Tips to Restore And Keep The Shine of Your Metal Items
Most of these work on the same fundamental principle. They have a chemical which dissolves (or converts) the oxides which form the tarnish back into their original metal form. This chemical is normally combined with some sort of polishing agent, a mild abrasive that helps to rub off the more stubborn stains.
Plated metals shouldn't be polished too often or the life of the plating is cut significantly. Frequent rubbing with even the finest of metal polishes will sooner or later wear through the thin coating of plate, exposing the unpolished metal underneath. On this type of surface, always use a good caliber, non-gritty metal polish and use it sparingly; on silver plate, use only a silver polish. Rub only as hard as needed to clean decently and polish the surface, then rinse thoroughly with denatured alcohol (handle with caution since this is highly flammable) to take out all residue left from the polishing. Wipe dry with a clean, lintless cloth, then apply at the least two coats of clear, glossy lacquer with a soft camel's-hair brush.
Copper, brass and bronze will all stain rapidly unless covered by clear lacquer or a similar coating. However, before this coating is applied, all dirt and tarnish must be absolutely removed with a metal polish that is designed for the purpose. When polishing is needed once more, wash off old lacquer with lacquer thinner, then polish according to the directions on the can. Wipe off residue of polish with denatured alcohol, then recoat the piece with clear lacquer.
For cleaning exceptionally heavy tarnish or deeply embedded stains on copper pots, or badly pitted andirons or other objects of solid brass or bronze, a more vigorous cleaning might be involved. Begin by scouring with a kitchen cleanser, then rub the stains which stay on with a rag dipped into a solution of vinegar and salt; keep dipping and rubbing vigorously until the pitted areas are clean, then rinse swiftly in hot water. Finish the job by cleaning with metal polish as previously described.
Stainless steel and chromium normally need only an occasional washing with soap and water to keep them new-looking and clean. Nevertheless, certain foods which contain salts or acids may pit these metals if left to dry on the surface for extended periods; always rub out spilled materials promptly. If a murky film forms, or if metal exposed to the weather has some pitting, then a liquid metal polish should occasionally be rubbed on sparingly, and the metal comfortably polished. For outdoor exposure, chrome-plated surfaces can be covered with a light coat of paste wax.
Aluminum requires relatively little maintenance, but under particular atmospheric conditions it is subject to pitting. When used outdoors, metals will greatly benefit from periodic coatings of liquid wax. Kitchen utensils and ornamental aluminum hardware can be severely damaged by caustic solutions containing lye or other strong alkalis; Do not use cleaning agents which have these ingredients. Even harsh bath soaps may darken or discolor aluminum pots and ornamental moldings; always rinse quickly after cleaning. Fine steel wool soaked with soap is among the best ways to clean and polish objects made of this metal. Constantly rub in one direction only—never use a circular motion. Nickel-plated hardware will usually need frequent polishing to keep from darkening. The surface must be washed off with hot soap suds and rinsed good with clean hot water. Dry with a soft cloth. Shine it by rubbing with a metal polish diluted half and half and applied with damp sponge.
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