We recently got a question from one of our readers regarding how to clean bronze pieces. Here is the question Nina sent to us; “I have an antique bronze statue, and it looks terrible now. It has patina on it and looks crusty. It looks like I haven’t clean it in years. Can you please tell me how I can clean my Bronze statue to look new again? I tried to clean it with vinegar, but it took some of the coating off the surface.”
Bronze is an alloy of copper and zinc and therefore, any cleaning method used to clean either metal can be used to clean bronze. When you expose bronze to air, a greenish tarnish (known as patina) forms on the surface. Some people see this coating as adding character to the bronze item but for others, this is an eyesore, and they want their bronze items looking clean and shiny.
We present two homemade bronze cleaners below. You can use either cleaner to safely remove the patina from the surface of the bronze item. Both methods will leave you bronze piece looking clean and shiny.
Use one of the home polishing methods below to clean your bronze item and restore its shine.
Method 1: How to Clean Bronze with Baking Soda and Lemon Juice
- Baking Soda
- Lemon Juice (You can use freshly cut lemons)
- Soft Cotton Polishing Cloths (Size depends on the size of the item you want to clean)
- Warm Water
- A small bowl (you can use a ceramic bowl)
- Rubber Gloves (optional)
Step 1: Use warm water to clean the bronze item and wipe it dry with a clean, soft towel. Allow the item to dry thoroughly. This cleaning process removes dust and other particles that will turn into an abrasive polisher during polishing. You don’t want to scratch the surface of the item.
Step 2: Add about two tablespoons of baking soda to a small bowl. Add lemon juice to the baking soda and mix to form a smooth paste. Begin by adding a small amount of lemon juice and add more as needed to make the paste. Don’t be alarmed when the mixture starts to bubble when you first add the lemon juice. It will settle down eventually.
Step 3: Apply a layer of the paste to the surface of the bronze item. You can use your hands or a small cloth to apply the paste.
Step 4: Take a polishing cloth and use it to rub the paste into the surface of the bronze item using a circular rubbing motion. Repeat the rubbing action until the area is free of the patina.
Step 5: Let the paste sit on the surface of the item for about 30 minutes then rinse the item with warm water to remove the paste. Wipe the item dry with a towel.
Step 6: Buff the item with a polishing cloth to restore the surface shine.
Step 7: If you still see patina on the surface of the item, then repeat steps 2 through 6
Method 2: Clean Bronze Pieces Using Vinegar, Salt, and Flour
- White Vinegar (Distilled)
- Warm Water
- Table Salt
- Small Bowl
- Cotton Polishing Cloths
- Optional Rubber Gloves
Step 1: Wear rubber gloves if you have any. It’s not necessary, but if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, then it’s a good idea to wear the gloves.
Step 2: Wash the bronze pieces in warm water to remove surface dust and other particles that could turn into an abrasive scrub during cleaning.
Step 3: Add a small amount of flour to a small bowl and then add an equal amount of salt to the flour. Mix thoroughly with your fingers.
Step 4: Add a few drops of vinegar and mix to form a soft paste. Start with a couple of drops and continue adding more until a soft paste consistency is achieved.
Step 5: Apply a thin layer of paste to the surface of the bronze item.
Step 6: Take a piece of polishing cloth and use it to rub the paste into the surface of the bronze item. Keep rubbing and apply more paste until you get the patina off the surface.
Step 7: Rinse the item with warm water to remove the paste from the surface. Wipe the item dry with a towel.
Step 8: Use a polishing cloth to buff the surface of the item to shine.
Step 9: If you can still see patina on the surface of the item, repeat steps 2 through 8 until you get all of the patina off the surface.
- If you do not have polishing cloths, you can cut an old clean cotton t-shirt into pieces and use it as a polishing cloth.
- You may not be able to remove all of the tarnish patina from the surface of the bronze piece on your first attempt. This doesn’t mean the process doesn’t work. It can take several repetitions and a bit of elbow grease to get the patina off.
- Use an old soft bristle toothbrush to rub the paste into hard to reach areas of the bronze item.
- Clean your bronze item regularly by dusting it and rinsing with warm water. Regular care reduces the chances of patina formation and the need for a deep clean.
- You can also use the above methods to clean brass items because brass is also an alloy of copper and zinc.
- Some people have suggested using sugar in place of the baking soda but DO NOT use sugar to clean bronze. You will ruin your bronze items.
- If your bronze item turns pink after cleaning, use a fine grain sandpaper to sand the pink pigment off and restore the bronze finish.
- Coat your bronze item with a fine layer of wax to protect it from the elements. The wax coating should last about 3 months. You can then re-coat it.
Did the above method work for you or do you have any tips on how to clean bronze? Please share with your fellow readers by leaving a comment below.