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How To Remove Tarnish from Brass, Copper, Bronze and Keep It Off

Posted by Flitz International on 24th May 2022

How To Remove Tarnish from Brass, Copper, Bronze and Keep It Off

What’s the problem?

The problem is oxygen. It interacts with almost everything and when it interacts with metals like brass, copper and bronze, the result is the nasty green oxide that artists generously describe as “patina”. There are times when a patina is a nice aesthetic touch, but for those cases where that nasty green buildup is unwanted or unwelcome, then it’s Flitz to the rescue! But… be warned, it’s a multi-step process!

the Tarnish

There are lots of chemicals that remove tarnish, but unfortunately, most of them are acid-based. While acids work well, they come with risks and warnings that their respective compounds require. In most cases that means, gloves, goggles, respirators and more. All of those are fine in an industrial environment, but not in a commercial or residential setting. That’s why we make our Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover. Our formula is based on organic salts, not acids, and that makes things safer without compromising on performance.

When working with our Flitz Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover, you should do so in a well-ventilated area. While the product does not contain any toxic fumes, it does have a bit of a strong smell. Fresh air always helps. To use the product, simply spray on the area. You should see black and green tarnish begin to run off almost immediately. For particularly stubborn areas, you can agitate the area with a stiff brush or #0000 steel wool. In most cases you should not let the product sit on the surface for more than a few minutes. In fact, you probably won’t need to because of how fast it works.

What you will need to do is thoroughly rinse the area you’re working on with water. The rinsing is necessary so that the water will completely neutralize the organic salts, rendering them and any runoff completely harmless. Failure to rinse with water or product left on too long, may result in eventual hamr to the piece or area you’re working on. “Wiping” is not the same as “rinsing”. Give your piece or area a thorough spray or dunking in water. Then, if appropriate, dry the piece. Allowing larger areas to air dry is okay too.

The Initial Result

In most cases Flitz Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover will remove tarnish right down to the bare metal. By the way, if you apply Flitz Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover and you don’t see tarnish begin to run off, that likely means the piece you’re working on has been coated by some type of lacquer or clear coat. This is done to keep the tarnish at bay as long as possible. But if your lacquered piece is tarnished, that just means the oxygen has, over time, penetrated the lacquer. If that is the case for what you’re working on, that lacquer must be completely removed before Flitz Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover or our polish will have any effect at all. Good lacquer removers can be found at most local hardware stores.

If your piece or area is not lacquered, then Flitz Instant Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover has left you pretty much at the bare metal. And right here we must pass long a very stern warning. Even though the tarnish is gone and your piece looks better, you are NOT done. By removing the tarnish and exposing the bare metal, you have now made your piece even more reactive to the oxygen around it. In other words, if you do not take steps to polish and protect that metal as soon as practical, the metal will tarnish even quicker and the tarnish will come back with a vengeance!

Polish & Protect

Whether our Paste or Liquid Metal Polish is appropriate depends on what kind of surface you’re working on, but polish you must. And when you do, you will find that even if you’re down to bare metal, the polish will bring up additional black oxidation from the surface. This is completely normal. If you’re going for a high gloss mirror finish, the more you pull up the better. Applying the polish with a paper towel will give you enough of an abrasive texture to help pull up more oxidation. If the surface you’re working on is already a mirror finish, then apply the polish with a soft cloth or old t-shirt so as not to accidentally introduce any additional swirling to the finish.

Continue polishing until any black oxidation is minimal and until you get the kind of finish you want, be it soft luster or mirror shine. A final buffing with an ultra-soft microfiber like the Flitz Premium MC200 is always a good last step.

What’s Next?

Depending on the original condition of your piece or area, you’ve likely just gone through a fair amount of work. To keep from having to do that kind of work too often, we recommend one more step. While Flitz Polishes leave behind a thin film of beeswax that helps protect the metal longer, that wax is no match for excessive wear and tear or harsh outdoor conditions. For items that get a lot of use or exposure, you should protect the piece or area with Flitz Ceramic Sealant. Our Sealant can be applied directly over the polish and the easy-to-use spray-on, buff-off formula goes on quickly. Ceramic Sealant protection lasts up to 6 months or more in even the harshest conditions, including salt air, keeping your piece looking better longer.

A great tarnish remover, legendary metal polish and a state-of-the-art ceramic sealant are the three keys to keeping decorative metals looking their best. But in all cases, please be careful. Newer decorative metals, like oil-rubbed finishes, faux patinas and hand-hammered copper sinks and fixtures are not candidates for using our Tarnish Remover or our Polishes. Both of those products will treat your new faux patina just like it’s tarnish and completely remove them, potentially ruining an expensive piece. For faux finishes, always consult the manufacturer for cleaning instructions. For protecting those pieces, you can keep them beautiful with either our Ceramic Sealant or our Faucet Wax+, both of which are totally safe.