Unlacquered or Lacquered Brass?
April 4, 2010
This is a question we are often asked, so here is an attempt to clarify things.
We have elected to offer only unlacquered brass on our website, this is because we are in the business of traditional brassware. All our brass door furniture and window furniture is just as our forebears produced it, without lacquer!
Brassware never used to be lacquered. It was always kept, especially by the Victorians, highly polished, with gleaming knockers, letterplates and door knobs, adorning their front doors. Brass can be kept highly polished or if left it will tarnish naturally and assume a natural patina of age, especially outdoors. To keep brass in a polished state you will need to clean it with a high quality metal cleaner. Indoor pieces such as door handles, knobs and hooks will need a polish 3-4 times a year or more often if the piece is regularly handled. Exterior pieces such as your door knocker and letterplate will need doing monthly to keep them in a high shine. All our pieces are in solid brass and without lacquer so they last many lifetimes!
To suit our modern lifestyle, someone had the idea of coating the brass in a clear lacquer. Bingo! Instant zero maintenance! However beware, even the highest quality coating starts to deteriorate after a time with the combined effects of weather and body oils from handling, especially on door knobs, door handles and door knockers. When the lacquer starts to peel and wear off, you will get black spots and areas appearing, where the brass is exposed, this looks extremely unsightly. Generally the cheaper the brassware the sooner the lacquer starts to decline. The only thing you can do to correct this is to immerse the item in paint stripper and remove all the old coating, but as lacquers improve this can be hard to do.
How can I tell whether the brass is my house is lacquered or unlacquered?
The first thing would be to take a close look at your brassware items and if it looks tarnished, then it is very likely unlacquered. If it is shiny and you have never cleaned it is likely to be lacquered. Also if any brass has unsightly black spots on it then it could be a sign of a lacquer breakdown. You can also do a little test. Get a soft cloth and some metal cleaner and gently rub the brass. If this makes a black deposit on the cloth it is unlacquered and you can continue to polish it. If there is no deposit stop polishing, the item is lacquered and you will damage the coating by continuing to rub at it.
We can supply lacquered items in some of our ranges of brass door furniture if this it what you prefer, but we hardly ever do.
Another option if you do not want any maintenance, don’t want lacquered brass, but want shiny door furniture is to go for Nickel or Chrome plated brass. Most brass items shown on our website can be plated in nickel or chrome. If you chose this finish then remember never rub with polish or the plating will wear off, causing the brass to show through. Just a wipe with some warm soapy water occasionally will suffice.
If you have any further questions please feel free to give us a call.