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Suggestions for removing metal oxidation and crud?


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Thanks for reading my question. I have a few assorted metal items that are anywhere from 60-100 years old, and there is either green oxidation (particularly on the edge of a blackened collar disc on a WWI uniform), or various substances in the low spots that should be removed to make the insignia look better. What are your recommendations to safely remove these blemishes? I have dental tools available, but that may be too extreme. Are there recommended oils or other cleaning compounds that are safe? How do you proceed if you're not even sure what the crud is made from? Thanks for your ideas!

 

WANTED: I collect materials of any age related to the US Army Quartermaster Corps and from the long-defunct Commissary / Subsistence Corps. Anything goes and it doesn't have to be identified to a vet. If it's weird or unusual, please PM me! ASMIC #5650

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Depending on who you ask, answers will range from "do not touch" to "use metal polish." In my personal opinion, I'd use a soft brush to get rid of any loose oxidation, and leave the rest. You can "step up" and use a soft brush with dish soap (good for cleaning medals and so on; I used to do this with medals when I collected them). You can also use a brass bristle brush and it will clean the oxidation off nicely (I think a fiberglass bristle one would work well too, but I haven't tried one...)

 

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Thank you for your guidance. I will give those ideas a try!

WANTED: I collect materials of any age related to the US Army Quartermaster Corps and from the long-defunct Commissary / Subsistence Corps. Anything goes and it doesn't have to be identified to a vet. If it's weird or unusual, please PM me! ASMIC #5650

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I do this a lot and use brass brushes (the ones shaped like toothbrushes) to get the most obvious verdigris, but I also use toothpicks to get under the edges of brass snaps where there can be a surprisingly huge amount of the green gunk, especially snaps on leather goods such as holsters.

 

You never want to use steel-bristle brushes or any tool made of a metal harder than brass.


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A good thing to scrape off the stuff is plastic of any sort.

sometimes I'll use a plastic credit-card type card to scrape.. or a plastic toothpick.. or plastic gun picks.

 

You can really scrape at the stuff and it won't damage the surface.. but acts against the corrosion/verdigris.

Wood will work just as well.

 

Doesn't a brass brush leave brassy residue? I know it does when I use them on guns.

-Brian

GOT SEABEE ITEMS? PM ME!

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probably the chemicals I'm using with them.... :lol:

 

-Brian

 

 

More than likely just that. Just as an example, things like oils used to contain (and some still do) enough sulfur in them to damage brass. That was a huge problem in transmissions which used brass syncro parts or bushings. Today there are formulas marketed as 'Yellow metal safe' that are not supposed to attack the brass.

 

Of course using a brush with enough pressure might leave a trace behind too.

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

*Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia"*

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indeed, that's why I use Syncromesh in my watercooled VW transmissions!

 

plus, I usually scrub them with a brass brush when I am trying to remove rust from an antique firearm or blade.

I think it's the combination of pressure and ammonia/chemicals in the cleaner I use to remove the rust (Blue Wonder).

 

I then use the Blue Wonder as a buffer and very lightly use 0000 steel wool to remove the brass residue.

(DO NOT TRY THIS without using a buffer.. it will scratch)

 

-Brian

GOT SEABEE ITEMS? PM ME!

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