I love the look of well polished brass, but the work can be daunting especially when the level of tarnish is bad. In this instructable I will tell you how I deal with the issue; it is fairly quick and quite effective. I should also note that not all brass is created equal, my method is mildly brutal so I would not use it on really expensive items without a bit of thought. Also for just a bit of tarnish less drastic methods should do. Take a look at the pictures here to see if you think it work well for you then read the next section. Also note that it can be a deeply ( but perhaps not spiritually ) satisfying experience to put a nice polish on a piece of brass ( or gold or silver if you can afford them ).
The Big Picture
There is more to polishing brass than just the polishing. Just what you are polishing can make a big difference. Many brass items are coated with a protective material to stop them from tarnishing. This coating often fails ( sometimes over many years ) and the tarnish gets under the coating. In order to polish the item you need to remove the coating. I have one lamp where I still have not figured out how to get the coating off, so it is still unpolished. Sometimes the coating deteriorates and is gone by the time you are ready to polish and sometimes you can use a solvent or paint remover to get it off. But this instructable is not about removing the coating, use it if:
- You have determined there is no coating.
- You have gotten the coating off.
- Many softer coating will polish off, try to test before you go big time.
Also note that some brass object have deliberately non polished or colored areas, this technique is probably too brutal to be used on these objects.
When you have finished polishing you can either add a coating or not. If you do not add a coating plan to polish again ( on a boat perhaps next week, in a house perhaps next year ), this is what I often do. Even if you do coat the surface it will not be permanent. Again this is not an instructable about coating, but about polishing. I will give a few tips later in the instructable on coating.
A couple of other things to look out for:
- Baldwin has a brass that never tarnishes, just leave it alone. ( by the way it is nice stuff if you can afford it )
- All that looks like brass may not be, if plated you may detect with a magnet, polishing plate may remove the brass down to the base metal ( which may not be magnetic ).
- Some objects are not meant to be bright.