QI have a brass bed that is about 15 years old. It had a coating that was supposed to keep it from tarnishing, but it is tarnishing anyway. Various polishes don't help. How can I get this brass bright again? -- M. Defilippi
AMany brass items are sold with a coat of lacquer that will keep them bright for many years, but care is needed when cleaning lacquered brass or the protective film will be damaged and tarnishing will start. To determine if brass is lacquered, put a little metal cleaner on a clean cloth and rub the metal in an inconspicuous place. If the polish does not discolor, the brass is lacquered.
In general, lacquered brass should be cleaned either with a soft, dry cloth or with a cloth dipped in lukewarm water containing a dash of dishwashing detergent. Wipe dry with clean cloths.
Some experts also recommend a special cleaner called Faucet Brite. A plastic squeeze bottle costs about $9. A mail-order source is Brass 'n Gifts (www.brassandgifts.com).
If the lacquered coating on your brass is badly damaged, you should probably start over and remove the lacquer with paint remover. This should be attempted only on solid (not plated) brass. To determine if you have solid brass, hold a magnet against it. If the magnet is attracted to the metal, it is plated steel and will be damaged by paint remover. On solid brass, use a gel-type remover that clings to the surface. Do the work outdoors and follow directions on the paint-remover container.
When the lacquer is removed, you can polish the brass with any good metal cleaner-polish, such as Brasso or Flitz. Polishing two or three times a year should keep the brass bright.
A new lacquer coating can be applied to brass, but the surface must be perfectly clean. If you want to try it, spray lacquer is available at some home centers and hardware stores. Staybrite, a lacquer that is often used, and a special brass cleaner is also available from Home Focus (800-221-6771 or www.homefocuscatalog.com). The lacquer-and-cleaner kit costs about $18.
After a long winter's use, our wood-burning fireplace has a very bad odor. I had the chimney cleaned and checked and cleaned out the fireplace carefully, but the odor stays. What can I do about this? -- P. Fogarty
Fireplace odor is often caused by moisture, a dirty chimney or unseasoned wood. Since you have already had the chimney cleaned and checked, concentrate on the other two problems.
A chimney cap will help keep moisture out of the chimney. If you can get on your roof safely, you can buy a cap at a home center and install it yourself. The cost is about $40.
Keep your damper closed when the fireplace is not in use. Do not burn wood that hasn't been seasoned for at least a year.
You might also try a deodorizer. One called ExStink (888-241-7487 or www.exstink.com) is guaranteed to help fireplace odor or your money is returned. A four-pound bag costs about $18. Clean and vacuum the fireplace, then put some of the deodorizer in a dish or bowl and place it in or near the fireplace. The product is supposed to absorb the odor.
My wood deck has a dark stain that I'd like to remove so I can use a lighter color. How do I get the old stain off? -- C. Walsh
Probably the best bet is a product called StainStrip, made by Flood Co. (800-321-3444 or www.floodco.com). StainStrip will remove all types of stains and sealers, oil-based, latex or acrylic. Another product, DeckStrip, by Wolman (800-556-7737 or www.wolman.com), will remove oil-based stains and some latex stains, but not acrylics. Read and follow the directions carefully.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, Box 861, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Questions cannot be answered personally.