I just got some nifty little flyers printed up, with basic cleaning instructions for the different metals I use in my chainmaille. I intend to include one of these with each order, so you’ll know what to do if it needs a bit of a clean.
It also occurred to me that I could write a blog post with a little bit more detail on each of the materials I use in my pieces. Now, I don’t use all the different jewellery grade metals out there, far from it. Precious metals aren’t really my thing, and there are other ones that I just haven’t got around to trying yet.
The main materials I use are Bright aluminium, Anodised aluminium, EPDM rubber, Stainless steel, Copper, Bronze and Brass.
Bright aluminium is actually an aluminium alloy – it’s aluminium + magnesium. It is nickel free in theory, although a lot of the wire used is recycled so little particles can sneak in. Bright aluminium is shiny, almost chrome-like, but can dull to a grey colour. It’s extremely lightweight so even big pieces are very wearable.
This is aluminium which has been anodised. Anodisation is a chemical process involving acids and dye, which leaves the metal with all kinds of great colours. It’s practically hypoallergenic and just as lightweight as Bright aluminium.
This is the only material I regularly use that’s not a metal. EPDM is a synthetic rubber, originally created for industrial use. It comes in loads of cool colours and it’s stretchy! It’s the easiest way to make bracelets without a clasp, and I usually pair it with Bright aluminium. EPDM is also completely latex free.
Everyone knows what Stainless steel is, right? It’s an iron/chromium/nickel alloy that’s really hard, quite heavy and hardly ever rusts. Although Stainless steel contains nickel, it’s bonded in such a way that most allergy sufferers would never know it’s there. This makes it incredibly versatile and wearable as jewellery and accessories.
Copper is a very soft, heavy metal. It patinas over time, which you can either clean off or leave for an aged look. Some people have allergies to copper, and it’s mildly toxic if you get it in your body. (So no licking your jewellery. 😉 )
Bronze and Brass
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, or sometimes copper and another metal such as aluminium. It’s strong, heavy and ages beautifully. Brass, on the other hand, is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is softer than Bronze, but just as heavy. It will age in a similar fashion to Bronze and Copper and can be cleaned in the same way.
So how do I clean these things?
The aluminiums, rubber and steel can be cleaned really easily with hot water and soap. Use a mild dish soap and make sure you twist the rings about a bit so you get into every nook and cranny. Rinse well afterwards so you don’t end up with a skin reaction to the soap.
Copper, Bronze and Brass can all be cleaned with either a lightly acidic solution or a commercial cleaner. If you want to do it the homemade way, you can use a bit of ketchup or lemon juice. If you use a commercial cleaner, make sure you follow all the steps so no chemicals are left on the piece. Copper and copper alloys can also be left to patina (age), which will give it a finish that’s unique to your body chemistry.
So there you have it. A little bit about what I work with, and how to take care of it. I hope this has been informative and helpful, and if you have any questions just comment and I’ll try my best to answer. 🙂