March 2, 2011

How to polish brass

Remember the faux bamboo brass tray I posted yesterday?  Well, when I found it, it was dull, dirty, and tarnished.

{Before: dull and stained}

I used Bar Keepers Friend* to polish it up.  To polish brass, you will need a soft rag, a pair of rubber gloves (otherwise your hands will smell for a while!), a liberal amount of Bar Keepers Friend (available in most grocery stores or places like Target or Walmart), some water, and a deep sink.

I like to leave a little bit of the tarnish in the crevices as that highlights the detail of the piece and helps it retain some of its vintage character.  Dampen the rag, sprinkle a little powder on the rag, and rub gently.  Always test on an inconspicuous place first to make sure the piece isn't getting scratched.  Also, brass doesn't have a "grain" like wood does, but you may want to rub in a direction that makes sense with the overall design of the piece to avoid lots of swirly marks.  For the tray, I used big ovals and tried to avoid rubbing really hard in multiple small areas, which probably would have given the tray a checkered look.

{After: shiny and clean!}

If you want a more matte look (or have a really tarnished or stained piece), you can also use a Brillo pad or scrubber instead of a cloth to polish the brass.  This will probably be more effective at removing deep stains (which, thankfully, my tray didn't have).  It had a couple rust spots that came off fairly easily with some persistent scrubbing.

When you finish polishing the brass, rinse the piece with water.  I will often use a mild dish soap to wash off any residue, rinse thoroughly, then dry it well with a clean cloth to remove any water spots.'re finished!

{We are using this tray to corral magazines, candles, and matches on our coffee table}



* Bar Keepers Friend is what I've used, but I've also heard good things about Brasso-brand polish.

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