Serious Education ... plus the most fun you can have in metal finishing.
Restoring a National Cash Register, p. 2
A discussion started in 1998 and continuing through 2017 . . .
Q. I would like to know where I can buy the product NOXON which is a very good brass cleaner, either by mail or in Oregon? Thank you.Ed Tazelaar
A. Hi, Ed. You can get bottles of Noxon 7 [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] by clicking the linked text.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Q. I tried to clean brass with vinegar and salt. I soaked it, but it turned the brass pink! Is it ruined and can I get it back to normal with another cleaner?Murray W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Moncton, N.B. Canada
A. Hi, Murray. Vinegar and salt is strong and can leave copper or brass rather 'salmon' looking. Store-bought brass polishes like Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] should restore the warm brass glow quickly if not immediately.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Q. I have a pair of painted brass candlesticks that my father-in-law picked up during WW2. I have tried lots of commercial brass cleaners to remove the black tarnish, but they all also remove the paint! Is there any "home remedy" that I could use to remove the tarnish that won't destroy the paint that is left?Michele H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Seattle, Washington
A. Hi, Michele. Are you sure it's paint? A decorative technique often used for brass is to darken the object with an oxidizing agent like Liver of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler], then buff the most exposed surfaces (the highlights), leaving the recesses blackened. Maybe you can buff the highlights rather than chemical cleaning the piece?
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
I tried the ketchup and some steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] on a 100 year old brass Russian Samovar. It worked great! Thanks, Sue.Sue A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Houston, Texas
Q. I am trying to get the tarnish and dirt off of a brass bed. I have gone through lots of "Brasso" and lots of rubbing. Can someone tell me of a commercial product that would make this job easier? HELP!Jill C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Spring Creek, Nevada
Q. I model in HO scale Railroading. One of the most prize possessions for modelers are brass locomotives and cabooses. These scale models don't lend themselves to easy polishing (due to many,many small and delicate parts.) There are also crevices and nooks and crannies. When these models begin to tarnish it is very difficult to stop it. Can anyone suggest some type of dip or bath to provide a general cleaning and tarnish removal to keep them looking new. Also does the same technique apply to cleaning, especially before paintingDon W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Lake Champlain, New York
Q. I have been unable to locate Tarn-X for brass. I live in San Pedro, CA. Can you advise where it can be purchased?Ms. Shane
- San Pedro, California
A. To clean brass try soaking it in a solution of cream of tarter and water, about two tablespoons to a gallon, this works on cartridge cases well I'm sure you can apply it to other brass objectsJohn Z [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Walden New York
A. A good method for cleaning brass is to use 1/2 teaspoon of phosphoric acid per gallon of hot water swirl a few times and presto! it's clean. Neutralize the solution with baking soda [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] until it stops fizzing and discard or save it and use it several more times.Dennis L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Indianapolis, Indiana
SOME YEARS AGO, I PURCHASED AN OLD COPPER FIRE EXTINGUISHER, THE COPPER WAS BLACK ALMOST, THERE WERE BRASS PLATES HALF THE SIZE OF THE EXTINGUISHER, TWINKLE COPPER CLEANER AND NOXON DID NOT TOUCH THE OXIDATION. I FOUND THAT A PASTE MADE OF SALT AND WHITE VINEGAR (WEAR GLOVES) RUBBED BY FINGERS OR SOFT CLOTH ON THE SURFACES BEGAN TO DISSOLVE THE OXIDATION. AFTER I REMOVED MOST OF THE OXIDATION, I THEN USED Noxon 7 [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] METAL POLISH TO CLEAN THE REST OF THE EXTINGUISHER AND GIVE IT A PROTECTIVE WAX COAT. LOOKED LIKE NEW.
HOPE THIS HELPS.BARBARA L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- BAREFOOT BAY, FLORIDA
Q. RE the letter by Barbara L. How much SALT AND WHITE VINEGAR are mixed together?Peggy B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hornell, New York
Ed. note: The chemistry is such that it really doesn't matter much, Peggy. One tablespoon per cupful is probably good.
A. To Jack Q in Alaska. I clean houses for a living and the best cleaner I have found for stainless steel is Cameo [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] powdered cleanser. It is similar to Comet or Bon-Ami [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], but it removes the dark film buildup and surface scratches easier without as much residue to rinse off. It still requires some elbow grease but I think you will be pleased with the results.Beverly F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Lexington, North Carolina
S.Szigli was right! Ketchup and steel wool dissolves even the heaviest tarnish off unlacquered brass better than any of the toxins I've tried, including Tarn-x for Brass (very poor), Brasso (only slightly better), even blueprint strength ammonia (Fantastic but a killer to use) Mix 1 gal of water with 2 oz of liquid dishwashing liquid and 8 oz. of blueprint ammonia (80% strength - household a is 20%). Immerse brass in a PLASTIC tray for 30-45 min. Results are 0% tarnish. Ketchup is friendlier and MUCH cheaper!
The best followup polish for final luster that I have found is Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] (No, I don't work for Mother's).
Thanks, S. Szigli!Gary H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nokesville, Virginia
A. I found a few beautiful antiques at a garage sale. My fiance and I tried for hours to get all the oxidation off with very little results. He finally came up with a great idea, the Dremel. It even has a picture on the front of the box of someone polishing brass. Just put a drop of cleaner on and push the button.
GOOD LUCK!Dina F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Smithtown, New York
A. Hello, I work with restoring and reproducing antique brass as my full time occupation. I would like to suggest that any old brass item can be easily and relatively safely "cleaned" and prepped for proper polishing by using nearly any tub and tile cleaner product that has phosphoric acid listed as one of its ingredients. This will be much safer to use than a hydrochloric acid based cleaner. Although I use a large dip tank with a commercially available Phosphoric acid mix, I will occasionally use "The Works" tub and tile cleaner in my shop sink. This is available at nearly any Wal-Mart type store in my area. First disassemble the item to be cleaned down to the most basic parts so you can safely rinse with water after, then simply spray the cleaner on the area you are working on, scrub it in with a brush of some type, and rinse well. Do it a few times if necessary. It is important to do this in a ventilated area, and of course use gloves and safety glasses. You will find that using this as a first step will greatly reduce your polishing time.
Of course if there is some type of a finish on the part, this must be removed first, as well as any oily buildup. There are many good finish removers available (other than my strip tank, I use Aircraft stripper [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] by Klean-Strip, this stuff is the best water rinsing convenient use stripper I have found). Oils can be washed off first with a good dish soap and a brush.
This process will not leave you with a highly polished piece, but will greatly improve the appearance of the part and save you a huge percentage of the work necessary to polish. Some people are satisfied though with the end results and will leave it.
As far as a good polish? I use only a mechanical buffing lathe combined with experience, different types of compounds, wheel types, speed and techniques. I would not recommend this process for the inexperienced, you can easily destroy detail or the piece. It is the only way to get the proper shine out of an old piece of brass, it has to be done properly though.
As far as a suitable finish to protect the brass from further tarnish. Look no further than your local band instrument retailer who has a good repair shop. There have been bake on epoxy finishes designed specifically for brass and available to the musical instrument manufacture and repair trade since the fifties, do not let any one talk you into an air dry finish though, it will not last. Also do not use any automotive type clear coat, it will not work well and is difficult to strip later. As with any finish, the brass must be properly degreased before application, or the finish will not look good, if it sticks at all.
Best of luck!
Regards,Christopher H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
antique auto brass - Saint Johns, Michigan
I just found this web site and am grateful to who ever posted the problem of cleaning Brass, I tried every thing that was listed and must say for cost, and time, the Vinegar is the best so far. I tried both white and red wine, Red wine worked the best.
Thank you,Betty W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Woodbridge, Virginia
A. By far the easiest and cheapest solution (and the most environmental friendly) is lemon juice and salt. Make sure you dissolve enough salt in lemon juice. Wipe with a soft cloth dipped in the solution. Rinse and dry the brass thoroughly. Apply a thin coat of olive oil if the item will not be handled or is for food. Or apply a polyurethane coating (such as Turtlewax Car Wax [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] wax for your car) for a long lasting finish and for items exposed to the sun and heat. No elbow grease required.Kerry M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- La Luz, New Mexico
A. Those of you looking for Tarn-X, it is made by Jelmar. Their website allows you to find a location near you. Now I have found out where to get it I will be able to get my husband to clean the silver again. :-)Ross B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Riverside, California