Brass beds first gained popularity in the mid 19th century and have never fallen out of favour. They are readily available in antique shops and online auction sites as well as antique shows and flea markets. Some brass beds are family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, while others are newly manufactured. They run the gamut from ornate to Spartan in style. With a little knowledge and some elbow grease, it is not difficult to keep a brass bed looking its best.
Inspect the bed. Look it over for degrees of tarnish. Is it lightly tarnished in some areas or black with tarnish all over? See if it is rusted, scratched or dented. Determine if it is simply dirty and dusty and just needs a good cleaning.
Clean the bed. Use a clean, soft cloth and a commercial brass cleaner. Apply the cleaner evenly on tarnished parts of the bed and wipe off. As the cloth becomes soiled, replace it with a new one until the bed's surface is clean and free of brass cleaner. You may also use a homemade brass cleaner consisting of one pint vinegar and three tablespoons of salt or a paste of lemon juice and baking soda or cream of tartar.
Strip the finish. Use a commercial stripping compound, available in any hardware store, to remove paint and lacquer from the bed. Follow the instructions and wipe away any lingering stripper with a clean cloth. You may have to use an old toothbrush to get all the stripper out of any ornate scroll work.
Polish the bed. Using a clean cloth, rub brass polish on the bed a little at a time. Polish one part before moving onto the next. If the cloth becomes soiled, replace it with a clean one. Brass polish will leave a protective layer to help repel tarnish and rust. If going for a mellow look, do not buff to a high shine or apply a lacquer finish.
Lacquer the bed. Brass will tarnish when exposed to air. To avoid this and give your bed a shiny finish, use cotton balls or a brush to apply a thin, even coat of lacquer to the brass. Wipe up drips as soon as they occur and let the finish dry thoroughly.
If you wish, leave the brass unfinished with no polish or lacquer in a raw state to develop a patina with age.