Made from a combination of zinc and copper, brass is found in cookware, jewelry, musical instruments, and home decor. Exposure to oxygen, water, and other elements can cause this popular metal to corrode or tarnish over time.
The first thing you need to determine before cleaning is whether the item is solid brass, or brass-plated. Grab a magnet and see if it sticks to the item. If it does, the piece is brass-plated, as magnets will not stick to solid brass. Be careful not to rub or polish brass-plated items too aggressively, as doing so can remove the plating.
Plated or not, it's also important that you avoid using abrasive scrubbing cloths, metal-bristled brushes, or steel wool to clean your brass pieces.
Lastly, if you have lacquered brass pieces that are heavily tarnished, you will need to remove the lacquer with a paint or varnish remover in order to clean them. After the pieces are cleaned and polished, you can then re-lacquer.
TIP: Try to avoid touching your brass items as much as possible, as the oils in your skin can hasten tarnishing.