Cleaning winche handles
I guess the answer depends on the actual material from which the winch handles are constructed. In other words, winch handles can be aluminum,stainless steel, bronze, chrome on bronze, brass, plastic or some combination there of. You should not use abrasives on any of these materials and a wire brush would definately be a bad idea. To soem extent the answer depends on what you are trying to clean off.
Aluminum: Wash with warm soapy water. I have actually run aluminum winch handles through a dishwasher. I bought a boat that had been beat up in Hurricane David and the deck hardware was stored in a bucket that had beeb filled with seawater and motor oil. I used alcohol to remove the motor oil and the put the winch handles is a dishwasher which too off all of the random electroysis blooms.
Stainless steel: Wash with warm soapy water. If it is polishes stainless then use a product called the ''Barman''s friend''. Softscrub also works pretty well.
Bronze: There are marine bronze cleaners that work quite well. Some use a soft pad that is treated with a chemical. Others are a paste. I have also used vinegar and elbow grease pretty effectively.
Chrome on bronze; Chrome finishes are pretty soft and easily damaged. I have used automotive chrome polisher/waxes but I have not had chrome on my recent boats (or cars) and so I am not sure these products are still available but I would guess they still are.
Brass: Vinegar works well or else Revere''s copper pot cleaner also works well.
Plastic: responds to warm soap and water. I have used Softscrub with bleach or Lestoil to clean stains out of plastic parts. You could probably throw these in the dishwasher as well but on the top shelf.
Now then, How did you end up with a bunch of dirty winch handles in the first place?