A coat of lacquer is the best way to prevent brass from tarnishing, and renewing the lacquer periodically can keep your brass looking its best. Because it's an alloy of zinc and copper, unfinished brass tarnishes quickly -- but the good news is that the tarnish prevents further damage and isn't difficult to clean. This means that lacquering a tarnished piece involves about the same amount of work as re-lacquering one protected by an existing finish.
Removing Existing Lacquer
Before you clean your brass in preparation for a new finish, it's important to remove any existing lacquer that has peeled and allowed the metal underneath to tarnish. Because lacquer emulsifies in lacquer thinner, which is available at any hardware store, either dipping your piece in that solvent or soaking a rag and using it to wipe the piece removes the old finish. Scrub hard-to-reach areas with a toothbrush. Acetone, or nail polish remover, is a suitable substitute for lacquer thinner. Be sure to wear a respirator and keep the space ventilated when using either solvent.
Cleaning and Polishing
Before you apply lacquer, you need to remove tarnish and vestiges of lacquer, and polish the brass so it will shine under the new finish. Use a commercial brass cleaner, but apply only a small amount to your cleaning cloth -- too much wears the brass and may remove brass plating altogether. Rub the piece vigorously to generate heat -- this helps loosen the chemical bonds binding the oxidized material to the surface. After cleaning the brass, buff it to a gleaming finish using a second clean, soft rag.
Before coating your brass with lacquer, you may want to darken or burnish the finish, or even give it some color to make it look more antique. There are several chemicals you can use to do this. For example, immersing the brass in a water solution of copper sulphate will give it a dull green hue. Dipping it in hydrochloric acid and ferric oxide will dull it, and putting it in a water solution of nitrate of iron and hyposulphite of soda will give it reddish brown tones. Many more colorizing recipes -- some of which require care because they involve strong acids -- are available.
Coating with Fresh Lacquer
Solvent-based nitrocellulose lacquer is the best type to use for coating brass. If your piece is small enough, the quickest way to coat it is to dip it in lacquer and hang it to dry. The alternative is to spray the lacquer; for this, air spray equipment and an aerosol can are equally effective. If the brass is part of something larger -- such as a brass doorknob -- protect the surface you aren't lacquering with masking paper and masking tape. Spray one coat of lacquer, sand it lightly with 400-grit sandpaper, and then spray a second coat.
- Photo Credit Nisangha/iStock/Getty Images
How to Remove a Lacquer Finish From Brass
Brass knobs, hinges and ornamental fixtures offer the look and feel of quality when they are clean and tarnish-free. Unfortunately, the lacquer...
How to Clean Lacquered Brass
Lacquered brass is easy to care for because of the protective coating the lacquer provides. It prevents tarnish and oxidization, and keeps...
How to Relacquer Brass
Spray a layer of lacquer over the brass in thin layers. Consult the lacquer manufacturer's guidelines for the distance it should be...
How to Restore a Lacquer Finish on Brass
Many homeowners appreciate the golden, coppery shine of brass hardware accessories and home decorations. Brass objects are often coated with a lacquer...
How to Polish Brass
Brass looks beautiful when it has been cleaned and polished, bright and dazzling and an asset to any home decor. Handles, lamps,...
How to Apply Stain or Paint Over Lacquered Brass
Shiny, lacquered brass was once popular for many home accessories, especially lighting fixtures such as lamps and chandeliers. As this finish has...
How to: Faux Antique Brass Finish
How to: Faux Antique Brass Finish. ... Removing the Lacquer Finish. 7. Fill one bowl with hot water. 8. Dampen another clean,...
How to Relacquer Band Instruments
The Best Way to Apply Lacquer to Brass; How to Strip a Trumpet of Lacquer; Print this article; Things You'll Need. Bathtub;...