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Brass Restoration Tips

Brass Restoration Tips

The first step in restoring tarnished brass is to remove any old clear coating that may inhibit you from attacking the tarnish. This can be easily accomplished with regular off the shelf paint strippers. Follow the directions on the can and you will remove the clear coating in less than an hour. Rinse the stripper off with water or whatever solvent the manufacturer recommends.

Heavy Tarnish

Brass objects that are severely tarnished will require a lot of work. Don't think you will complete this job in 15 or 20 minutes. You will undoubtedly have to use a caustic two or three step tarnish remover to cut through the tarnish.

Use judgment if you decide to use a cleaner or polish that contains fine abrasives. The same is true about using steel wool to help remove the tarnish. Abrasives and steel wool can and will cause fine scratches. The removal of the scratches can take considerable time and effort. It may be worth your time to use multiple applications of a non abrasive cleaner.

Wash and Rinse the Residue

Once you have successfully cleaned/removed the tarnish from the brass, you must neutralize and completely remove the chemical from the brass. Failure to do this will cause stains and spotting on the brass. Follow the cleaning instructions and use the recommended neutralizer or solvent.

Rubber or Cotton Gloves

The oils from your hands will stain polished brass. Once you have a piece of brass clean, you cannot handle it with bare hands. All polishing and buffing must be done with gloves of some type on your hands. Cotton work gloves will do just fine if you have completed all operations that involve moisture. If you are still using water or solvents, you might try rubber gloves.

Clear Coatings and Wax

Once the cleaned brass is perfectly polished, you need to protect it from oxygen and chemical attack. Clear lacquer or non-yellowing urethane will work. Lacquers seem to work best as they dry quickly. This will minimize dust in your finish. Spraying the finish is much more desirable than brushing. I would apply no less than 4 coats of lacquer. Follow the lacquer instructions.

Automotive wax applied to exterior brass fixtures will help maintain the finish. However, wax will prohibit further coats of lacquer. If you decide to use the wax method, you should apply a fresh coat of wax every 4 to 5 months. This can be a real maintenance nightmare.

You may choose to simply apply a fresh coat of lacquer every year instead. Normal weathering will attack the lacquer and break it down. If you applied 3 to 5 coats of lacquer from the start, your brass should never be exposed to oxygen or water-borne pollutants if you recoat it every 12 months. Simply clean and rebuff the fixture before you apply the new coat of lacquer.

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