Have you ever wondered if ketchup can really clean brass?  Today we’re attempting to clean brass with ketchup, and how it compares to store-bought cleaners.

Have you ever wondered if ketchup can really clean brass?  I’ve read dozens of articles and each seems to offer a different bit of advice; use ketchup for 1 hour, use baking soda and vinegar and create a paste, Bar Keeper’s friend, toothpaste, lemon juice, and of course Brasso… but which does the best job with the least amount of effort?
 
My Step-Dad decided to test the ketchup theory out on his front door numbers…
 
Our front door was to be painted, so, we decided to also paint our address plaque to match.  Also, the brass was looking tarnished, so, we decided to clean that up a bit.
cleaning brass with ketchup
The degree of tarnish…pre-ketchup bath.
cleaning brass with ketchup
If you start with Brasso or other brass cleaner, you will have to spend more time rubbing and scrubbing, with the strong smell and irritating chemicals.  Ketchup will do most of the job for you, in 24 hours.
 
Here, we painted the first coat of ketchup on our brass numbers…a second coat on the intricate door knocker.
cleaning brass with ketchup
 
After 24 hours at room temperature, the ketchup has reacted with the brass.
cleaning brass with ketchup
 
This is how much of the tarnish which was removed with only 24 hours of ketchup, a rinse and gentle scrub with warm water, and towel-dry.
cleaning brass with ketchup
That is a considerable improvement with almost no effort on our part!  So yes, you can clean brass with ketchup.
BUT…
Below, we polished the 1 and the 9 with Brasso for just a minute or two, and rinsed with water, and towel-dried…a further improvement!
cleaning brass with ketchup
 
Here is the finished product, with all numbers Brasso-polished!
cleaning brass with ketchup
 
This is much better than what we started with!
cleaning brass with ketchup
The advantages of cleaning brass with ketchup are:
  • the cheapest cleaner and one that you likely have at home already
  • the ketchup can get into every nook and cranny, where a polishing cloth and fingers might not fit.
  • the ketchup does the lion’s share of the work; just brush it on and leave it.
 
After doing a bit of online research there are a few things to take into consideration before attempting to clean brass with ketchup;
 
  • Ketchup, tomato paste, and tomato sauce all work equally well in cleaning brass; it is the mild acidity of the tomatoes that cleans the carbon oxidation off of brass and other metals.
  • Most articles recommend only applying ketchup for 15 minutes to an hour.  Twenty-four hours, per this article, is NOT the recommended amount and could actually damage your brass. (we lucked out)
  • As you can see in the photos above, ketchup will remove a fair amount of oxidation from your brass, but it does not have polishing properties.  Brasso, a polishing cloth, or a very mild abrasive is needed to get the gleaming shine.
  • To protect your brass after you have finished cleaning it, you will want to apply a linseed oil or mineral oil to protect from oxidation.  Applying a clear lacquer to new brass will keep it from tarnishing for quite a few years (until the lacquer wears off).
Thank you Bill for testing this out and sharing the images – I love when someone else risks their “stuff” for an experiment. lol
 
Have a great one!