From heavy machinery to delicate jewelry, bronze has many uses. A mixture of tin and copper, bronze is the most suitable material for statues and for many decorative objects. Despite the fact that bronze has been around since, well, the Bronze Age (3300 – 600 BC), we don’t see ancient bronze laying around the ruins of Rome or Constantinople. This is because bronze oxidizes when it gets old, leading to that green-tinted aspect. Think of the roofs and landscape of some of the world’s oldest cities. Whenever bronze rusted, from ancient times till now, people sold the old bronze to be melted and recycled into new objects. While recycling is very noble (we’re all for it), here is the complete lowdown on how to polish bronze, leaving it fresh, shiny, and definitely not green.
Choose the right products for your bronzeware
Your bronze décor pieces deserve the best treatment. You can create your own polishing solution at home. Just mix a tablespoon of baking soda with some lemon juice – you don’t need to make a lot, you don’t want excess moisture in the pieces, so be moderate. But you absolutely should not use a random cloth from your house. Please steer away from anything that will leave lint or scraps in your bronzeware. If you are cleaning badly tarnished bronze, you should actually search for the best brass polish liquid and cloth possible. The most useful brass polishing cloths are coated with wax and protective chemicals. If you are dealing with stains from heat or water and wondering how to polish bronze, the best way to remove them is with a specialized polish cloth.
Know what you are polishing
Some bronze objects are not meant to be shiny, so you should just stick to less aggressive cleaning methods (rather than restless rubbing and scrubbing). Does your bronze piece have a protective layer of coating? Some of these coating layers can be removed for polishing purposes, some not. Make sure you know what you are getting into and if there are any instructions specific to your objects. Do you need to disassemble your bronze into smaller pieces? Make sure you don’t reassemble it until all pieces are dry.
You’ll probably need a bunch of newspapers…
Think about your work conditions. This task will take a long time. If you have a lot to clean, see if it’s possible to spread out the work over the weekend. When you set up your workstation, make sure that it’s set at an appropriate height for you – will you be sitting or standing?
Cut your cloth into smaller pieces
If you are cleaning small bronzeware, like candleholders or earrings, use cloth pieces of an adequate size to your object. Larger pieces of bronze, like musical instruments or machine parts, will require a larger cloth. But you don’t want to run the risk of giving it a clumsier polish with excess fabric and leaving scratches.
For regular maintenance, use this homemade mix
You can also just add together a tablespoon of flour and salt, along with some vinegar for a lightweight brass cleaning solution.
Gently smear your preferred cleaning solution/paste
The key to becoming a successful bronze cleaner is patience and gentleness. Be very careful when handling these objects, but thoroughly spread your polishing liquid. Depending on your desired effect, use the cloth to scrub for a stronger polish.
Waiting is the most understated skill anyone can have. Again, you need to be patient when polishing bronze. Wait for at least thirty minutes (for regular cleaning) or up to ninety minutes (for very corroded/discolored pieces) to remove the polish solution.
Wash it off or not?
It’s up to you whether to wash the polish off. Bronze comes in many shapes, price-ranges, levels of quality, and so on. You know your bronze better than internet strangers do. If you feel like your piece is at a low-moderate level of finery, you’re probably good for a wash. Gently rinse off the polish, then use a very soft cloth (preferably a specific polish cloth, coated in wax). If you are dealing with finer, more delicate pieces of bronze, use a damp cloth to wipe off the polish.
Yes, you might need multiple takes on this one. Depending on the level of corrosion or your standards for shine, you should repeat the previous steps. Once you have reached your final polish step, don’t wash, rinse or wipe anything (unless you used a paste). You may consider adding a layer of wax coating to protect your bronzeware but don’t do it if you plan to clean regularly. Otherwise, enjoy your newly bright bronzeware!