The Inspired Hive

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How to polish antique brass hardware

How to remove tarnish from old brass

A few months ago, a family friend gave me an old secretary desk that had been sitting in their garage. I had been looking for one for a while to allow me to get a little work done in the living room here and there. This one wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but it was free! After I gave it a good cleaning with Murphy's oil and polished with Old English, I debated whether or not to polish the brass hardware. I liked the patina, but I knew it would make the desk feel less dated if I polished the hardware. When I bought this brass task lamp to sit on it, my decision was made. Polishing would make the hardware match the lamp!

Antique secretary desk with polished brass hardware

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Here is the desk before it came to live with me :)

antique secretary desk

And after a quick clean up with Murphy's oil but before polishing the hardware.

antique secretary desk with claw feet


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Salt
  • Fine steel wool

How to polish tarnished brass

Polishing the hardware was super easy!

I removed the drawer pulls. The small upper knobs and key holes were not able to be removed, so I polished them in place.

tarnished brass hardware

I poured iodized salt into an old tupperware container. I didn't measure this, but I would guess there were 2-3 tablespoons of salt.

Then I poured white vinegar into the container, enough to cover the hardware. Then I mixed the salt and vinegar together with a spoon.

Once they were mixed well, I put one of the drawer pulls into the mixture and let it soak. Soaking about five minutes seemed to work well, but some of the more heavily used pieces needed a few more minutes.

brass hardware in a bowl of vinegar

After they finished soaking, I rubbed them with fine steel wool to remove the rest of the tarnish. At first, you see a pinkish color which I learned is because there is copper in brass. If you keep rubbing, the pink will go away and you will see a warm bright brass.

Brass hardware and steel wool

Last, I rinsed them in water and dried them with a paper towel.

Do you see the difference?! 😍

Polished brass hardware before and after

For the hardware that I was unable to remove, I put a dry paper towel below them to catch any drips, and rubbed the vinegar solution on with a cotton ball or q-tip. I wiped them with a wet paper towel afterwards.

It's easy to give old furniture new life! How polish antique brass furniture hardware with vinegar and salt!

That's it! It was really easy, and it really made such a difference! I love how the brass pops against the dark wood and how it matches the lamp so flawlessly! It's the perfect combo!

Pin it for later!

Antique secretary desk with polished hardware. Brass and marble lamp. Green antique french door. Black modern picture frame.

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