Tin of Brasso

Brasso is a metal polish that has been in production since 1921. It has become well known to generations of service men who have used it to polish the brass buttons and cap badges of their uniforms. Today it is available in two forms, either impregnated wadding or as a liquid in a bottle but traditionally it was the liquid form that was on sale. Tonight we have one such jar of liquid Brasso that I believe dates form the 1950s or 1960s. the design of the front of the label has barely changed since the product was introduced and includes a blue sun burst effect with a red circle bearing the products trademark:imageThis can has a small screw cap and the top of the can would originally have been shiny metal. This example has clearly been lurking in a shed for many years so the top is covered in sixty years of caked on grease. Removing the lid then provides something of a contrast:imageThis bottle is still half full and it smells exactly the same as the modern bottle of Brasso I have for cleaning my own cap badges! Modern Brasso contains C8-10 Alkane/Cycloalkane/Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Quartz, Kaolin, C12-20 Saturated and Unsaturated Monobasic Fatty Acids, Aqua and Ammonium Hydroxide. One would assume the recipe is little changed since the product was introduced.

Brasso works by having both a mild solvent and a fine abrasive in the mixture that cuts through tarnishing and makes a smooth polished surface. The abrasive is why the detail on brass slowly wears down after decades of polishing as the detail is slowly worn away! The base of this tin has an enigmatic pattern of small dots and a letter ‘R’ stamped into it:imageWe can date this tin of Brasso by the information on the back which indicates it is supplied to Her Majesty the Queen, indicating it is post 1952 and that the contents are 7oz which suggests to me that this can comes from the 1950s or 1960s before widespread metrification:imageDavid Fowler did National Service in the 1950s and recalls the use of Brasso:

The chore of bulling boots was interceded by scrubbing webbing and polishing the brass fixings with Brasso- more trade for the NAAFI. This then was the major chore which occupied our time when other military tasks were suspended; periods the Army jokingly classed as free time. Plus of course cleaning windows (again using Brasso), polishing the wooden floor with a long handled heavy metal padded thing called a ‘bumper’, applying black gunge to the room’s only form of heating, a potbellied stove- thank goodness we had gone before winter- cleaning ablutions, dusting, ironing, pressing uniforms, making and unmaking beds.47143323_2502323119783752_2376218874447134720_n


  1. I have a bottle marked “Wartime Economy” on the label. Will try to look it out and post a picture.

  2. I don’t know about the U.K., but here in the U.S. the formula has changed. I had a friend who served in the Parachute Regiment in the early 1950s and he said they would coat their brass with Brasso and then light it off with a match. I guess that was easier than taking it off with a cloth. I’m not sure today’s Brasso is flammable.

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