This post is on the fly this morning. Running late for an office meeting.
Yesterday I polished this antique copper coal scuttle. Last time it was polished during my stewardship? Never! I left the inside unpolished. I use this for storing old magazines. It's really a fireplace item but I don't have room for it there.
I polished all of my brass candlesticks and trivets. First I spray down the item with Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day multi-surface. Then I dip my dampened cleaning rag or sponge into some Bar Keepers Friend cleanser which I have in a shallow bowl. The rest is magic. The spray loosens the tarnish and the cleanser dissolves it before your very eyes. Wipe and buff. For really old tarnish keep spraying and dipping and rubbing. No need to wipe it all off until you are finished with the entire item.
For horizontal surfaces like switch plates you will have to soak your rag in the liquid (just the part wrapped around your finger) and wipe over the tarnish first. Then do the second step. I used a Q-tip when I was polishing an engraved brass plate on the top of a cellarette without ruining the wood.
Just experiment. You will be amazed. Handle the powder with care. It's powerful stuff and is probably quite dangerous. But it's been around since 1882 and hasn't been recalled yet. I don't plan on using it every day so I don't think it will kill me before I'm finished.
I got this "Radish" Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day spray at TJMaxx because this "scent" has been discontinued. I'm sure almost any multi-surface spray will work; this is just what I had on hand. I polished all of my silver trophies using this method and nothing got scratched. You can probably make a paste using these two products as well to "dissolve" the powder if you are afraid of scratching. All of my things are antiques and have already been around the block so I wasn't worried.
Good luck. I think I have hunted down almost everything tarnished in my cottage except for my copper pots and my antique andirons. I will tackle them soon. I spread a small tarp on my kitchen table to do the coal scuttle. For the smaller items, I used a folded turkish towel on my kitchen counter near the sink and rinsed under running water before drying and buffing, Just play around and see what works for you. You can also "rinse" small items in a dishpan full of water and keep using it for that purpose. You can soak heavily tarnished brass candlesticks overnight in this solution for really easy cleaning the next day.