True quality brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Needless to say it tends to oxidize (tarnish) fairly quickly when exposed to air. In most cases brass is given a clear coat of lacquer to prevent this from happening. Most brass polishes that can be purchased, coat the material with a thin layer of oil to help prevent future tarnishing. This is a step by step guide to show you how to effectively clean and polish any brass hardware you may own that is showing signs of tarnish.
Gather Materials Needed
To start, gather all the supplies needed for the job. You will need a good brass cleaner/polish. I would recommend Brasso, which is a top brand. You will also need a 100% cotton clothe, (flannel is a good material to use), any tools you may need to remove the brass hardware from whatever it is attached to, i.e. screwdriver or drill. Last thing you need is a well ventilated place to work. *MOST* brass polishes nowadays are non-toxic, but the smell can be very abrasive. Also you may want to pick up a container of lacquer such as Behlen Brass Lacquer. This is to protect the brass over time.
First go ahead and remove your brass hardware from whatever it is attached to, such as a door handle. If you need to detach the brass from something, try using a hand screwdriver if possible as to keep from damaging the screw heads. Once you have the brass detached, place it at your workstation preferably on a piece of wood or something you have no concern about possibly ruining. Once that’s complete, take a piece of clothe with some plain tap water, and clean all dirt and dust from the hardware, and let dry.
Using The Polish
Now that the brass is clean, open your polish and add a small amount to the 100% cotton clothe. Then take the clothe and in a circular motion, rub the polish into the brass (for about 5 to 10 minutes) until every bit of the brass is covered with an even coat. Let sit and dry for about 20 minutes. Then take a dry 100% cotton clothe and wipe the polish off. Repeat this step as needed until all tarnish is removed and the brass has a nice even shine. Then let dry for 24 hours.
Maintenance and Protection
If you want to prevent future tarnishing then you will need to coat the brass in lacquer. I would recommend Behlen Brass Lacquer as it is spray on and easy to use. Just spray the lacquer evenly over brass and let dry for about 12 hours. Finished.