Brass lamps are prone to tarnishing with prolonged exposure to the oxygen in the air. Though a brass lamp should maintain its luster by tending to it properly and regularly with brass polish, there are garage sale finds or even long-forgotten treasures in the attic that have long since lost their finish. For those cases, drastic measures need to be taken, so here is how to refinish a brass lamp.
Step 1 - Strip Away any Lacquer Finish:
Many brass fixtures have a lacquer finish applied to prevent tarnishing. Over time this lacquer can chip away, exposing brass to the air, which leads to the tarnished brass. In order to have an even and uniform coating of protective finish to protect the brass lamp after the refinishing process is complete, it is best to strip away all lacquer. This task may be accomplished simply by immersing the lamp into a lacquer stripping solution. For safety reasons, be sure the lamp is not plugged into an electrical outlet while completing this step. Other important safety measures include wearing eye and hand protection. Depending upon the lacquer stripper used, respiratory protection is a good idea, too.
Step 2 - Clean and Polish the Exposed Brass:
Once the bare brass metal has been exposed, it can be cleaned to remove all tarnishing and oxidation. There are several methods and materials that could be used to achieve a fresh look to the brass. Many commercially available cleaners are available at most home improvement center and craft stores. For a more environmentally friendly approach, a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice can clean off the tarnishing and oxidation just as well without the pastes that can sometimes become rather messy. Whichever solution is used, be sure to wear both gloves and eye protection. The gloves will help keep finger prints off of the bare brass. Use a soft cotton towel or cloth to spread the brass cleaner over the lamp and work it into the trouble spots. Keep applying brass cleaner and wiping it off until the brass lamp is completely shiny and free of tarnishing, oxidation, and unsightly finger prints.
Step 3 - Reapply Lacquer:
After the brass has been restored to its once former beauty, it is necessary to apply a fresh coat of lacquer to prevent the brass from tarnishing. Spray an even coat over the lamp and be sure to avoid dripping. This step should be completed in a well-ventilated area that is as free of dust as possible. To prevent lacquer particulates from entering the lungs, a respirator with the appropriate cartridges and filters should be worn. Eye and hand protection are also recommended. Allow the lamp to dry thoroughly before putting it back into use.