From handrails to door knobs, brass is usually found on some of the highly used places in your home. The abuse that brass receives from human hands and the weather, it's no wonder that its shiny lacquer has a tendency to break down. Getting your brass fixtures back to showroom condition is not as hard as it seems. You'll need to do a sweep of you beauty cabinet, your cleaning pantry and your hardware shelf to get it done, but reapply the lacquer at home is simple and cost effective in the long run.
Removing the Old Lacquer
Before applying a new lacquer finish, you need to make sure that you remove all traces of the old stuff. Use an acetone-based nail polish remover to get rid of the old lacquer. Apply some of the nail polish remover to a clean cotton wool ball and rub the surface of the brass. For tougher finishes and hard-to-reach nooks and corners, use a kitchen scrub brush or a toothbrush. If you cannot obtain nail polish remover, you can also use a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water. Wash off the brass with warm water and a small amount of dish soap after removing the lacquer. It's best to wear rubber gloves while remove the lacquer to keep it from getting on your skin or damaging a recent manicure.
Banish the Tarnish
You'll need to refinish any of the tarnished areas of the brass. Brass tarnishes when the lacquer breaks down and exposes the brass to the air over time. So it's very likely that you'll need to remove some tarnish if you need to reapply a lacquer. You need a clean cloth and some brass cleaner, like Brasso, to remove the tarnish. Apply a very small amount of the cleaner to the cloth and begin to scrub firmly in the direction of the brass' grain. Scrub the brass hard and fast to create heat, which will help to break down the tarnished areas. Once dry, the brass will have a chalky finish that needs to be removed by buffing. Buff the brass to a shiny finish by scrubbing in a circular motion with a polishing cloth or some old, crinkled newspaper.
The New Lacquer
When you've achieved a high gleam on your brass, you can take the steps to apply the lacquer. You can use a paint-on lacquer, which can be applied with a paint brush, but a polyurethane lacquer will last longer and can usually be found in a spray-can format, which is optimal for easy application. Apply the lacquer in thin, even coats in a well-ventilated area. Follow the specific directions for the lacquer that you purchase, but you'll probably need two or three coats. When the lacquer has dried thoroughly, you can polish it with a clean cloth and a few drops of olive oil for an extreme, expensive-looking sheen (but this is optional). After the polishing is done, use a clear lacquer to protect the brass from oxygen. Do this in a well-ventilated space that has very little dust. The dust can get into the wet lacquer and alter the finish. Follow the application directions for your specific lacquer, most of which call for three to five thin, even coats, applied with a brush.
Care and Maintenance
To maintain the finish over time, you need to repeat this process every 10 to 12 months. If you've applied the lacquer properly, you probably won't need to refinish any tarnished areas on the brass. If your brass is going to exposed to the great outdoors and its unpredictable weather, you can apply a car wax to it with a clean cloth. This will require a bit more maintenance, since it needs to be reapplied every five months.