Brass is used for instruments and doorknobs. Steel and aluminum are used in clothing irons, and copper utensils and piping can be found in most homes. These resourceful metals are an intrinsic part of our lives, but they age and deteriorate as any other compound or substance does. If you have a tool or object in your home that's made of one of these metals, careful steps need to be taken to ensure it is cleaned and preserved properly.

Cleaning an iron: identifying the type of iron

The faceplate of your iron can be made up of multiple materials, the most common of which is stainless steel. Irons can also be ceramic, titanium, or cast iron. Steam, dry, and electric irons are all used as household tools, with steam irons as the most popular iron. All irons can become sticky with residue, and steam irons can have built up residue in the vents. Ceramic irons shouldn't be scrubbed the same way steam irons can be since the coating can peel and damage clothing the next time it's used.

African American woman ironing clothes at home - house chores concepts andresr / Getty Images


Cleaning an iron: DIY methods

Steam irons with a small amount of build-up can be easily cleaned with a warm wet cloth. This method is also the best choice for ceramic irons that don't have vents. If necessary, a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water can be put into a steam iron's water reservoir and allowed to heat and steam for about 10 minutes. The iron should then be flushed with water to get rid of any excess residue.

Cleaning An Iron DIY Vinegar Ulf Wittrock / Getty Images


Cleaning an iron: other tips

If you find that you don't have any tools on hand to clean your iron and you're in a pinch, there are other ways to clean residue. For example, turning the iron on high without steam and running it across cotton or paper towel can clean the faceplate. As a last resort, a gentle steel wool pad can remove stuck-on dirt and grime.

Iron Cleaners Phosphoric Acid Hydrochloric Kerkez / Getty Images


Cleaning brass: first things to know

Brass can develop spots over time and requires regular cleaning and polishing. Cleanings don’t have to be intensive, however, they should be suited to your object. Firstly, make sure your object is true brass and not a plated metal. If the object is magnetic, then it is not true brass. If it is true brass, clean it with a wet cloth regularly to keep dust from collecting.

Cleaning Brass True Brass Plated aerogondo / Getty Images


Cleaning brass: DIY methods

If your brass vase or centerpiece has collected years of dust and tarnished, your options include hot soapy water or a tomato product like ketchup. The soapy water can be applied with a washcloth and a toothbrush can be used for crevices. The ketchup option is another unique tool that almost everyone has access to. Ketchup, tomato sauce, or tomato paste can be applied to the brass and left to sit for about an hour. The soapy water method can be used after removing any of these products.

Cleaning Brass Hot Water Ketchup Manuel-F-O / Getty Images


Cleaning brass: other options

There are numerous commercial brass cleaners available if you're looking for a more professional finish. A literal bath can also be used to clean brass instruments. A small amount of hand soap can be applied to the bath and the entire instrument should be washed with a brush and thoroughly rinsed. Lubricant should then be added to the valves.

Cleaning Brass Instruments Warm Bath joruba / Getty Images


Cleaning copper: exercising caution

If you’re cleaning copper pans, pipes, or jewelry, beware of removing any sealant that’s been applied. Copper reacts easily to atmospheric oxygen, and this reaction is what causes tarnishing and eventual deterioration. Removing the sealant can ruin the finish and speed up the tarnishing process. Some methods are harsher than others, so only use gentle cleaning options.

Caution Cleaning Copper Sealant Finish Olga Skripnik / Getty Images


Cleaning copper: DIY methods

The best way to clean copper is a solution that is made of vinegar, salt, and water. Boil three parts water and add one part vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. This mixture should all be dissolved and the copper item can be placed right into the solution. If your item has a finish, a 3:1 ratio of lemon juice and salt can be mixed and used to wipe down the copper. This method is more gentle on special finishes.

DIY Copper Cleaning Lemon Vinegar bbtomas / Getty Images


Cleaning copper: should you use commercial cleaners?

Many people choose not to use commercial copper cleaners for their household items because of the harmful ingredients and harsh chemicals they contain. However, for outdoor objects like awnings, fountains, and piping, these cleaners can be a reasonable option. Brands like Brasso are popular options for copper tools and non-household items.

Commercial Cleaners Copper Outdoor Items ilbusca / Getty Images


Polishing and sealing

Metals like brass and copper can be sealed to prevent further corrosion and tarnishing. Sealing often involves applying an oil or lacquer to the object after a thorough cleaning and drying. Lacquers like Everbrite can be applied as soon as the object is thoroughly dry. Copper and brass can also be sealed with baby oil.

Polishing Sealing Copper Brass Iron yebeka / Getty Images


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