Cleaning brass at home doesn't require harsh chemicals.
This lovely golden alloy of copper and zinc has built-in germicidal and antimicrobial benefits that scientists credit to its copper component.
So, it naturally resists germs. (Now if it only resisted tarnish, too...)
To make up for what chemical nature didn't provide, these brass cleaning methods can bring back the sassy shine you love without your having to expend too much elbow grease - or time in the process.
Let's start by giving your brass pieces a spa treatment - one that starts with an (acidic) bath soak and ends with a polishing.
Start by putting as many brass pieces as you can fit into a pot, pan or plastic container (or all three). Fill to the brim with Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce or ketchup until the pieces are submerged.
If you don't have these ingredients in abundance, use vinegar or lemon juice, both of which also have the acidity to remove oxidation (tarnish) and hardened polish. Soak at least two hours to overnight for stubborn pieces.
Next, give the surface designs, legs and rims a healthy scrub with mild dishwashing liquid and a soft fingernail brush or toothbrush under cool running water.
Massage dry with a soft, clean cloth to prevent scratching. Finish by rubbing a cloth moistened with olive oil to minimize new tarnish and buildup.
Many people mistakenly believe that the more polish altered on brass and other metal, the better protected they will be.
To remove your heavy buildup without removing the surface itself, begin by filling a bucket about half full with hot water.
Squirt in some hand dish-washing liquid and mix to form suds. You can also use a weak ammonia and water mix.
Dampen a soft sponge in your mixture of choice, then press it to the brass for several seconds before you begin rubbing. The pause allows the cleaner to loosen the buildup, making it easier to remove. Sponge-rinse clean.
Next, attack any remaining caked-on crud. Dampen your sponge in hot vinegar (wear gloves to protect your hands), then dip it in a bowl of coarse salt.
Rub it on your brass. It could take a few times, so be patient and keep at it until the brass looks its very best. Sponge-rinse a final time, then polish dry.
For brighter brass and less polishing in the future, apply several coats of car wax.
Finally, if your brass still looks weathered after all this, chances are your lacquer finish has been eroded over the years.
If so, you'll need to remove all the lacquer finish and restore the finish with a specialty cleaner such as Metal Restorer, Nevr-Dull or Brasso. Or, it's time to find a replacement.