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Cleaning Brass with Ketchup

Now that it’s January, it’s a great time to jump back into regular decorating, sprucing up,and pulling the house together. One of the projects involved cleaning a brass plate with ketchup!

Before the holiday’s, we had started sprucing up our dining area, that included a birch tree mural. We also hung a vintage door on sliding hardware to our dining area, and I added a vintage brass door plate for character.

Vintage door with sliding barn door hardware in dining room Jennifer RIzzo

We have a little built-in alcove area with a curtain that served as a “door” for ages. Even though it was an easy fix to hide the clutter at the time , it wasn’t ideal for me. I always wanted some kind of door there, but there wasn’t the clearance for a swinging door. Thank goodness for sliding barn door hardware! The opening is narrow as it is, and we could only go up to a 27 inch wide door. I knew I wanted a vintage/antique door there instead of new, and had been searching for a while. Mr.R and I went to the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and after combing through the mountains of doors, found one that would work.

It had a great finish to it, and only a few dings and scratches. It was a little tall, so we did have to trim a little off of the top and bottom to make it work.

Old door from thee restore for a sliding door Jennifer Rizzo

I love all of it’s imperfections; like how there was a door knob at one time that someone patched years and years ago.

Pocket door handle with Patina Jennifer Rizzo

The other side had a cool pocket door handle with lots of wear and patina.

After we hung the door. I wanted to add the final touch, a brass plate I picked up at a antique shop two or three years ago. It was one of those little treasures I came across, that I didn’t have a place for at the time, but squirreled away for the future. It was too cool to pass up.

A vintage brass plate on a sliding vintage door Jennifer Rizzo

It has a perfect place on the center of the door, and  added so much character. However, once it was on, I noticed how dirty it was. I didn’t have any brass cleaner, but I had heard you could clean brass with ketchup, so I thought I would give it a try. After a little research, from what I understand, it’s the acid in the tomatoes that does the work (It won’t work on laquered brass, which a lot of newer brass is because that already has a special coating to prevent discoloration and tarnish.).

Clean brass with ketchup Jennifer Rizzo

If you are going to try it, I would always recommend doing a test patch first on an inconspicuous place, especially if what you are going to clean is valuable. I jumped in, and squirted a little bit on a paper towel, and rubbed it on.

Using ketchup to clean a vintage brass plate Jennifer Rizzo

With a little elbow grease, it immediately started taking off years of grime! What I didn’t anticipate was all of the little grooves I was going to have to get into to really clean it. I have to admit, that was slightly tedious.

Ways to clean brass with ketchup Jennifer Rizzo

I used an orange wood stick, and some paper towel, as well as a cotton swab to get in all of the grooves.

brass cleaning hack with cotton swab and ketchup Jennifer Rizzo

I couldn’t believe all of the dirt that came off! I wish I  had thought to clean it beforehand, next time I’ll know better. I’m on the hunt for more of these vintage door plates. I think they are so cool.

Brass plate after cleaning with ketchup Jennifer Rizzo


After, use  a slightly damp rag to remove any remaining ketchup residue, and buff with a soft cloth. I may go back for a second round, just to see if I can clean up the under-plate a little more. Though, I do like the contrast of the darker brass, and shiner brass against each other.

Did you know that mayonnaise can help remove water rings from stained table tops?

And Ella Claire has other cleaning hacks here, like how to clean and polish copper.


  1. Love vintage brass. I made a homemade version of brass cleaner once and it worked beautifully.

    1. I love it too. That’s pretty cool that you made your own! Old brass has such a great patina to it.

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