Brass: Properties and Uses

A common household and industrial metal, brass has been manufactured for thousands of years.

What is it exactly?

Brass is an alloy mix of approximately 67% copper and 33% zinc, which can be varied to create a range of brasses. This mix of copper and zinc makes brass far stronger and more durable than copper, although still not as strong as metals such as steel. In order to mix the copper and zinc alloys, the copper is melted and a small amount of zinc is added. The zinc quickly dissolves into the copper and brass is formed. At times, other metals such as lead or iron are included in the alloy mix, to make brass stronger and harder, and easier to forge.

What is it used for?

Brass can be seen everywhere across household and industrial settings. It is used in vespel machining and peak machining to create components and parts, and many musical instruments are made of brass due to its resonating quality. Brass produces a good sound quality and is resistant to bacteria and other microorganisms, so a natural choice for musical instruments. Brass is visually pleasing as well as durable, and it often used in decorative hardware, such as hinges and door locking and knobs. Brass is rust-resistant making it an excellent material to use for locks, keys and padlocks. It is also commonly used for plumbing fixtures due to its non-corrosive quality.


An easily machined material that is durable, rust resistant, sustainable, and visually pleasing, its non-corrosive quality makes it a good investment in products and components, and although it can tarnish over time, it is an easy material to clean. Brass has a relatively low melting point, making it easy to recycle, and almost 90% of all brass alloys go through the recycling process. Highly conductive, brass is excellent for electrical components and parts, and also has an antimicrobial action on bacteria and pathogens. Studies on brass have shown that pathogens, which can be spread by touch, will die in a few hours on copper and brass surfaces. As a result, brass is being considered for widespread use in hospitals for items such as guard rails, hand rails, and fittings.


Brass can potentially be high-maintenance. It has to be regularly polished with commercial or homemade solutions to remove spots from the surface. If used as cookware, brass cannot be cleaned with dishwater liquid and requires air-drying to prevent spotting. Brass cookware can also easily scratch and dent if proper care is not taken (although this can be counteracted by creating a Teflon surface coating). Brass is susceptible to stress corrosion cracking, sometimes known as “season cracking”. It is especially susceptible if in contact with ammonia or substances leaning ammonia. In recent times, this is not too much of an issue thanks to a new form of heat treatment, known as annealing. The annealing process refines the material structure of metal, improving its ductility tensile stress, making it stronger and more malleable.

Brass has been around and in use for centuries, and over time its usage has been honed. With its qualities, versatility, and beauty, it is sure to be around for many years to come.