I’ve written about stripping brass plate many times but I finally discovered the perfect one-two combination to make the job faster and easier. The secret — and I expect a decor blogger’s Hall of Fame Award for this — is Easy Off oven cleaner and a spongy sanding block. In the past I’ve used fine and super-fine steel wool with Blue Magic metal polish to do the job, but boy, oh boy, it was hard work. The oven cleaner’s corrosive action cuts down significantly on the amount of elbow grease required.
First, make sure you buy the cold-oven version of the product. An initial spritz tackles the invisible clear coat on the brass; I used synthetic steel wool — available in rectangular sheets for about $2 each — to help remove the Varathane. Then give the brass another spray and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. The spongy sanding pad makes reasonably quick work of stripping the thin layer of electroplated brass but it leaves light scratches on the chrome that polish right out with a little Blue Magic and some fine steel wool. The added advantage of using the soft sponge is that it makes doing the corners of the table a snap and these are typically the most difficult areas to strip. Just make sure you thoroughly wipe the piece down between the oven cleaner and the Blue Magic stages; no telling what kind of chemical reactions might occur.
Now, I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a wiggle-your-nose kind of job; stripping this table took an entire afternoon but the result is enormously satisfying. Craigslist is full of 1980s brass tables and lamps that people are practically giving away because nobody seems to want the look anymore, Kelly Wearstler and I, notwithstanding. This table was scored on CL for $30 and I spent another $10 on supplies; I flipped it on Craigslist where it sold within hours of posting for $150! I think you’ll agree that the result speaks for itself.