In this chapter, we unravel the secrets of proper cleaning methods for a variety of metal surfaces. From stainless steel to copper and beyond, we’re here to guide you through simple yet effective techniques that will keep the metal you clean shining bright.
Preferred Method: Brasso
Before cleaning, check whether the piece is solid Brass or brass-plated. The best method to do this is by using a magnet and placing it on the piece. Magnets do not stick to solid Brass. This distinction is crucial because you can remove the plating if you scrub a brass-plated piece too hard.
If the piece is lacquer-coated, as often found on faucets, wash with warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry to a shine. Otherwise, use Brasso Brass Cleaner.
- Rinse the piece in warm water.
- Apply a thin coating of Brasso with a sponge or microfiber cloth.
- Rub in until the tarnish is removed.
- Once the entire piece has been cleaned, set aside and allow to air dry thoroughly.
- Once the piece is arid, use a soft cloth or a clean microfiber cloth and polish the piece to its natural patina.
Preferred Method: Barkeeper’s Friend
Copper pans, sinks, and accessories can be found throughout most fine homes. Like all metals, copper tarnishes over time and with use. For example, exposing copper to water turns the surface greenish-blue, and exposing copper to air turns it black. We strongly suggest using a commercial copper cleaner like Brasso and Barkeeper’s Friend. Follow the same process of cleaning and polishing as listed for brass above.
Preferred Method: Shelia Shine
Stainless Steel is best known for its capacity to resist corrosion and rust, making it a popular choice in appliances throughout fine homes. However, stainless steel is hardly ever stainless!
Fingerprints and water stains tend to decorate the surfaces of dishwashers and refrigerators alike. Dust, dirt, and grime may put Stainless Steel appliances at risk of rusting or staining. Harsh chemical cleaning products promise to return them to their original showroom beauty but often fail to live up to their promise.
The truth is, keeping Stainless Steel appliances clean is easy to do:
- First, wash surfaces with warm, sudsy water.
- Dry and polish with a microfiber cloth or all-cotton rag.
- Use a product called Sheila Shine. Spray a small amount of Sheila Shine on a microfiber cloth or a clean paper towel and wipe it with the grain of Stainless Steel. Take care in over-lapping strokes. You may also use a small dab of mineral oil on a soft microfiber cloth instead of Sheila Shine.
Preferred Method: Hot Water & Dish Soap
Due to its spectacular shine, there is little wonder why it’s become such a widely used commodity in the commercial market. Chrome is no longer used on just wheels and wheel covers on automobiles.
Because dirt and gunk show up easily on Chrome’s shiny finish, it’s important to clean the surface regularly.
Fortunately, much of the grime can be cleaned with a simple compound of soap and water. Cleaning materials specifically suited to cleaning chrome are available for more glaring problems. When cleaning Chrome, you should also finish with a polishing stage.
Here are easy steps to follow to clean Chrome properly:
- Fill a bucket with hot water, and add a few drops of dish soap. Use soft, clean, all-cotton or microfiber cloth. Wash the chrome surface. If needed, gently scrub the surface while washing.
- After you finish washing the Chrome, dry it off with a clean, all-cotton hand towel. Leaving the Chrome wet will result in unsightly water marks and streaks. Drying it in gentle circular motions prevents streaking.
- To restore a brilliant finish, use a small piece of aluminum foil and rub it gently over the surface, being careful not to scratch the surface of the Chrome. Do not use glass cleaner, as this will leave streaks.
Preferred Method: Lemon & Salt
Aluminum is a light but strong metal that requires special care when cleaning. Aluminum pots and pans, accessories, utensils, sinks, surfaces, and outdoor furnishings should be cleaned regularly to avoid the buildup of grime. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of aluminum oxide.
The following are a few steps to clean Aluminum properly:
- Wash and dry surfaces to be cleaned to ensure they are free of any oil or dirt.
- Use warm water with dishwashing soap to remove any grease.
- Slice a lemon in half and dip in salt. Scrub the surface with the grain of Aluminum and the lemon half. Then, thoroughly rinse or wipe the surface with water and a rag to remove the lemon acid and salt.
- Follow with a clean, soft, all-cotton cloth and dry. Alternatively, you may use a metal polishing paste such as Wenol to scrub the surface of aluminum pieces; this also works great on outdoor furniture.
Preferred Method: Warm Water & Dishsoap
Pewter products blend metals to achieve a unique look in dishware and other household features. It is a blend of tin, copper, and lead and is often found in antique plates, pitchers, and mugs.
Polished Pewter contains no lead and is bright and light gray in color. Satin pewter is not shiny and has a grainy finish, and oxidized Pewter is darker and has more lead or is treated to look antique.
Over time, Pewter will accumulate stains during use and develop discolorations called patina. Treat all Pewter with soap and water, then while still wet, add a polish on non-oxidized Pewter to keep it bright and long-lasting.
It is important with Pewter to keep it dusted. This should be done regularly, even while you’re not washing or polishing Pewter. Use a duster or soft microfiber cloth to remove any dust clinging to the pieces. The more you do this, the longer you’ll preserve the finish and the less you’ll need to wash and polish the pieces.
To clean Pewter properly, follow these steps:
- Wash the piece with hot or warm water to remove any grime.
- Use a little mild dishwashing liquid. Avoid using anything abrasive on Pewter pieces, as this will wear away the finish and scratch the Pewter.
- Rinse in warm water and dry with a soft all-cotton cloth. Ensure that all the water and soap have been removed before you are finished.
- Buff with a cloth to a warm patina.
Pewter is not meant to have a high shine. Depending on the piece and its metal alloy, some pieces will have more of a glow than others.
Pewter scratches easily. Avoid strong detergents and abrasive polishes such as Brasso. You can use triple ott steel wool to restore the finish, however. But use lightly. Antique or oxidized Pewter is meant to look dark, and this patina will be damaged by any attempt to polish it. Just wash with warm water and soap.
Pewter melts at a relatively low temperature and should never be exposed to extreme heat, such as in a dishwasher.
Preferred Method: White Vinegar & Flour
Bronze is a combination of brass and iron. It is meant to look dark and somewhat shiny. Cleaning bronze can take anywhere from a few minutes to overnight.
Some of the best bronze cleaners are household ingredients. Using boiling water, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, flour, or a combination of these, you can get a bronze piece that looks clean and pristine again.
A simple cleaning process is:
- Mix 2/3 cup of white vinegar and 2/3 cup of flour in a bowl.
- Blend these two ingredients until they are fully mixed together.
- Add 1/2 cup of salt to your mixture and stir to form a paste.
- Spread the paste on the bronze piece. You can use your gloved hand or a soft cotton rag to spread the paste on the bronze. Be sure that your piece is completely covered in the paste.
- Leave the paste on for 1-2 hours until completely dry.
- Rinse the piece in warm water, taking care to remove all of the paste. Use a chamois leather cloth to dry the bronze. While drying the piece, rub it with a cloth to remove any marks. Make sure it is completely dry and that all the paste is removed.
- Add a few drops of olive oil to a soft, clean, all-cotton cloth and rub it over the bronze piece. Olive oil has been a method of cleaning and protecting bronze since ancient times.
Do not use these methods on lacquered bronze; only use a damp cloth occasionally and dust regularly with a duster.
Gold & Ormolu
Preferred Method: Certified Specialist
Pure Gold will not corrode. However, it is very soft and scratches easily. Most Gold objects contain other metals, such as copper and silver. These can corrode and discolor the surface of the Gold. ANY CHEMICAL TREATMENT MUST BE LEFT TO A SPECIALIST. Cleaning Gold and Ormolu should be limited to gently dusting with a soft brush or soft microfiber cloth.
If the surface is discolored, use a swab moistened with methylated spirit and rub very gently. If this doesn’t work, try a swab moistened with spit, followed by a swab moistened with distilled water. WARNING: Some Gold objects, especially from the Indian subcontinent and parts of Asia, have intentional deposits of reddish material in low areas, used to enrich the appearance of the metal. Natural substances such as tamarind seed were used and can be mistaken for residues of polishing compounds. IF IN DOUBT, CONSULT A SPECIALIST BEFORE CLEANING.
Preferred Method: Light Dusting
Ormolu is the term used to describe gilt brass on decorative art objects such as clocks and mounts on inlaid boxes and furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries. The gilding was applied using the mercury amalgam process, sometimes also called fire gilding. The traditional method for ‘cleaning’ Ormolu was to brush or dip it in an ammonia solution. This was very effective for removing copper corrosion products, but unfortunately, ammonia also attacks the metal itself. Ammonia ‘cleaning’ often left the surface slightly matte, so dipping was followed by polishing to restore a bright, shiny gold finish.
The first treatment with ammonia often produces rapid and spectacular results. Repeated treatments, however, damage both the brass and the gilt layer. Eventually, all gilding is destroyed, and even the brass becomes etched and dull, leaving a once attractive and valuable piece worthless.
Ormolu should be cleaned in the same way as Gold. It is best to do nothing other than light dusting with a soft microfiber cloth or feather duster. Ormolu frequently exhibits small black spots that pose a formidable challenge for removal without causing harm to the underlying gilding layer. If cleaning is required, it is best to leave it to a conservator.
Sterling Silver & Silver Plate, EPNS
Preferred Method: Weiman Silver Cleaner
Sterling Silver is a layer formed over the surface of typically copper. Sometimes, it is a layer of silver over brass.
To properly clean Sterling Silver:
- Begin by rinsing the silver piece to be polished in cool water.
- Apply silver cleaner/polish with a soft sponge or all-cotton rag.
- Lightly rub the surface of the piece until the tarnish is removed.
Take care, as each time a Sterling Silver piece is cleaned, a trace amount of the silver is removed. If the silver object has been chased, be sure to remove the tarnish with a cotton swab or silver brush. Again, be careful not to rub too hard with a silver brush as the surface can be scratched.
Some Principals do not mind tarnish being left in chased areas as the chasing can be better seen. However, ideally, all tarnishes should be cleaned away.
Tarnish occurs over time with exposure to air and on cutlery with the use of egg or egg recipes. Immediately after use, in such cases, polish tarnishes away. Often, serving pieces are stored in cabinets for display, and cutlery is stored in felt-lined drawers. It is best for all pieces to be stored in airtight cabinets and/or in felt bags. Once properly cleaned, never allow the piece to tarnish to a black color. Keep the piece polished regularly.
Iron has a storied history in fine homes, where it has been employed for centuries in crafting elegant fixtures and decorative elements, adding grandeur to architecture and interior design. In the realm of cookware, particularly cast iron, it became a symbol of quality and longevity in kitchens during the 19th and 20th centuries. Cast iron’s ability to evenly distribute and retain heat, along with its nostalgic charm, continues to make it a prized possession in both fine homes and contemporary kitchens.
Whether it’s in the form of fixtures or cookware, keeping Iron clean is essential to maintaining its appearance and functionality.
Cleaning Iron Fixtures:
- Dust the iron fixture with a soft cloth or a duster. This helps remove loose dirt and prevents scratches during the cleaning process.
- Create a solution of mild dish soap and warm water. Dip a soft sponge or cloth into the soapy water, wring out excess liquid, and gently wipe down the iron surface.
- For stubborn stains, mix a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub gently with a soft brush or cloth.
- Wipe the fixture with a clean, damp cloth to remove any soap or cleaning residue. Ensure the Iron is completely dry to prevent water spots.
Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware:
- Contrary to cleaning other materials, avoid using soap on cast iron cookware as it can strip away the seasoning. Instead, opt for a non-soapy method.
- If there are food particles stuck to the cast iron, sprinkle salt on the surface and scrub with a soft brush or a sponge. The salt acts as an abrasive without damaging the seasoning.
- After cleaning, it’s crucial to replenish the oil coating on the cast iron. Apply a thin layer of cooking oil (flaxseed or vegetable oil) to the entire surface to maintain its seasoning.
- To ensure thorough drying and prevent rusting, place the cast iron on a stove over low heat for a few minutes. This helps evaporate any remaining moisture.
- Store cast iron cookware in a dry place. If stacking, place a paper towel between pieces to prevent them from sticking together.