So you've got yourself a beautiful new natural brass light fixture! Congratulations! Wondering how to care for it? It is super-easy. Here's everything you'll need to know.
Don't Move a Muscle
Call me lazy, but I think doing nothing is sometimes the best option. Left untouched pure brass will darken and develop a patina. Personally, I am obsessed with using natural materials and allowing them to age gracefully. My favorite bedsheets are 100% linen and have softened after years of use. My favorite jacket is quality leather that has broken in beautifully. My favorite mug is a ceramic left by an old roommate with a chip on one side. I'm nothing if not consistent :-b
Lately I have been really interested in the Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi. There are a lot of definitions of Wabi Sabi, but my favorite is this: "Wabi-sabi is a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. An aesthetic of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete." When I am feeling like a particularly Wabi-sabi hippy, I think of brass as the perfect expression of this idea. It is beautiful not in spite of it's transience and patina, but because of it.
Just a Little TLC
Maybe you aren't a Wabi-sabi hippy like me. Maybe you love the golden hue of freshly polished brass. Or maybe your lights are installed in a particularly humid climate causing the brass to patina too severely. There are a number of reasons you may want to give your metal a touch of TLC.
Don't worry, cleaning up your brass is super-easy. Just get your hands on some Brasso, which you can order here, or pick up from any hardware store. Put a tiny dab on a clean soft cloth and massage it onto the fixture. Wipe it off with a clean soft cloth and you are good to go! Brasso is great, it cleans and conditions all at once. Be careful not to get the brasso on the wall or ceiling surrounding your fixture, as this could leave a stain.
How often should you clean your brass? It'll vary a bit from place to place, but the general consensus is about every five or six months. If you are in a humid climate maybe a bit more, if you are in the desert maybe once every year or two.
Getting Really Fancy
If you are feeling really fancy, you can use this stuff called Renaissance Wax. It lightly coats the brass to retard oxidation, and generally gives the brass extra depth. After cleaning the brass with Brasso, repeat the same process (using new clean cloths) with this wax, and then pat yourself on the back for being a supremely fancy lady. Renaissance wax was developed by the British Museum for fine art conservation, so, like I said, #fancy. I use it on every piece that I sell.
A Word About Lacquer
If you really love shiny shiny brass you may want to have your brass lacquered. You can DIY it (there's some great instructionals online), or have it done by a local metal finisher. A quick word of caution: lacquer will protect the brass from oxidizing for a long time, but not forever. Once the brass does start to oxidize you will need to remove the lacquer completely before cleaning and re-polishing it. Then you'll need to reapply the lacquer. I'm tired just typing this paragraph.
You may have guessed, but I don't lacquer any of the pieces that I sell. It isn't really my speed, but to each her own and all that ;)