Cleaning and Caring for your Brass Furniture
Essential information for cleaning, protecting and caring for your brass door and window furniture.
Our personal view is that when buying brass door and window furniture it should be good quality ‘unlacquered’ brass.
How will my brass age?
Being Unlacquered means that once installed, with touch, time and the environment your brass will gradually and naturally wear and oxidise. This process will give your brass a lovely rich, deep patina resulting in natural character and elegance.
Generally, we would expect you to start to see the beginning of oxidisation within a few months, but this can be drastically increased depending upon where you live and your local atmospheric conditions. Check your brass regularly after installation so that you can gauge how quickly it is ageing, this will help you decide how often you may need to clean and care for your brass.
Even if you want your brass to develop an aged look that says ‘I have been here for years’ it still needs care and maintenance to prolong its life and preserve its beauty.
To do this we recommend that you clean it with warm, soapy water with a soft, non-abrasive cloth. For Front Door furniture and other exterior fittings, you may wish to use a soft bristle nail brush or toothbrush to help lift some of the more stubborn deposits. Then give it a good wipe over with a lint free cloth to dry and reveal the natural lustre.
Unless you live in a particularly harsh environmental area, or in a Coastal location, you shouldn’t need to do this more frequently than every couple of months.
If your brass hasn’t been cared for in a while, or you just prefer it to have more shine, then you will need clean it. Start by washing it, as described in the Regular care section above.
Once it is dry, you should use a good quality metal polish – we use Brasso wadding – and a soft, dry, non-abrasive cloth. If you are using a liquid or cream metal polish, please apply this sparingly, you can always go back for another round of cleaning if necessary.
Use gentle, circular movements. For a more authentic aged look, polish the raised or flatter surfaces a little more and leave any detailing or crevices alone. This will result in those detailed areas remaining dark.
Once you are happy with the level of cleaning, make sure you remove any traces of the metal polish with a separate lint free, non-abrasive cloth. We tend to use an e-cloth or similar for this part of the cleaning process, as it removes the polish remnants and any smears too.
You may only need to do this a few times per year, this will depend on how quickly your brass ages, your local atmospheric conditions and of course how shiny you like your brass to be!
Brass is a very robust material and will not rust, even in harsh environmental conditions. However, to help protect it against the elements we do recommend that occasionally it is treated with the application of a good quality wax polish. We tend to use Beeswax and a soft, lint free cloth. You could also use a good quality spray wax furniture polish.
But brass can develop ‘Verdigris’ – a bright blueish-green encrustation. The severity of this does completely depend on both the copper content in your brass and the local environmental conditions.
Most brass, particularly when fitted indoors, will never show signs of Verdigris. In other instances, you may see a blueish-green tinge to your brass, or small Verdigris spots forming.
Cleaning with a good quality metal polish, as described above, as soon as you notice this will remove it. You may need to apply the metal polish 2 or 3 times to remove it completely. It is better to do 2 or 3 gentle cleans than apply too much metal polish, or be tempted to leave it applied for long periods.
As we have already mentioned, we are not a fan of lacquered brass. People will often choose it because of price (all contract grade brass furniture will be lacquered, because it is mass produced from lower grade brass, it is usually cheaper) or because they believe it doesn’t need to be cleaned.
How will Lacquered Brass age?
Lacquered Brass doesn’t age naturally. This is because it has a thin layer of lacquer which covers the entire fitting. This prevents natural oxidisation as the raw brass is not exposed to the environment.
What does happen, is that with time, touch and the environment the lacquer begins to break down, revealing the natural brass underneath. When this happens, you will end up with brass that is shiny in parts (where there is still lacquer) and brass that begins to oxidise.
Jewellery and keys are culprits in scratching the surface of the lacquer and hand soaps, creams and gels speed up the deterioration of the lacquer.
When this happens the lacquer needs to be removed – see below for instructions.
Because of the lacquer all you will need to do is dust it with a soft, non-abrasive cloth from time to time.
If you get more stubborn marks – sticky fingers etc – then warm soapy water is all that is needed.
Never use any form of chemical cleaner on Lacquered Brass.
To help protect the life of the Lacquer an occasional application of a good quality wax polish will help. We tend to use Beeswax and a soft, lint free cloth. You could also use a good quality spray wax furniture polish.
Once the lacquer has started to break down, it will need to be removed. To do this we recommend the following steps:
1. Remove the fittings from the door or window
2. Apply a thin layer of paint stripper – follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and removal, or soak in pure Acetone.
3. Do not use anything abrasive to scrub off the lacquer as this will damage the brass underneath
4. Repeat until all the lacquer is removed
Once the lacquered is removed, wash with warm soapy water and then when dry, clean the brass with a good quality metal polish – we use Brasso wadding – and a soft, dry, non-abrasive cloth. If you are using a liquid or cream metal polish, please apply this sparingly.
From this point on, continue to care and maintain your brass as described in the Unlacquered Brass section.