Have you ever seen those television commercials where someone dips a tarnished silver spoon into a solution and it comes out perfect just seconds later? Do you really believe it is that simple to remove tarnish? Well, it isn't that easy to do it with brass.
When brass is originally made, it is a solid metal and very hard. But chemically the brass at the surface is very unstable. The brass molecules need oxygen or some other similar ion to stabilize. When the oxygen grabs onto the polished brass, the chemical state changes and with it a color change. This is what tarnish is. The tarnish is actually a protective coating. Iron is no different. Rust is simply oxidized iron. In nature, the mineral hematite is actually oxidized iron or rust!
If you want to get frustrated in a hurry, try restoring a heavily tarnished brass object by hand. Go ahead, buy any of the off the shelf products. Some will do a splendid job of quickly cutting through the tarnish. I know because I have tried it. The difference looks like night and day. The brass looks nice and bright. But look closer. It has tens of thousands of micro scratches. You can rub as hard as you want and add more compound but you are wasting your time. If you think you are going to produce a mirror like finish, forget about it.
To get a brass finish that is scratch free and the deep luster of true polished brass, you need to have mechanical help. You need spinning wheels equipped with buffing pads. You also need special jeweler's or metal polisher's rouge. Rouge is a polishing compound that lubricates and polishes the metal.
How much time do you think you will spend trying to get a brass object clean? Did you know that a professional can get a huge amount of brass cleaned and polished in less than an hour? If you value your time and want awesome results, get a quote from a pro. You might be surprised!
The standard clear coating used to slow the oxidation process for many years was clear lacquer. Some shops still use it today. Lacquer is tough to work with and does not stand up very well to outdoor environments. A better choice for clear coating is an industrial acrylic polyurethane. The trouble is, you will not find this material at any consumer paint store. It is often available only to businesses. Shucks!
Send It Away?
I know it sounds crazy, but I want you to consider packing your tarnished brass objects in a box and send them to a strange city. The objects will magically re-appear 14-21 days later and look like new. It is safe to ship your brass across the nation. There are reputable companies that will clean and polish it and send it back to you as if they were next door to your home. It will be hassle free.
One of the finest companies that does this work is based in my home town, Cincinnati, Ohio. The company is called Carlisle and Finch, Co. (www.brasspolishing.com) They have been in the brass polishing business for over 100 years so they know a little bit about the process.
There are other companies out there as well. You may be lucky and have one in your own city and not even know about it. Look in your Yellow Pages under "Metal Polishing". If there is no listing like that, get the business to business Yellow Pages. Every major metropolitan area has metal polishers, but I can't tell you if they are as good as Carlisle and Finch, and if they use the right clear coat. The decision is yours!