Decades ago, brass hardware was popular among middle-class as well as wealthy households. Common brass homeware includes door knobs, door hinges, cabinet pulls, planters, vases, furniture, etc. However, nowadays, due to the high cost of raw metals and demand for durable goods, brass homeware has become a status symbol of affluence and good tastes. They can easily be triple the cost of aluminum or iron household products.
So knowing how to take good care of valuable hardware like brass is highly recommended if you have invested in them. Today, we discuss the different types of brass hardware and how we could take care of these precious metals so they can extend their life to the fullest.
What is a Brass Hardware?
Brass hardware is any hardware made from solid brass. To determine if the particular hardware is solid brass, simply touch it with a magnet. If it sticks, that means it is not brass. Brass, made of copper and zinc, is not magnetic. For non-solid brass hardware, wash it with warm soapy water. Do not follow this solid-brass cleaning instructions below as it might scratch the plating off and ruin your hardware entirely.
Determine Lacquered Brass Hardware
After you have determined your hardware is 100% solid brass, the next step is to check if such a piece is lacquered. And, it is very easy to spot. Lacquered brass is shiny. The shiny coating is to prevent tarnishing. So, there's a good chance your lacquered brass hardware is only unclean and requires very little washing and scrubbing. And, you can do so with soap and warm water, or a wipe with a damp cloth. After cleaning brass, there's no need for polishing it. In fact, polishing can scratch the brass and leave it damaged.
How to Polish Lacquered Brass Hardware
Lacquered brass hardware tends to develop tarnishes where the shiny lacquered coating starts to wear off. If you see that the shiny coating is wearing off and there is already tarnish on the brass, it is difficult to polish and restore it to its original state. Usually, this happens after years of usage. We do not recommend polishing this on your own because it is a rather laborious process. However, if you still want to polish lacquered brass by yourself, follow the steps below.
To polish, you will need to soak it in a paint striper for a few minutes and then use steel wool to scrub the lacquer off entirely. It is important that you remove every spec of the coating; otherwise, your hardware will end up with a spotted appearance. You can identify any remaining lacquer residue by dipping the hardware in any brass aging solution. You can purchase this solution at any hardware stores. This solution's function is to darken all the areas except those with lacquer. The darkening effect of the ager will be removed after you start the polishing process. Repeat the process until your brass is polished.
Determine Non-Lacquered Brass Hardware
Non-Lacquered brass hardware is any raw brass left unsealed with the shiny coating, thus not shining. This kind of brass has a beautifully and naturally living finish, meaning it changes its look over time.
How to Polish Non-Lacquered Brass Hardware
There are many ways of polishing non-lacquered brass naturally and chemically. And, just like cleaning lacquered brass, before you polish, be sure to wipe off any dirt and dust with a soft, soapy cloth. Then rinse it off with warm water.
Lemon/Vinegar and Salt/Baking Soda
Lemon and vinegar have oxidizing, deodorizing, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties, making them the perfect polishing agent for brass. Combined with salt or baking soda, the paste has formidable cleaning powers to remove brass tarnishing and make it shine again.
There are a couple of ways you can go about this method. The first option is to slice a lemon in half and cover the cut section with a teaspoon of table salt or baking soda. Then, rub the lemon on the tarnished piece, squeezing it as you go to release the lemon juice.
Alternatively, you can create a paste using ¼ cup of salt or baking soda with ½ cup of lemon juice or vinegar, then rub it into the brass with a soft toothbrush to remove tarnishing. If the tarnish is heavy, let the piece sit with the paste for half an hour. Repeat the process if necessary.
Afterward, be sure to rinse off the acidic sap with warm water. Lastly, dry it off with a microfiber cloth, and rub it with olive oil to chase the water out and add shine.
Ketchup, Tomato Sauce, or Tomato Paste
These products have one thing in common: tomatoes. Tomatoes have an acid property that helps remove tarnish over brass and other metal. So, squirt some ketchup, tomato paste, or tomato sauce on a clean cloth and rub over tarnished brass. Or, you could apply and leave a layer of the sauce on your brass for an hour, then wash it off with warm soapy water.
Repeat the same dry process, and finish by rubbing olive oil over it to preserve the shine.
Soap or Mild Detergent
If your brass hardware is simply dusty or dirty, we recommend submerging it in warm soapy water, scrubbing it gently, and cleaning it with a soft microfiber cloth.
How to Polish Paint-Covered Brass Hardware
Paint-cover brass hardware like cabinet pulls or door knobs could be tricky to polish. Similar to polishing lacquered brass, you will need to remove the paint from the hardware at first. However, it is done a bit differently.
Firstly, you would need to boil water in a large pot. Once the water boils, lower the temperature to low, then submerge the hardware into the water for a few minutes until the paint wrinkles up on the metal. Then, safely transfer them onto a different container. Quickly rub and scrub any paint residue off the metal. Repeat the process if necessary.
How to Prevent Tarnishing
After we discuss different kinds of brass hardware and how to polish them after they tarnish, it would be equally important to understand how we can prevent tarnishing from happening in the first place.
The simple advice is to avoid touching polished brass hardware unnecessarily. The natural oils on your fingers can cause tarnishing in the long run. Submerging your brass items in vinegar water once or twice a year is a good idea to avoid tarnishing. It is a great way to stay on top of the cleaning and polishing, so it never gets out of hand. Of course, these best practices wouldn't entirely eliminate tarnish, but they will definitely reduce tarnishing significantly.
Let Brass be Brass
Brass is a special kind of metal. It can be molded and shaped into various beautiful decorative and functional pieces. It has personalities. And, It is long-lasting. Some people may consider letting their brass hardware age gracefully and naturally. In fact, brass increases in value as it ages. So, polishing antiques could significantly reduce their value. After all, the beauty of an antique brass object is its tarnish.
By now, you may be able to determine what solid brass is by touching it with a magnet and identifying various kinds of brass. You also have learned how to clean brass with warm, soapy water and polish it if needed. Or you may decide to leave it alone and let brass be brass.
If you enjoy learning about how to take care of quality items like brass, you may also like how to take care of hand-knotted rugs.