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topic 49083

Church Incense Burners. How can I clean one?

A discussion started in 2008 but continuing through 2018

June 19, 2008

Q. As 'Church Brass Cleaner' for our village church, I have been given the job of polishing a swinging incense burner, that has burnt-on incense tar trickling down outside, on the brass plated surface!

I know I must not use brass polish, (not that I think that would work anyway!) so I have tried very hot water, which has cleaned items, made from a similar material, quite well, in the past.

The tar still stubbornly refuses to shift, even a little!

I could try vinegar, tomato sauce, white spirit, or petrol, but I do not want to risk damaging what little surface is still visible between the tar trickles!

Has anyone any useful suggestions? Preferably someone who has actually tried it!

Mary Akehurst
Brass polisher for local church - Chelmsford, Essex, UK

June 20, 2008

A. I think that you will need a nasty organic solvent called "carbon disulfide". It is the best solvent for tars that I have seen. It does require very careful use. Read a material safety data sheet (MSDS) before purchase to make sure that you want to use it. It should not turn the brass black, but if it does, quit using it and remove the black with a good brass polish.
As an alternative, go to the auto wax portion of a big store and look for a road tar remover. It may or may not work, but is easy to get and a bit safer to use and should not harm the brass.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

June 20, 2008

thumbs up sign Thank you so much for your response. Since posting my query, my husband took over the job! He had a reasonable success using Meths!
Also, we discovered that it WAS real brass, after all, but lacquered.
Naturally, after the meths, there was little lacquer left! But it will just have to be cleaned more often! (It looked as though I was the first person to ever try such a thing!) Your information will be most useful however, not only are there many other items I am responsible for cleaning (several tar-stained) But as we spend many weeks of the year on a narrowboat, we often have to remove tar from the roof of that! It trickles out of the chimney, and stains the roof horribly! Yours gratefully MA

Mary Akehurst
- Chelmsford, Essex, UK

January 23, 2018

Q. I have many brass lamps for which I use kerosene as the fuel -- the glass chimneys have all broken - how can I find unbreakable chimneys? And I also need to get the green stuff off the brass; please help.

Julie Jolly
- - Tamil Nadu - S. India

January 24, 2018

A. Try 5% ammonium citrate solution (pH 9). Lemon and salt mixture can be used too, but ammonium citrate is the best solution. Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb,Croatia

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