Daily Wire Tip: Removing Condensation Marks from Wire

By on May 1, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

I have some copper wire and brass wire that I think has become tarnished. It looks like dark spots along the length of the wire. Can this be removed? I’ve tried a polishing cloth with no change. What do you suggest?

-Kathy in Kilgore, Texas

Answer:

Hi Kathy, yes sometimes condensation wreaks havoc on wire of any metal. If it were me, there are two methods I would try on copper or brass.

One option would be to use a very fine-grade steel wool and run the wire through it several times to remove those spots, then run it through a polishing cloth. Yes, the steel wool can make the wire look scratched if you use a coarse grade, but a fine grade will give the wire a nice “brushed” appearance.

An alternative approach would be using rubbing alcohol. A reader, Rose in Georgia, had a similar challenge some time ago, and I recommended dampening a piece of tee shirt with rubbing alcohol, then running the wire through the tee shirt, then a polishing cloth. Both are good methods to remove condensation marks – here’s a link to her original question: Water Spots on Wire. Good luck!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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20 Comments

  1. avatar

    duke

    May 2, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Try a cloth moistened with salt and vinegar to clean brass and copper.
    Don’t forget a finish after; wax or spray.

  2. avatar

    Lorraine Brooks

    May 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I’ll bite. What if what she has is not condensation. What if it’s actual tarnish? Will the steel wool method work on that?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Lorraine, about all metal tarnish is caused by moisture reacting with oxygen and other chemicals in the air : ) Yes, fine steel wool will help remove it.

    • avatar

      Pamela Perkins

      July 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      I have taken off even very heavy patina from wire before that was black even with this method. I would take a poor shape coil of wire and I soak it overnight with a mixture of half salt and half water,in a container that you can reuse. If the container stays closed you dont have to remix this but can reuse it for years. It will bring your copper right back to the original super shiney state, but after you do this, you need to take some renaisance wax or other polish to keep it from turning again as when it is super clean like this it will tarnish easier if you dont put a coating of wax or even use your polishing cloth over it to give it a shine again :) Good Luck, Pam

  3. avatar

    JoAnn

    May 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Hi,
    Personally I would leave it and let it get darker. Vintage wire and Vintage anything has gotten very popular. I bought some liver of sulfer ex so I could darken my copper and gold wire and other meteals. It looks great! I dont know about where you live, or if you sell your items, but for me I sell vintage and it goes well.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Very cool solution JoAnn! Working ‘with’ the tarnish instead of against it – thanks!

  4. avatar

    Dharlee

    May 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I don’t know about any other metal other than copper for this method, but if you take a couple of Tablespoons of lemon juice and mix about a teaspoon of salt in a shallow glass bowl, then dip the copper in it and brush with a soft toothbrush it will make it look like new in seconds. NEVER use this on silver! The salt is terrible for silver, but it’s wonderful for copper. I have done this with wonderful success!

  5. avatar

    Diane

    May 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Hi all,
    My first time posting. I have heard and tried using Worcestershire Sauce for cleaning any brass or copper metal. I just apply the sauce liberally on a paper towel and lightly rub all over the piece of jewelry I have made. Takes off all the tarnish and black spots in just seconds. Just wash with a mild soap and dry.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Neat Diane! The main ingredients in Worcestershire Sauce are vinegar and salt – already mixed for you – with a bit of molasses and spices, so be sure to wash the wire well after cleaning!

  6. avatar

    Terry

    May 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    To prevent tarnish in the first place what you can do is put in one or tow of those little packs of ‘dessicator’ that come in pill bottles or other items that need to remain free of moisture..I went to my drugstore and they saved me about 2 dozen and I have put them in bags with wire and costume jewelry and have had no problem since..
    hope this helps :)

  7. avatar

    Gina

    May 3, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I bought some cheap chalkboard chalk and put some in my bags of silver and copper wire and no more tarnish. Baking soda and water in a paste form will also clean copper.

  8. avatar

    Carla Benefield

    May 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

    I keep Tarn-X on hand to keep all my metals bright and shiny.
    One dip in the Tarn-X then into water, dry it with a clean white t-shirt (I bought a new kid’s t-shirt, just for this purpose) and the tarnish is gone.

  9. avatar

    Barb Hiatt

    May 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Awhile back I read somewhere about using a car polish called “NU Finish – the once a year car polish” on copper wire to keep it free of tarnish. I happened to have some and I tried an experiment. I treated/cleaned a piece of 16 gauge copper wire with it and put it on an open shelf along with an untreated piece for a couple of months. The polish works, the treated piece had no tarnish on it while the untreated piece was quite a bit darker.

    I will be cleaning all my copper wire with Nu Finish before I use it to keep it looking good.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 4, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Hi Barb -thanks so very much for sharing your positive results with all of us!

    • avatar

      Robyn Mattick

      September 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Barb, I live on the Mid North coast of NSW Australia where the humidity is very high especially in January & February. I have also been using NU Finish on my copper wire with excellent results.

  10. avatar

    Anne, NSW Austalia

    May 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I tried out the Worcestershire sauce and it worked. Thank you Diane and Dale for your wonderful recommendations.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      May 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      Cool Anne! Thanks so much for reporting back : )

  11. avatar

    Nancy

    July 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    What if the tarnish is on a piece with a crystal, stone, or pearl on it?

  12. avatar

    Wilma Hughes

    August 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I was wondering if you use Rennisance wax on unused wire then when you bend it will the wax crack as I read that it is a herd coating?

  13. avatar

    Shelly

    August 14, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Lemon juice works great at removing tarnish and stains from copper and brass wire. Just drop it in for a couple of minutes and wipe clean. Comes out super shiny.

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