clean brass with ketchup

How to Clean Brass with Ketchup

Got some brass that needs cleaning? Perhaps you remember Grandpa cleaning his brass decor with a bit of ketchup back in the day. But does this trick actually work?

Believe it or not, cleaning brass with ketchup actually works, and can bring some brass objects back to life in mere minutes!

Yep, good ol’ fashioned ketchup – the stuff you squeeze all over your chips – can be used to clean brass.

Follow the step-by-step guide below to clean your brass items with tomato ketchup.

Note: You must remove any lacquer from your brass piece before you try the method(s) below out. The ketchup won’t do anything to a lacquered brass object. Check out this video to find out how to remove lacquer from brass.


Things to Remember When Cleaning Brass with Ketchup

 Just before you dive into cleaning your brass with red sauce, check out these tips:

  • Test the ketchup out before you use it. Spread some red sauce on a discreet patch of brass and see what happens. If there’s no reaction, you can continue using the method(s) below. But stop if the brass starts to react badly with the sauce.
  • Always use soft tools. Harsh tools, like scouring pads and hard-bristled brushes, can scratch brass.
  • Be patient! Cleaning brass can be a lot of work, so dedicate enough time to the task and don’t rush the process.
  • Be prepared to repeat the steps below a few times when handling heavily tarnished brass objects. And in some cases, you might have to use a different cleaning technique, but more on that later.
  • Always clean the sauce off the brass object. Otherwise, the surface will go all sticky and horrible!
  • Make sure you dry your brass object after you’ve treated it! If you leave water on the surface, the brass might re-tarnish.


Cleaning Small Brass Objects Like Jewellery with Ketchup

brass earrings

Tools you’ll need:

Steps to follow:

  1. Grab your brass item, go over to the sink, and wash the item in some warm water and a blob of washing-up liquid.
  2. Carefully rub the soapy mixture into the surface using your fingers or a microfibre cloth (nothing abrasive!).
  3. When you’ve cleaned the grime off (sweat and oils), you can pop your item in a clean bowl – use a small bowl for extra small brass objects!
  4. Cover the item in ketchup.
  5. Make sure every inch of the item is covered in the red sauce.
  6. Push the item around in the sauce to ensure the ketchup gets into all the nooks and crannies.
  7. If the item you’re cleaning is hollow, rub plenty of ketchup inside the object.
  8. Wait 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the item from the sauce and wipe a tiny amount of ketchup off a corner.
  10. Wash the item if the tarnish has been removed from the brass surface. If not, pop the item back in the red sauce and wait a little longer. Check the item every 15 minutes during this time.
  11. If need be, you can work the sauce into the brass item with your fingers or a soft toothbrush.
  12. When the object is no longer tarnished, clean it in warm soapy water like you did in Steps 1 and 2.
  13. Use a microfibre cloth or a very soft toothbrush to work the dried ketchup out of the nooks.
  14. You must remove all the red sauce from the brass item or it’ll go sticky!
  15. Rinse the item when you’re done.
  16. Grab a soft, dry cloth and wipe the brass item until it’s completely dry – leaving liquid on a brass surface can re-tarnish it!
  17. Then using a dry patch of cloth, buff the brass, so it goes shiny.


Cleaning Bigger Brass Objects with Ketchup

Tip: When cleaning large and often unmovable brass objects, it’s easier to focus on one particular area at a time. If you try to clean the whole piece in one go, you might miss bits, and you won’t do a thorough job.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Warm water
  • Washing up liquid
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Shallow bowl
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Ketchup
  • Floor covering

Steps to follow:

  1. Cover the floor around the brass object you intend on cleaning.
  2. Fill a bucket with warm water and a few blobs of washing-up liquid.
  3. Grab a clean microfibre cloth.
  4. Start to wipe the surface you need to clean with a cloth that’s been dipped in the soapy water.
  5. Clean the area.
  6. Pour some ketchup into a shallow bowl (keep the bottle of sauce near you, so you can top up the bowl when needed).
  7. Dip a microfibre cloth or soft toothbrush into the ketchup.
  8. Rub the sauce into the surface and work it into all the little gaps!
  9. It’s better to apply a thin layer of red sauce onto the brass object, just in case you spill sauce everywhere.
  10. Continuously work the ketchup into the tarnished brass surface.
  11. Wait 15 minutes.
  12. Rub some sauce off the ketchup-ed surface to check if the surface is getting cleaner.
  13. Leave the ketchup on the surface for up to two hours if need be. But keep an eye on the surface during this time.
  14. When the brass is no longer tarnished, clean the ketchup off the surface using a damp cloth.
  15. Repeat Step 4 until all the ketchup has been removed – pay attention to all the nooks and crannies! You don’t want to leave red sauce anywhere.
  16. Remember to rinse your dirty cloth out every so often so you don’t re-apply the ketchup to the surface.
  17. Wipe the surface dry with a cloth – don’t leave any moisture on the brass item because it can re-tarnish.
  18. Buff the surface with a dry cloth to make it shiny.


How Long Do You Leave Ketchup on Brass For?

If you’re cleaning a lightly tarnished brass object with ketchup, you’ll need to leave the sauce on the surface for at least 15 minutes.

The acidity in the ketchup will start to break down the tarnish on the brass during this time.

However, if your object is badly tarnished, you can leave the sauce to sit on the surface for up to two hours, but you must keep an eye on the brass piece during this time.


Alternative Ways to Clean Brass

products to clean brass

The ketchup method isn’t to everyone’s taste, so here are a few other ways you can clean brass:

  • White vinegar, salt and flour
  • Lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda
  • Lemon Juice and salt
  • Toothpaste
  • Specialised products, like Brasso

See out complete guide to cleaning Brass for more tips and methods you can try.


How Long Does It Take to Clean Brass?

woman cleaning brass

Cleaning brass can take a few minutes or a couple of hours to complete.

It’s not possible to give an exact time because how long the cleaning process takes depends on several factors.

These include the size of the brass object, how dirty and tarnished it is, what finish you want the piece to have, and what cleaning method you decide to use.

If you’ve only got a small, slightly tarnished piece of brass, you might be able to clean and polish it in less than an hour.

But for a bigger object, like a bed frame, you might need multiple hours to clean it.