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Brass - Celebrate the Ageing Process

Celebrating the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi - the acceptance of transience and imperfection

Uncoated bare brass:  Uncoated bare brass has become popular as the selected finish for kitchen and bathroom tapware and fittings. Designers and home owners are desiring more natural finishes in their homes and value the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi - the acceptance of transience and imperfection. As a living finish, the shiny, golden appearance of new polished brass will mature over time to develop the patina and unique character reminiscent of old brassware. This will not affect the function of the fitting. 

Ageing process: Uncoated bare brass will gradually age to a bronze colour. The time for this to occur is very dependent on the locality and position of the installation. Aging will happen quite evenly if the product is exposed to air only and left for a few months. If it is exposed to air and water as in an outdoor area it will patina faster, with verdigris also developing where there is salt in the air. When the product is in use in a kitchen or bathroom it is subjected to chemicals – sweat off hands, water, soaps, food – which will settle on the surface and cause it to discolour in patches.  If the tap is simply washed down regularly with a mild detergent, these patches will remain and eventually join up to create the overall aged look as seen in old brass tapware. Patience is required for this but the process can be exciting to watch as the tap develops its own character.

Polished Brass versus Satin Brass: The only difference between these two finishes is that the surface of Satin Brass has been brushed to give it a matt finish. This does mean that chemicals are more likely to settle into the fine grooves of the brushing and therefore marks will appear more readily on Satin Brass than on the smooth surface of Polished Brass. These can appear as dark patches. For that reason, the Satin Brass finish is a good choice for those who want aging to occur quickly.  It is worth emphasising that Polished Brass will also dull off over time and lose its very shiny look. If Polished Brass is just washed down with a mild detergent regularly (and not cleaned with a specialised cleaner) it will eventually develop the same bronze patina at a slightly slower rate.

Cleaning to restore original state: Some clients have had their tap affected during installation (by unclean hands or chemicals) and want to ‘start afresh’ before allowing the aging to progress. 

Both Polished Brass and Satin Brass fittings can be cleaned back to the original state. We recommend Autosol Metal Polish available from some hardware and automotive product stores. This is a very gentle abrasive and should be used sparingly – a small amount on a soft cotton cloth goes a long way. This cleaning will remove the natural patina as well as any ‘staining’.  Note that continuous cleaning of a Satin Brass tap will eventually remove some of the brushing and make the tap shiny. The brushing can be restored with care by using a finest grade sanding sponge (3M or Norton are common brands) which can be purchased from a hardware outlet. Note that it is important to ‘sand’ in the direction of the grain to avoid the appearance of scratches. In Residence takes no responsibility for scratches occurring.

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