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There is many different types of garden art, most require no care, but the life of your garden art decor can be greatly increased with some basic care.

Copper Art Sculptures: The most popular of all the finishes associated with copper art sculptures is the classical or vintage look; and the secret behind it, is the Patina. It is the green colored layer that is often associated with copper. Patina is formed by the natural chemical action of elements on the raw copper or bronze. Interesting thing about patina is that, apart from lending color, it also acts as a weatherproof protective coating which does not allow further action of the elements. Once this basic protection is achieved, you need not worry much about protecting the surface. All you now have to do is to dust and keep it clean. Regular dusting is good enough to take care of your sculpture for long. But if you want to clean it with moist cloth, make sure that you do not use any harsh chemical. It may damage the patina and eventually eat into the statue. When using water to clean the statue, make sure that it is not acidic in nature as copper is one of the most reactive materials on earth. When patina of the statue is already there when you buy it, This is because various substances are used to bring the desired color of patina and any other substance may destroy that tinge.

Steel garden sculptures will either be raw steel, or rusted steel. If you garden art is not rusted, it is a battle with nature to keep it that way. The moisture of the outdoors will rust the steel. You can spray the sculpture with a clear varathane found at any hardware store, to give you art a protective layer.

Painted garden decore: First it makes a differience if the sculpture is painted with an outdoor paint. Outdoor will not fade in color as fast. A varathane with U.V. and weather resitance can give your paint long life with bright colors. It is important that you use a non-yellowing varathane. I use a water based varathane for this reason. A varathane protection is needed every few years.

Wood garden art: Wood is vonerible to the outdoor elements and should be protected with an outdoor weather resitant varathane.

The best cleaner for bronze sculptures is plain soap and water, like Ivory liquid dishwashing soap and water.  Just avoid any soaps with scents like lemon scent or other additives that might have unknown consequences.  Also, if you have water "issues" in your area you might like to use distilled bottled water.  But in most situation a hose or bucket of regular tap water is fine.  Just add enough soap to make bubbles in the water because all you really need to do is loosen the dirt from the surface. 

If you are cleaning an outdoor sculpture just add just enough soap to a bucket of water that it has some bubbles floating on top.  Too much soap could leave a soap residue that will require more rinsing later.  Then dampen a clean rag in the soapy water and wipe down the sculpture.  If the piece has a lot of nooks and crannies or bird droppings, a soft toothbrush might be useful.  I keep an old tooth brush in my cleaning supplies just for this purpose. 

I've seen some hack bronze sculpture dealers selling non-ionic cleaning solutions that are supposedly Ph balanced.  My experience in over 25 years of collecting bronze sculpture says that is completely unnecessary.  Think about it.  If you need to control the Ph of the water you clean the sculpture with what is the rain going to do to it.  Do you think the clouds test the Ph before raining on your sculpture?  If you need to Ph balance the cleaning solution for a bronze sculpture you might want to consider buying a higher quality sculpture.

Once the sculpture is clean, rinse out the rag and wipe down the sculpture with clear water to remove the soap residue.  Again, use the toothbrush with clear water to clean hard to reach areas.  If you have access to a hose near the sculpture this will work great to make sure the soap is completely removed. Next, allow the sculpture to dry completely.  This is very important because the next step is to re-wax the sculpture and you don't want to trap moisture under the wax coating.  Usually a sculpture is dry in a couple of hours. 

Once the sculpture is completely dry you are ready to begin waxing.  It is best to wax an outdoor sculpture in the heat of the day as this allows the wax to penetrate the pours of the sculpture resulting in a wax coating that will last longer.  The best type of wax to use is plain, clear, paste wax.  It usually comes in a can and is very inexpensive.  Avoid automotive waxes as they usually contain other cleaners, etc. that could be harmful to bronze.  But most importantly, car waxes tend to dry white, so if you leave any at all in little cracks or crevasses it will dry white and look terrible and you'll have to start all over again.  Although there are many good brands of wax, I'm going to discuss four.

Trewax Clear Paste Wax:  Trewax is a very hard carnauba wax, which is extracted from Brazilian Palm Trees.  One can should last you many years.  It comes highly recommended for its durability and versatility on light or dark patinas.  You can buy it online from Acme Hardware for $5.75 at the time of this writing. 

Johnson's Clear Paste Wax:  Good old Johnson's Clear Paste Wax also comes highly recommended.  Until I learned about Trewax, Johnson's was my wax of preference.  It is best used on darker patinas as it has been known to darken lighter colors.  It also produces a nice shine when buffed.  You can purchase it in most grocery stores for under $10.00 for a 1-pound can.

Mohawk Blue Label Paste Wax: Blue Label Paste wax was recommended by several sources.  It is safe for most patinas and buffs out clean.  It is very difficult to find in a retail store, but I was able to find it online for $10.44 a can. 

Renaissance Wax:  Renaissance Wax is the Cadillac of paste waxes.  It is a micro-crystalline wax polish that is manufactured in England and is used by museum curators around the word to protect bronze as well as swords and other metal artifacts.  It dries very hard and very quickly.  Most importantly it is resistant to fingerprints, which makes it ideal for a sculpture that is touched or handled. A small can runs around $15.00, but a little goes a long way.

For darker colored bronzes I would recommend Johnson's paste wax or Renaissance wax.  For lighter colors or multi-colored patinas I would recommend Trewax, Blue Label or Renaissance wax.   

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