Water-Based vs. Waterless Cleaning Solutions

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by FDelGreco, May 23, 2010.

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  1. FDelGreco

    FDelGreco Registered User
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    Aug 28, 2000
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    I've been cleaning brass clocks for years using various water-based, ammoniated clock cleaning solutions (L&R, etc.) in my ultrasonic with good results. Recently, I've been cleaning some larger clock movements (tower clocks, and a street clock) containing some red brass parts. It seems that when I use these cleaning solutions, the parts come out with a reddish finish. It appears that the solution must leach from the surface of the brass some of the zinc , although I don't get that reddish problem with yellow brass.

    I'm wondering if non-ammoniated waterless clock cleaning solutions would eliminate that problem. I've tried nonammoniated water-based solutions (PolyChem Deox-007) but they haven't cleaned very well.

    Can anyone tell me if non-ammoniated clock cleaners clean and shine well without discoloring red brass?

    Thanks.
    Frank Del Greco
     
  2. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    I don't have a U.S. I clean parts by hand with an industrial strength detergent. Detergents - at least the ones I've used - will not remove oxidation tho. I do that in a separate bath of TARN-X after cleaning. Sometimes a light brushing with a brass brush or 0000 is needed to remove more stubborn spots.
     
  3. markd

    markd Registered User

    Jan 3, 2009
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    Did you heat the Deox 007? The heated solution works very well for me. It cleans well and brightens some. Polishing is needed for visible parts.

    Mark
     
  4. FDelGreco

    FDelGreco Registered User
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    Mark:

    Yes, I heated the DEOX. You have to remember that the brass on tower clocks is often essentially black from a hundred years of hot and cold -- and bird droppings -- in a tower. The DEOX doesn't get off all the black.

    Frank
     
  5. markd

    markd Registered User

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    Sounds like a tough cleaning job Frank.

    Mark
     
  6. Bill Ward

    Bill Ward Registered User
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    "Red brass" might actually be a type of bronze, i.e. contain some tin, and less, or no, zinc, e.g. ounce-metal or gun-metal. These alloys are supposed to be more corrosion-resistant, especially to salt water. However, I don't know about ammonia. They might well be a poor match with ammoniated cleaning solutions. (And you can get that problem with brass, if you leave it in too long.) However, consider that the typical clock tower, encrusted with pigeon dung, reeks of ammonia. This is due to the breakdown of the nitrogen-containing proteins. So, the attack of the bronze might really be due to a century's worth of corrosion in situ, and not from the solution.
    To my knowledge, the waterless cleaners are mainly organic solvents, which do not dissolve the inorganic metal salts and oxides consituting corrosion; i.e. they don't leave as shiny a metal surface. They only remove the oils and organic products of the oils. That's why conservationists like them.
     
  7. antiekeradio

    antiekeradio Registered User

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    some brass parts do turn quite red in the ammoniated cleaning solutions indeed.

    I agree that in most cases (especially when the starting colour is black/dark and the discoloration comes quickly) the reddishness is caused by earlier corrosion.

    only way to get that off is polishing.
     
  8. RickB

    RickB Registered User

    May 28, 2010
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    I read this last week, bought some Tarn-X today for this use on brass.

    But, I read the instructions after I got home, then went to thier website and read the following.

    Is Tarn-X safe to use on brass?
    No, Tarn-X is not safe to use on brass. This is because brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and the acids in Tarn-X effect zinc.


    Are there any problems with using Tarn-X on brass? I searched here and find it mentioned many times for use on brass.
     
  9. antiekeradio

    antiekeradio Registered User

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    Things that are 100% safe for the base material usually are very kind to the tarnish as well, and therfore not very effective as a cleaner... use with caution and all will be well :)
     
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