass piece yourself, find out whether or not it is lacquered or coated with a protective finish. If the brass is lacquered, you can wipe it with a damp cloth to restore its shine and beauty. It’s as simple as that.

If you have brass items or, for example, pieces of furniture with brass details that are not lacquered, you can purchase a chemical cleaner made specifically for brass, or you can use soap or a mild detergent with a little elbow grease and a toothbrush. More unusual cleaners for brass that you can find around your home include a paste of vinegar, salt, and flour; lemon juice; and, oddly enough, ketchup.

How to Clean Metals


Sterling silver decorative items add a touch of sparkle around your home, and they catch the winter light beautifully. Your table may be set during the holidays with your finest silverware, or you may have brought out special silver picture frames or other decorations for the season. As you take your silver pieces out from storage for display, or before you put them away again, you’ll want to clean them to enhance their luster.

One popular recipe for cleaning silver is to boil water, a piece of aluminum foil, and a tablespoon of baking soda together in a pot. Next, drop small silver pieces, including silverware, into the mix and let them sit for 10 seconds or longer. Most of the time, this process will remove the tarnish and return the shine.

For built-up tarnish, make a paste of baking soda and water and gently apply it to your silver item. Then let it sit briefly before rinsing and drying it. Toothpaste also can be used as a silver polish, as can, yet again, ketchup.

How to Clean Metals


Certain gold items, including fine antiques, some jewelry, and delicate pieces, are better left to be cleaned by the experts. And other gold pieces may look a little better with some aging or patina left on them. However, if you want to clean a gold item in your home, you have several options.

Gold pieces without glued in stones or accents can be soaked in a mix of gentle dishwashing liquid and water, or even just plain boiling water, and then scrubbed by a soft brush. Then, simply rinse these pieces and pat them dry, and they should have regained their lovely shine. In a pinch, you can also use toothpaste as a gold polish. There are also commercial cleaning solutions intended specifically for gold that you may want to consider.

How to Clean Metals


Finally, if you have stainless steel fixtures or decorative objects around your home, you’ll want to give them a little extra polish for the busy holiday season. Plain water and a soft cloth together are the easiest way to clean these items. Mild detergent can be added as long as you are careful to rinse your items completely to avoid spotting. In addition, there are cleaners sold specifically for stainless steel that you might find work best for your needs.

Other metals, including metal blends and metallic accents, may require special cleaners or may need to be handled in a particular manner. When in doubt, always consult a jeweler, an antique dealer, or another metal expert before attempting to clean your piece yourself.