How To Clean Antique Brass Andirons

Before and after.

I’ve been collecting andirons for our someday working fireplaces. Yup, we’re still in the process of restoring them. Andirons are used for holding logs in an open fireplace so that air can circulate and allow proper burning. Decorative guards and log stops block the wood from rolling out of the fireplace.

Antique andirons are relatively easy to find and can be affordable. On the higher end you’ll find brass andirons, highly polished, matching tools, and original log stops intact—the log stops are on the bar behind the decorative guard. They start at about $400 and go into the thousands depending on their age, uniqueness, and condition.

On the lower end you’ll come across brass andirons full of soot, no tools, log stops removed for about $75 and up. The three sets I’ve bought came from salvage shops for about $100 each. Brass knock-offs are available for under $50 but they don’t have the same patina as antique andirons.

When I was up in Wiscasset, Maine this fall I spotted an exquisite collection at Lilac Cottage Antiques. I asked the owner, “How do you keep them so shiny?” Turns out he was rather fanatical about polishing brass and was delighted to share with me some tips and how to’s. Yay!

First, scrub the andirons with 000 steel wool or finer. Steel wool is available in different grades from fine (0000) to course (3). If you use a course grit you’ll scratch the surface and ruin the brass.

After a 1/2 hour or so of polishing with the steel wool my andirons looked pretty good. I was able to get the majority of the soot off which gave them some shine. To make them extra shiny you’ll need to use a brass polish. Lilac Cottage recommended using Noxon. His former favorite was Brasso but complained they recently changed their formula.

Apply the polish to a rag and rub all over the surface of the andiron. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and then repolished with a soft, dry cloth. You’ll notice the black soot will come off on the rag.

My andirons look a heck of lot better then when I first bought them. It gives me hope to start scouting dirty brass candlesticks that I could give new life with a little polishing too.

On the left: andiron polished using just steel wool. Right: steel wool and Noxon polish. I don’t notice a huge difference. The andiron on the right is brighter and looks less gray.

My collection of andirons.

Noxon brass polish.

Polishing andirons with dry rag after applying Noxon.
Before and after shot.

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11 Comments

  1. Nice article. When I bought my andirons for $5 they were both pitch black. I tiny spot on one made me think they might be made of brass, not iron.

    It took days to clean the baked soot off them. Now I can shine them up.

    A great tip I read is to use newspaper instead of cloth rags when applying polish and shining the brass. It does a better job than rags and it’s cheaper.

    You can do the final buff up with a cotton rag.

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  2. Katy, you really really should be using gloves when using any kind of metal cleaner/polish. That stuff is highly absorbent by your skin… You are too young for nasty illnesses that come with it.

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  3. By coincidence, I read yesterday on This Old House’s website that rubbing lemon juice and salt on brass will take the tarnish away. I haven’t tried it yet, though… :)

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  4. I didn’t realize steel wool came in different “kinds”. Do you think this technique would work on door knobs and stricker plates? Our 1920s house has them in every room and I’ve always wanted to polish them!

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  5. Beautiful andirons!
    My favorite brass cleaner is actually a copper cleaner…. Wrights copper cleaner, it makes cleaning brass super easy

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  6. I’ve never found Noxon to be particularly affective, but I think I’m a BAD (lazy) brass cleaner—I use toilet cleaner with bleach if I’m overwhelmed and Cape Cod Brass cleaning cloths if I’m not.

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  7. They look great… and as long as the Noxon is not too toxic I think it does indeed, add some extra radiance! Beautiful… and exciting to think about the candlestick search! ; )

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