How to Restore Old Brass Without Losing Patina

Brass is really trendy right now. Much of the home decor brass commercially available is cheaply made and will not retain it's beauty long. But brass made in the first quarter of the 20th century and earlier, develops an exquisite patina. Assuming of course that it has had reasonable care throughout it's long life. Sometimes, a good piece of brass will have just a tiny bit of verdigris, that is the crusty blue green stuff caused by oxidation and tells you corrosion is setting in. I see this a lot on furniture with brass mounts, lamps, chandeliers and light fixtures. Most brass tutorials give directions only on bringing brass back to it's super bright finish. Many antique dealers restore brass to it's bright finish, removing the patina and then apply a commercial solution to darken it again. I can always spot those. They never look quite right.
There are some pieces that devalue when you remove the patina.  Natural patina enhances the beauty of a piece, like this close up of  an antique French Demilune table. The brass pierced gallery is wearing an untouched natural patina..( soon to be in our Chairish store.) It has aged appropriately along with the mixed wood marquetry. To make it shiny bright would devalue and detract from it's beauty.

Today I am going to show you how I clean up old brass without removing the patina of age and in fact enhancing it. All non toxic.
This is an antique hanging light fixture from the flea market that I did a couple weeks ago.It had a major amount of verdigris setting in.

First I cleaned it with 7th Generation disinfecting wipes. I use this brand because it contains thymol, from the herb thyme and it safely disinfects and kills any mold spores. I have never had it damage any antique.
After that I applied a paste of white vinegar and baking soda to the corroded area. This mix will remove the verdigris from the metal, I then add a bit of salt to the brass and rub it well into the area to act like an exfoliant because verdigris is somewhat crumbly and thoroughly wipe it off using the wipes again.
I wiped dry with a lint free cloth and gave it about 30 minutes to make certain all traces of dampness are gone.
Then using a dark non toxic wax intended for chalk paint, I rub down the brass. Areas that are too dark can be lightened with clear wax.  I let it sit about 3 minutes then wipe off. The dark wax fills in the natural pitting that occurs in aged brass and seals it from developing more verdigris. And it adds more depth to the brass which is what I really love. If you want a more matte finish let dry and buff it up a bit. If you want a shinier finish you can seal it with a micro crystalline wax likes Renaissance Wax. I left mine in a matte finish as I prefer the additional  warmth and depth of the matte look.

I love using brass accents around my apartment, don't you?

Until next time...

No comments:

Gilby reads and recommends Modern Dog