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"Lacquering / clear coating a Brass Bed"

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Q. I have a very old brass bed that is not lacquered. The green tarnish residue is rubbing off on my bedding; sheets, pillowcases, and comforter. We have used Brasso [affil link] in the past to clean it. I don't mind how it looks when it's tarnished but it's ruining my bedding. What suggestions do you have to resolve this?

Many thanks!!!

Sheila Palermo
- New Orleans Louisiana
January 17, 2021

Microcrystalline "Museum Wax"

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A. Hi Sheila. You can clean it again with Brasso and wax it with museum wax. But wax makes for poor subsequent adhesion of paint or lacquer unless carefully removed. Brass lacquer or a simple one-part clearcoat made for metal are alternative to wax.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

↓ Closely related postings, oldest first ↓


Q. Dear Finishing:

My husband and I recently purchased a beautiful antique solid brass bed (in pieces) and have refastened and cleaned it up. Now that the hard work is done, what can I use to protect the brass from oxidizing again, as least slow down the process? I wouldn't ever want to coat it with clear polyurethane or something similar. My father, a metallurgist, suggested a "light machine oil" rubbed on it. What do you think?

Thank you for your input!

Peggy J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Needham, Massachusetts


A. I think the machine oil may rub off on your sheets and blankets. If you don't lacquer or clearcoat it you can't prevent tarnishing over the long term -- because brass tarnishes. Benzotriazole should help, and polishes like Brasso [affil link] leave a film that helps a bit, or you can wax it with car wax -- but brass lacquer is a longer-term solution.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Lacquer is a good answer. Brasso, will over time promote tarnish unless it is fully removed, either rub really hard with lots of clean towels or use Acetone [affil link] as a wipe down (nasty stinky solvent). Rally Car Wax [affil link] can remove a light tarnish and provide limited protection.

A good lacquer I used back in my antique days (includes several hundred restored brass beds) was a clear nitrocellulose lacquer from G.J. Nikolas [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] in IL. The 2105 clear could be bought in spray cans. (Use the bottom of the cans to do the back side of the headboard, as the spray pattern gets a little weak as the can gets empty)You may need to buy a full case.

The stuff works great. The big problem with most off the shelf spray lacquer is that the "milk-out" easily. Moisture combines with lacquer and forms a frosty appearance. 2105 goes on nice, do not do it on a rainy day. PRACTICE FIRST! Learn how to put it on heavy enough to form a solid layer but not to run, Catch runs with a paper towel and lacquer thinner [affil link] and respray. Make sure the bed is totally clean and free of tarnish. Wipe with lacquer thinner before application. Good ventilation and a mask are required!

Jon Quirt
- Minneapolis, Minnesota


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A. Best clearcoat is Incralac [affil link] --special lacquer for copper/copper alloys(USA product)! French polish (for woodwork) is very good, too (you may dye it with curcuma or saffron - if you want)!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia

Goddard Polish

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March 13, 2009

A. High end brass polishes containing benzotriazole form a very thin and durable copper complex surface layer (not an oil film) which keeps tarnish from forming for months indoors. The problem is to determine which contain the chemical (Goddards Long Term Brass & Copper Polish is one I know of). Benzotriazole [affil link] can be purchased from photo supply houses, costs a bit ($17 for 100 grams). It can be used in a dilute alcohol solution as a wash applied after cleaning/polishing with cloth or spray to retard tarnishing. Anhydrous denatured alcohol can be found at hardware or paint stores. The article can then be waxed or lacquered for greater durability.

Dale A. Meyn
- Fredericksburg, Virginia


RFQ: I have a full sized brass bed that I want to give to my daughter. She doesn't want to have to clean it. The solution is to have it treated. Can you help me with someone in my area that can dip the bed and afix the treatment so we will not have to polish it?

Thank you,

Pat C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Monroe, Connecticut

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ for private contact is now outdated, but public technical replies are still welcome. No public brand/source suggestions please ( huh? why?)


Q. I also found a very heavy brass bed that had set outside for some time, it is totally black. I am trying to restore it now. What did you do to restore yours and what did you use. I am using an electric drill with buffer to speed up the work. Heard to use olive oil on it afterwards to keep it bright. Posts are at least 3 inches thick. Any suggestions on the restoration? Thanks.

Iris C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bellport, New York

Ed. note: We have dozens of long threads on the various steps in restoring brass beds, Iris. Please search the site with the term "clean & polish a brass bed".

Multiple threads were merged: please forgive repetition, chronology errors, or disrespect towards other postings [they weren't on the same page] :-)


Q. I have been refinishing a solid brass bed and want to know the best way to keep it from oxidizing so it will keep it's clean finish. I am a private individual trying to do my best for this nice piece.


Ruth Rathbun
- Venice, Florida, USA


A. I'd suggest some type of lacquer. Brass Tarnishes quite easily without some type of top coating.

Jason Deible
Plating - Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


RFQ: Brass Bed Restoration - I am in need a brass bed to be polished and to have a piece replaced that is missing. Is there anyone in the St. louis, Mo. metro area that this? Thanks

Dana Stephens
Collector - Belleville, Illinois, USA

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ for private contact is now outdated, but public technical replies are still welcome. No public brand/source suggestions please ( huh? why?)


A. Try a company that does brass band instrument repair.
They should be able to clean, polish, &lacquer your bed and advise on a source for replacement parts.

Bill Ramsay
- Elkhart, Indiana, U.S.A.

February 7, 2009

Q. Dana, did you find a company that has replacement parts for antique beds? please share with me. I lost a part to my bed during a move.

Judy Luebbert
collector - St Peters, Missouri, USA

Ed. note: Dana, we have dozens of long threads on brass bed restoration; please search the site for "parts for brass beds" or start with thread 11377. Good luck.

(No "dead threads" here! If this page isn't currently on the Hotline your Q, A, or Comment will restore it)

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