Brasso was introduced in about 1905 and became widely available. Because of the hydrocarbon components in the mixture it had a flash point of 72°F (Abel Close test) and so was classed by railway companies as dangerous goods. This classification allowed the companies to charge more for distributing Brasso around the country. Reckitt's took this to the asking for the polish to be recatagorised in the hope of reducing costs, but the railways disagreed. So in 1913 the case was taken to Railway and Canal Commissioners for a decision. After a hearing lasting two days the commissioners decided in favour of the railway companies, and Brasso remained classed as a dangerous substance for the purposes of railway transport.
Brasso has been in use for over 100 years, and originated in Britain in 1905. In the early 20thC Reckitt & Sons' senior traveller, W.H. Slack, visited the company's Australian branch, where he discovered such a product in use. Samples from Australian and US producers were then analysed by Reckitt's chemists, and by 1920 liquid polish under the trademark "Brasso" was being sold, initially to railways, hospitals, hotels, and large shops.
The polish grew in popularity in Britain, eventually replacing the previous paste-style polishes. It has undergone very few changes in either composition or package design over the past century. Cans are often collected as a typical example of classic British advertising design. Brasso in 7-ounce cans was widely popular in the US Armed Forces for brass and other metallic insignia.
In the US, the current Brasso product is not the same as the legacy product. The manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, has not produced the impregnated wadding version of the product for many years. The formula changed in 2008 to comply with US volatile organic compounds law, and the metal bottle was replaced by a plastic one.
In 2010, Brasso brought out a new product, Brasso Gadgetcare. Gadgetcare is a versatile, non-abrasive gel that can be used on everything from LCD TV screens, laptop screens, computers, smart phones, and PDAs. The plastic bottle is 50ml and is sold with a microfibre cloth.
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. However, the Australian version contains kaolin instead of silica for abrasives.
The online data sheet for Brasso wadding in the UK lists the ingredients as C8-10 Alkane/Cycloalkane/Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Quartz, C14-18 and C16-18 unsaturated Fatty acids, Kaolinite, Aqua, Ammonium Hydroxide and Iron Hydroxide. Brasso liquid lists a slightly different mix; C8-10 Alkane/Cycloalkane/Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Quartz, Kaolin, C12-20 Saturated and Unsaturated Monobasic Fatty Acids, Aqua and Ammonium Hydroxide. Also available are ingredients in a discontinued recipe for Brasso. Wadding: C8-10 Alkane/Cycloalkane/Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Quartz, Ammonium Tallate and Colorant. Liquid: C8-10 Alkane/Cycloalkane/Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Quartz, Kaolin and Ammonium Tallate.
Brasso can also be used to polish out scratches in plastics:
- It is used to polish CDs, DVDs, screens, and pools to repair scratches. It is a mild solvent and an extremely fine abrasive, so when applied to the reflective surface of the disc and rubbed radially (in straight lines between the edge and centre), it can smooth scratches and reduce their effect.
- Brasso can also be used on Lego minifigures to remove markings.
- Brasso has also been used by watch enthusiasts to polish scratches out of acrylic crystals on watches.
Brasso can be successfully used to take minor (white) heat marks out of French polished wooden surfaces. The fine abrasive cuts through the surface and allows the solvent into the wax and lacquer layer. The surface should be properly cleaned and waxed after this treatment.
Brasso has been successfully used to restore Bakelite (Telephones, appliances etc.)
Silvo is a similar wadding product for polishing silver and gold, from the same manufacturer, and in similar packaging that is predominantly blue, rather than red. The wadding itself is pink, rather than light brown. Brasso is more abrasive than Silvo, so while Silvo can be used for polishing brass, Brasso should not be used on silver or gold.
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- "Product Safety Data Sheet" (PDF). Reckitt Benckiser Australia. 20 May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 May 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
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