Material Study: How to Care for Brass

Attalos ceiling light component in various stages of brass oxidation

 

Brass is an incredibly versatile and popular material often used in architecture and design. However, it’s important to understand how brass can transform and develop into a one-of-a-kind finish through oxidisation over time. In this material study, we’ll take a closer look at how to care for brass and the finishes Marz offers, and how to ensure their longevity through proper care.

 

 

What happens to brass when it’s oxidised?

 

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs when brass is exposed to oxygen. When first produced, brass may be sealed with lacquer, but the oxidation process occurs with time, resulting in a naturally occurring patina often referred to as a ‘living finish’.

 

Today, several different finishing processes allow us to alter the state of the brass to preserve its original sheen or allow it to oxidise. At Marz, we have three types of brass finishes – Raw Brass, Brass with Clear Powder Coat, and Machined Brass with Clear Coat – each aimed at lasting an age and each unique in their presentation. 

 

The below image shows various brass samples from our range throughout different stages of patination. While your brass product may arrive in perfect condition, we need to emphasise how the material changes in the oxidation and patination process. This oxidation progression may occur with Raw Brass and Machine Brass with Clear Coat, but it is not applicable to Brass with Clear Powder Coat.

 

 

Attalos ceiling light component in various stages of brass oxidation

 

 

 

 

How to Care for Raw Brass

 

Furl Wall Light in Raw Brass with light on and off

Furl Wall Light in Raw Brass (after 2 years)

 

Raw Brass arrives in a bright brushed finish, which will oxidise beautifully and evenly over time if handled correctly. This finish is particularly susceptible to tarnishing. Any contact with skin will cause it to fingerprint and tarnish in weeks, so it’s essential to wear gloves whilst handling, especially in the beginning.

 

The oxidisation process means raw brass will darken and patina in time, ageing naturally as intended. While precautions do need to be made, raw brass’s susceptibility to fingerprints and marks, proper care and time will result in a truly authentic and unique brass finish.

 

  • For general cleaning, use a soft clean, lint-free cloth.
  • For heavy cleaning, we recommend Brasso to remove dirt, tarnish & grease build-up. This will alter the brass to a bright shiny & polished finish. Follow the application method on the bottle. If you prefer a brushed finish, we recommend lightly sanding afterwards with a Scotch Brite sanding pad.
  • If you want a chemical-free alternative to Brasso, you can create a flour/vinegar paste. Mix one teaspoon of salt into a 1/2 cup of vinegar. Add flour until the liquid becomes a paste and spread over the brass. Let the mixture sit for an hour, then rinse and buff the piece. This method will lighten the colour of the brass.
  • If there are any surface-level scratches, a Scotch Brite sanding pad will also work to buff any surface-level scratches out and provide a brushed effect. Be sure to sand the panels in the direction of the grain, never against the grain.
  • Please always wear gloves while handling to prevent finger marks.

 

Other considerations:

 

  • For certain products, Brasso is helpful, but please note that it will change the finish to high gloss and potentially remove the brushed effect.
  • Brasso is very effective on our Furl Wall Lights but can be challenging to use on our Attalos range due to its complex form and tiny details.
  • The patination process will speed up if any brass product or component is excessively handled.
  • Environmental factors, including wind, rain and dampness, can contribute to the speed of patination.

 

 

 

How to Care for Brass with Clear Powder Coat

 

Furl Wall Light in Brass Clear Powder Coat

Furl Wall Light in Brass with Clear Powder Coat

 

 

Powder coating is one of the most durable coatings available and does not require much maintenance. However, as a general rule, cleaning should occur every three months. In areas where pollutants are more prevalent, such as beachfront houses and industrial or geothermal areas, a cleaning program should be carried out more frequently, i.e. every one to two months.

 

Brass with a clear powder coat won’t change unless the powder coat coating is scratched, in which case it will start to patina around that area (similar to what happens with a car if it’s scratched and the metal underneath is exposed).

 

  • Carefully remove any loose surface deposits with a wet sponge.
  • Use a soft brush (non-abrasive) and a diluted solution of a mild detergent to remove dust, salt and other deposits.
  • Do not use solvents.
  • Revive dull surfaces using car polish.

 

 

“Our products are designed to last a long time. However, maintenance will preserve the look and extend the life of your lights for years to come, so we recommend implementing a simple maintenance program. We’ve outlined these steps to help you take care of your new piece in our Care Guide.”

 

 

 

How to Care for Machined Brass with Clear Coat

 

Attalos Ceiling Light in Machined Brass with Clear Coat with light on and off

Attalos Ceiling Light in Machined Brass with Clear Coat

 

Machined brass arrives with a bright brushed finish. It may show small signs of patination and fingerprints, but these should be slight. Then as time goes on, the brass will become dull and darken, and marks may start to show. Sometimes this can be accelerated in wet or damp environments.

 

All our machined brass components use solid brass; we do not use plating. We apply a thin protective clear coat over the metal surface to slow the patination process down, but it will gradually patina over time.

 

  • For general cleaning, use a soft clean, lint-free cloth.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaning products or cloths as this can scratch the clear coating and permanently damage the surface.
  • Please always wear gloves while handling to prevent finger marks.

 

Other considerations:

 

  • For certain products, Brasso is helpful, but please note that it will change the finish to high gloss and potentially remove the brushed effect.
  • Brasso is very effective on our Furl Wall Lights but can be challenging to use on our Attalos range due to its complex form and tiny details.
  • The patination process will speed up if any brass product or component is excessively handled.
  • Environmental factors, including wind, rain and dampness, can contribute to the speed of patination.

 

 

Various Attalos ceiling light components in brass

 

 

 

A Care Guide for Brass Lighting Products

 

Any light purchased from Marz Designs comes with cotton gloves. We encourage your installer to limit direct contact with the product by wearing the gloves provided. This will prevent the transference of naturally oily fingerprints and help achieve an even aged brass finish.

 

Our products are designed to last a long time. However, maintenance will preserve the look and extend the life of your lights for years to come, so we recommend implementing a simple maintenance program. We’ve outlined these steps to help you take care of your new piece in our Care Guide.

 

 

A Marz Designs package

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