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Thread: Removing tarnish

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    Removing tarnish

    I have a parts-drawer chock full of open-chassis 3.5mm phone jacks. I forget how I acquired them, but they are rather tarnished, even though they're in decent shape apart from that.

    Is there something I can soak them in - preferably some sort of household chemical (e.g., vinegar, baking soda, etc.) - that will remove the tarnish? The "problem" is, of course, largely relegated to the tip contact, which is brass, where the ground/shaft contact is shiny chrome.

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    I'd do a test on one of them with vinegar, see how it works.

    A soft nylon bristle brush (old toothbrush) helps to scrub it clean during/after soaking.

    Vinegar worked pretty good for me on the last metal parts I cleaned.
    They were not jacks tho...

    YMMV

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    Thanks. Always nice to get some help from a fellow Canuck. I'll give it a whirl. Or maybe a swirl.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    I have a parts-drawer chock full of open-chassis 3.5mm phone jacks. I forget how I acquired them, but they are rather tarnished, even though they're in decent shape apart from that.

    Is there something I can soak them in - preferably some sort of household chemical (e.g., vinegar, baking soda, etc.) - that will remove the tarnish? The "problem" is, of course, largely relegated to the tip contact, which is brass, where the ground/shaft contact is shiny chrome.
    These are electrical contacts and the best treatment for contacts is Deoxit and Q-Tips or a toothbrush.

    Acids like vinegar tend to activate new corrosion.

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    Junior Member Wal_zz's Avatar
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    Sounds a bit tedious scrubbing a whole bunch of Jack's. I'd try soaking one in vinegar to see how it goes, you could also try hydrogen peroxide which starts at 3% strength. If that brightens things up rinse well, dry and leave for a week to see if there is any sign of corrosion or tarnish forming. (Use a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe makes it much easier to see)

    If that goes well process the rest of your Jack's in the same manner. I'm curious why the Jack's tarnished in the first place, were they subject to a humid environment or something corrosive fumes in the atmosphere? Unless you consider that possibility they may tarnish again...

    Just a final thought if it's just the contact spring you want to clean. Get a small bottle of silverware cleaner and apply with a Q-tip just to the contact area with a bit of rubbing. As before, rinse well and dry to remove any residue.

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    Last edited by Wal_zz; 05-22-2020 at 02:15 AM.

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    Master Destroyer nosaj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wal_zz View Post
    Sounds a bit tedious scrubbing a whole bunch of Jack's. I'd try soaking one in vinegar to see how it goes, you could also try hydrogen peroxide which starts at 3% strength. If that brightens things up rinse well, dry and leave for a week to see if there is any sign of corrosion or tarnish forming. (Use a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe makes it much easier to see)

    If that goes well process the rest of your Jack's in the same manner. I'm curious why the Jack's tarnished in the first place, were they subject to a humid environment or something corrosive fumes in the atmosphere? Unless you consider that possibility they may tarnish again...

    Just a final thought if it's just the contact spring you want to clean. Get a small bottle of silverware cleaner and apply with a Q-tip just to the contact area with a bit of rubbing. As before, rinse well and dry to remove any residue.
    That's funny...Have you been able to find any hydrogen peroxide lately?

    nosaj

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    Supporting Member nevetslab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nosaj View Post
    That's funny...Have you been able to find any hydrogen peroxide lately?

    nosaj
    Uh...........I haven't looked recently, having maybe 1/3 of a bottle left. Has it hit the endangered species list due to the Pandemic?

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    Ammonium Hydroxide in the form of household ammonia is a good cleaner for brass and nickel. I keep .880 ammonia in stock to dilute for some cleaning jobs and most horological cleaning solutions are based on ammonia and soap. like everything else it needs rinsing off thoroughly.

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    Supporting Member bsco's Avatar
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    In the past I have used bleach...aka Javax or Clorox to clean the pins on vacuum tubes....I put just enough bleach in a small perscription pill bottle so that when I stand the tube upright the liquid just comes up to the bottom of the glass...I let it sit for a few minutes and then take it out and clean it....toothbrush, fine emery cloth, etc..if you leave the tube in the liquid too long it will remove the coating completely and you are left with a copper pin....so you do have to be careful....and make sure that you wear gloves and eye protection....you can probably clean other metal parts the same way just as long as you are careful....

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    Chlorine is one of the most aggressive and corrosive chemical agents. It seems counterproductive to fight corrosion with a highly corrosive substance.
    The tiniest residue may cause a lot of long term trouble.
    After some bad experience I banned all chlorine containing products from my house.

    Also peroxide is corrosive and works by oxidation.

    I like the proposal of Mick Bailey to use ammonium hydroxide because it's alkaline and works by chemical reduction rather than oxidation.

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    Last edited by Helmholtz; 05-22-2020 at 06:16 PM.
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    Supporting Member bsco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Chlorine is one of the most aggressive and corrosive chemical agents. It seems counterproductive to fight corrosion with a highly corrosive substance.
    The tiniest residue may cause a lot of long term trouble.
    After some bad experience I banned all chlorine containing products from my house.
    well, you have to leave it in only for a couple of minutes and you must clean up the contacts with some fine emery cloth.......you can even rinse the items with warm water and mild dish liquid to remove any residue from the bleach....if you leave the bleach residue on the metal for too long then you will cause yourself grief....

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    Quote Originally Posted by bsco View Post
    well, you have to leave it in only for a couple of minutes and you must clean up the contacts with some fine emery cloth.......you can even rinse the items with warm water and mild dish liquid to remove any residue from the bleach....if you leave the bleach residue on the metal for too long then you will cause yourself grief....
    Don't forget that chlorine is a gas. It evaporates and then attacks and corrodes most everything. Sometimes the damage shows after years.

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    I deeply appreciate all the help and suggestions. Just bear in mind I'm dealing with things like these, where applying steel wool is highly problematic. For me - and not to pooh-pooh any debate here - the optimal solution (no pun intended) is something I can plunk the jacks into for some reasonable period that avoids damage, rinse them off and dry them sparkling bright.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Problem solved. Diluted some Brasso with a bit of warm water, soaked all the jacks in it for a little while, shaking the container every now and then, and gave them each a low-effort scrub with an old toothbrush, and sparkly clean.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Problem solved. Diluted some Brasso with a bit of warm water, soaked all the jacks in it for a little while, shaking the container every now and then, and gave them each a low-effort scrub with an old toothbrush, and sparkly clean.
    How does that work with the phenolic material separating signal and ground ?

    nosaj

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Problem solved. Diluted some Brasso with a bit of warm water, soaked all the jacks in it for a little while, shaking the container every now and then, and gave them each a low-effort scrub with an old toothbrush, and sparkly clean.
    I will have to remember this technique next time I need to clean some jacks. I'd like to try this in some of my old tube sockets as well. Although the quality and price of Belton's tube sockets make it more and more difficult to justify using anything else these days.
    I've had a lot of success polishing out oxidized/tarnished terminal contacts using a touch of Mother's mag polish and microfiber cloth. The trick is lightly make sure to orient the microfiber "grain" to run in the direction of the polishing motion, if that makes sense. But you can't really polish out connectors like 1/4" jacks that way. So I'm glad you reported back on some success.
    As a total aside, I keep waiting for someone to manufacture a proper polishing tool or applicator around the size and shape of a q-tip, but lasts longer than 2.3 seconds before it completely falls apart.

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    I should qualify my success by noting that the jacks were not heavily oxidized. They just all had enough discolouration from tarnish that I wanted to check them off the list should I need to troubleshoot anything I had installed them in.

    Something more oxidized might require direct application of undiluted Brasso, and a bit more scrubbing that I had to engage in. But I hope my success can generalize to other folks.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    All true. Removing brass oxidation is all abut mechanical effort. The oxide film IS thick enough to foul low signal/voltage electrical contact and the oxide layer is thick enough to not be removed by wiper motion on switch contacts. Brass is a poor surface material for electrical contact for this reason. Though many non soldered electrical connectors are made from brass for it's conductivity, ease of tooling/plating and it's shape resilience. But brass contacts are usually plated in nickel or some other low/thin oxide prone metal that allows wear of the sparse oxide with mere switch contact.

    I guess what I'm saying is, brass alone is not a good contact material, and mechanical oxide removal is the best solution.

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    Wow, Brasso. I haven't heard of that in years. I think I saw some in my mom's cleaning closet. Along with other odd products like carbon tetrachloride.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    I thought the Brasso product included a hard wax component as protection against new oxidation too quickly. I've used it plenty for all kinds of things but I never even considered it for cleaning contacts because it smells like it has a hard wax (insulative) component. I could be wrong, and I probably shouldn't judge a product based on my olfactory senses But most products of this type include a wax of some kind as protection from oxide formation and Brasso smells like that. I'll have to look in my cubbies and see if I still have any and red the label to see.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    The label of Australian Brasso lists "Liquid Hydrocarbons 630g/L; Ammonia 5g/L", whereas the material safety data sheet for Brasso in North America lists: isopropyl alcohol 3–5%, ammonia 5–10%, silica powder 15–20% and oxalic acid 0–3% as the ingredients.[4] However, the Australian version contains kaolin instead of silica for abrasives.[5]
    From the Wiki...

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Yes, it appears that Brasso is just a very mild abrasive. I've been through many and various bottles of metal polish, some of which do contain wax. I'm probably incorrectly applying an old memory to Brasso.

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    I installed a pair of the jacks on each of a half-dozen modules this morning, for a large-ish modular effects system I've been working on for damn near a decade. Have not wired them up yet, so the real test will be whether I get decent or intermittent contact, once everything is wired up later this weekend. Hopefully, whatever residue Brasso might leave behind, that is not planned around electronic efficiency, will have been rinsed away with warm water.

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