Taking Care of Plaques in the Winter

When winter arrives in your town, plaques that commemorate special events, historical figures and other information important to your community can undergo some wear and tear. Harsh weather can affect bronze and other plaque materials if you don’t apply maintenance measures to protect your plaque from the elements. Use some best practices to ensure these markers are in the best condition for visitors and local community members alike to enjoy.

Effects of Winter Weather on Bronze Plaques

Bronze is a highly durable metal, which helps give it a long life span and low maintenance requirements. However, it can suffer some wear during the winter months. Salt from roadways can collect on the plaque, leading to potential corrosion that begins to scar the metal surface. At the same time, the fluctuating temperatures can cause the metal to contract slightly in the cold and then expand when the weather warms.

While bronze is durable enough to withstand most temperature changes without any damage, oxidation can visibly affect it. Salt, snow and rain will gradually wear down the protective clear coat on the metal, exposing it to this process. Because bronze consists of a large percentage of copper, it will then begin to change color over time since these conditions speed up the metal’s natural aging process.

Because winter weather can compromise the appearance of your plaque, it’s essential to make sure you’re following best practices for maintenance. Keeping it clean and protected from the elements with the appropriate protective coating can be particularly vital. 

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Winter Plaque Cleaning Tips

Cleaning is vital to protecting the integrity of plaque metal in any weather conditions. To help maintain the color and appearance of your plaque, you can follow these fundamental cleaning tips.

  1. Only use mild soap and a soft, lint free cloth: Rather than harsh cleaning chemicals, wash the plaque with mild soap and water. Be careful to use the soap sparingly, as an excess can cloud the metal’s surface.
  2. Rinse the surface: To prevent soap residue from building up, rinse the metal surface thoroughly after cleaning.
  3. Let the metal dry: Ensure the plaque dries completely after washing. If you wish, you can use a lint-free cloth to gently remove excess moisture.

If you’re concerned about the current clear coating being worn away by winter, you can add a new layer to the plaque. Once you’ve washed the surface, blow away any dust or particles. Then, carefully apply a new clear protective coating to the plaque to help protect against oxidation. Ensure you let each layer fully dry before adding a new one.  Clear coating in a spray can works best.  Spray evenly left to right back and forth until you cover the entire plaque.  Once dry, spray from top to bottom back and forth until the entire plaque is covered.  This will make sure you get clear on all sides of the letters.

What to Avoid When Cleaning

When you wash your plaque, keep in mind that some cleaning practices can be harmful rather than helpful. It’s important to only use bronze-safe methods to ensure the longevity of your plaque. Cleaning solvents, pressure washers and abrasive cleaning supplies can easily scratch or otherwise damage the metal surface. You want to avoid any cleaning materials that could wear away at the plaque’s clear coating and expose the bronze to the elements.  Most manufacturers offer a warranty on their clear coating for 5 or more years.  If you use harsh chemicals, metal brushes etc., you will void your warranty.

Make sure you only use soft cloths and be careful not to wash the surface aggressively. With care, you can protect the metal for years to come while making sure it looks bright and clean.

How Often to Clean Your Plaque

If you want to maintain the original appearance of the plaque for as long as possible, it’s a good idea to clean the plaque one or two times a year. You might also consider reapplying a clear protective coating yearly — that way, the metal surface will have the strongest possible protection against potentially corrosive elements when winter arrives. 

Because local conditions will be unique in your specific region, you can monitor your plaque and evaluate for potential wear and tear. Keep in mind that foot traffic, unusual weather fluctuations, extreme humidity and other factors in the environment can significantly impact the cleaning frequency needed for your plaque.

Get Custom Plaques From Erie Landmark Company

At Erie Landmark Company, our goal is to provide beautiful, durable plaques for anything you want to commemorate. We’re a small, dedicated team, so you can be confident you’ll work with people who genuinely care about your project and will deliver the best quality products for you.

To get more information about our products and customization services, reach out to our team today.

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