There’s been an old sink in an outbuilding on this property for years, and my cursory research suggests it dates to the 1880s. It’s a wide marble sink with a circle bowl, and the stone and metal faucets are worn. The marble has that yummy dull patina marble gets over time. Veiny and milky grey, and its honed matte finish and etchings tell generations of stories. This old house predates plumbing, so I can only imagine what a luxury a sink must have been with hot and cold water running out of separate faucets–like little magical rivers!
The marble has several rust spots and after trying several rust cleaners, I found it’s even better to create a DIY mixture called a poultice from hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, with enough water to give it the consistency of peanut butter. You apply it only to the rust-colored area and seal it with plastic wrap you’ve taped down. Leave it at least 72 hours and then clean it off and wipe it vigorously with a soft cloth. This worked for me, and the rust seemed to fade slightly. If you are super careful, you can also lightly run sandpaper over it which will eat into the rust layer and lighten it further. It also can scratch the marble, however, so you must take great care to not etch it further. At some point, you realize a slight amount of rust is okay since you’ve been at this for weeks, making various potions and poultices, and perhaps it’s time to move on to the next challenge before you: the faucets.
The faucets looked dullish green and oxidized, and they weren’t responding to various methods I’d used to clean them. After more research I learned the green corrosion isn’t necessarily a bad thing and found this explanation:
Although it makes sense to think of the green patina on the exterior of the bronze as a disease or a flaw, it’s a corrosion that protects the material inside. The greenish corrosive layer that coats the surface of a bronze faucet after repeated exposure to air and moisture is a protective shell that prevents the metal alloy from sustaining further damage and rotting or becoming porous. The coating can be seen as a good thing, indicative of this material’s ability to withstand temperature fluctuations and dampness.
Still, I wanted to get under the charming patina and see what came before. Wandering the hardware store yesterday I came upon a product called Brasso, which is designed for cleaning and polishing seven different metals, including bronze. I found a reputable marble cleaner as well, and maybe the most perfect pumpkin I’ve ever seen (and at 30% off!). I felt as if I’d scored big and came away with a renewed energy to roll up my sleeves and get to work, now with a satisfying pride that only comes with commitment and tenacity–and hopefully the right products.
The cat has her own project and is certain she can climb into the kitchen ceiling and maybe even on into the outdoors. For now I’ve nailed up an old sheet, but she remains terribly entertained at the possibilities and the new windows on the world she can now look through.
For my project, I had to liberally tape off these faucets so the surrounding marble wouldn’t be further traumatized by chemicals, and then I set to work. I started with a microfiber cloth and alternated between that and paper towels. After some effort, I saw a little green come off on the towel, but not enough to convince me it was working. I kept at it though because where there’s a little green, surely there is more. For the better part of an hour, I applied copious amounts of Brasso to my cloth and rubbed. And rubbed. And rubbed some more. I began to see light, hope and the loveliest shiny metal coming out. A number of distracting dark specks wouldn’t lift, so I employed my sandpaper trick I’d used on the rust, and they faded into the metal. What I’m left with is gracious and stunning and shiny. I think it must be bronze, but it resembles copper. Shiny like a penny.
How long have these faucets been waiting in the wings for their rebirth? If this house could talk! All along, the green corrosion coating has been protecting them, saving their luster and shine from the elements until someone is curious enough to lure it out of hiding.
I can’t help but think of our own coatings and hardened shells we wear to protect us from the hardness of the world, yet how much beauty there is within all of us and always has been.