easy way to remove the gummy incense resin build-up
from a thurible is to soak it in
carburetor cleaner, a degreasing solvent that
can be obtained from any auto parts store. I
recommend the 1-gallon can of carburetor cleaner
that includes a submersible parts tray. The
parts tray is handy for soaking the chains and
other smaller parts (should you decide to take
the thurible apart), while the height of the
1-gallon can allows for submerging most
thuribles (should you prefer not to take it
apart). For taller thuribles, a 5-gallon can is
cleaner is safe for thuribles made of solid
brass, stainless steel, copper or silver. It is
also safe for some plating finishes, such as
nickel and silver - though I suggest
testing an inconspicuous spot first on a gilded
thurible (particularly of gold), before immersing
the entire thurible or applying solvent on it.
Mineral spirits and rubbing alcohol are also
good degreasing alternatives.
whatever the cleaning solvent, always use it in
a well-ventilated area and away from any open
flame, as even the fumes can potentially ignite.
For health reasons, you may also want to
consider wearing a breathing respirator, shop
glasses for eye protection, and rubber gloves as
a precaution against chemical burns on the
the beginning… there was the firepot
firepot is the removable bowl in which the
charcoals are actually placed – this is
typically made of copper. Its function is not to
only dissipate the heat from the decorative
thurible bowl, but also to enable the removal of
the spent charcoals and debris.
the firepot is usually the dirtiest part of the
thurible, it's a good idea to clean it separately from
the other parts.
give it a good scraping with a flathead
screwdriver to remove any caked-on debris. Then submerge it in solvent (or
you can fill the firepot with solvent or even
brush it on) and allow it to sit for a few
minutes. If the firepot has not been cleaned in
awhile and has a few stubborn spots, consider
submerging it overnight.
the firepot has any corrosion (i.e.,
is tarnished green), spray or soak it with a
lime remover such as Lime-A-Way or Jelmar and
allow it to sit for a few minutes.
out the firepot with warm, soapy water and give it a good scrubbing with steel wool until
you are satisfied - an SOS pad is perfect for
this job as it has the right coarseness and
contains its own soap. Cleaners such as Ajax,
Comet or Bar Keepers Friend
can be used in combination with steel wool.
When finished, rinse thoroughly with warm water
there were the other thurible parts
can either clean the thurible as one unit (which is slightly more
difficult) or you can
take it apart. The chains can be detached from
the bowl and disk with a pair of needle nose
pliers – be careful though (the eyelets are
usually merely soldered to the bowl), and to
avoid marking the metal, wrap the pliers’ teeth in a cloth.
the thurible parts or the entire thurible in the
can of solvent – for a deep clean, overnight
– otherwise, even soaking them for up to an
hour will work. The solvent can also be brushed
on the thurible or its parts for a light
satisfied with the results remove the thurible
from the solvent and rinse it with mineral
spirits by pouring (or brushing) it over the
thurible parts. Then rinse the thurible parts
thoroughly in warm, soapy water.
inspect the interior and exterior for any missed
spots - if you find any, either re-soak, or
apply solvent locally with a paint brush and
rinse again with mineral spirits, then warm,
ensure that the thurible is rinsed completely of
residue, otherwise when heated, it will reek with an
unpleasant smell of burning solvent.
some elbow grease with brass
and copper thuribles!
brass and copper thuribles, if you
next use a lime remover such as Lime-Away or
Jemel, you can
save a substantial amount of time and effort.
The lime remover will chemically clean the
metal, making it quicker to actually polish.
or brush on the lime remover and allow it to sit
for a few minutes; then rinse in warm water.
the thurible is especially tarnished, it may be
necessary to work in the lime remover into the
details or flat surface with a cotton ball,
Q-tip or cotton cloth. A blunted toothpick
dipped in lime remover can also be used on
engraved details or tight spots by crushing the
tip or softening it up it in water.
though applying the lime remover will revive the
shiny look of brass or copper, it does not
actually polish the metal or leave a protective
the thurible: "wax on, wax off"
next step depends on what type of metal the
thurible is made of, hence what kind
of polish and cloth fabric to use.
The polish actually serves two purposes:
polishes the metal.
protective layer against tarnish.
polishing, you will need to use two cloths – one for
applying the polish and removing any tarnish,
and another for the final buffing.
To avoid leaving white reside, apply the polish
very sparingly: a little goes a long way. You
can more easily control the amount of polish
used by pouring some in a shallow bowl and
then carefully dapping the cloth into it. You can also water down the
polish a bit too.
possible, apply and buff off the polish with a circular motion: "wax
on". If necessary to do this vigorously,
be sure to properly support and hold the part to
avoid damaging it (e.g., by bending the
For detailed or
hard-to-reach areas, a Q-tip
or blunted toothpick dipped in polish is very
thoroughly finish buff: "wax off".
If despite your efforts white reside remains,
trying buffing it out with a Q-tip dipped in water
or even rubbing alcohol.
your chains are solid brass, after
spraying them with lime remover and rinsing them
in warm, soapy water, scrub them with an old
toothbrush that has been applied with some
diluted brass cleaner. Rinse again with warm
soapy water and a clean toothbrush, then vigorously
buff them each several times with the cloth
wrapped around the chains (and held tightly with
type of polish to use
polish is not only usable for its namesake, but
also other metals
indicated on the container - such as chrome,
stainless steel and copper. However, never use
brass polish on plated thuribles as the polish
can strip off the plating.
thuribles made of or plated with silver, nickel
or gold, some special considerations are
necessary - but first a quick lesson to
made of solid silver are just that – solid
silver (the same is true of nickel). The quality of the silver is a different
matter though, and some grades include sterling,
Britannica and even coin. In every case,
you will find the manufacturer’s hallmark stamped
on the various parts of the thurible (even the
chains) if they are indeed truly silver. If
merely plated though, this should be indicated on the underside of the foot (under
that are plated (i.e.,
gilded) are made of a base metal, usually of
brass or copper, but even of sterling (which is
optimum for gold gilding). The thurible parts
are then subjected to an electroplating process
that bonds a thin layer of plating over the base
metal – like an onion skin. When the base
metal is either brass or copper, sometimes it
tarnishes under the plating. Though ordinary
silver polish will not polish brass or copper,
there are three cleaners that can without
adversely affecting the plating:
Hagerty Silversmiths' Spray Polish (this does an excellent job of polishing the underlying base metal)
Simichrome polish paste (another excellent polish that can be used for all non-ferrous metals)
Tarn-X metal cleaner (use sparingly though as this can be rather harsh – I would also recommend testing it on an inconspicuous spot first to ensure it does not remove any plating)
word of caution about silver thuribles
working with a silver thurible (solid or
plated), you may find some details surrounded
with a blackish haze. This isn’t tarnish -
it's actually there on purpose to highlight
these details and was
chemically done during the manufacturing process.
So don’t try to polish them out.
a nickel, silver or gold thurible
protect nickel, silver and gold finishes:
Use only silver
Use only pure flannel as a polishing
cloth - other fabrics can leave fine
flannel can be purchased by the yard in any
fabric store and is rather inexpensive (note:
this cloth does not work well for brass).
is actually cotton, so you can also use cotton
balls and Q-tips for these metals; a
blunted toothpick is also safe for engraved
details. However, never
use a toothbrush nor any type of abrasive
steel wool – even super fine grade), as this
will not only scratch these kinds of metals, but
will also wear through the plating.
steps are essentially the same as for a brass
thurible, except do not use lime remover – go
straight to the step of applying silver polish.
final word about lacquered thuribles
ecclesiastical ware manufacturers spray coat
their brass thuribles with a high-heat resistance
polyurethane (clear coat lacquer). While this
prevents the thurible from requiring polishing,
over time the burning incense resin will be
absorbed by the coating, thus darkening it.
companies will accommodate requests to obtain a
non-lacquered thurible directly from the
factory. Otherwise, you can remove this coating
by soaking the thurible overnight in paint
remover, then polishing it.
your thurible is lacquered, you cannot follow
all of the steps that have been provided in this
instructional. However, you should be able to
clean the lacquer either with rubbing alcohol or
even mineral spirits, followed by a rinse with
warm, soapy water and then a finish buff.
often should a thurible be cleaned?
frequently (say every Sunday), the thurible
should be polished at least once a month, though you may also wish to
spruce it up before then too.
firepot on the other hand should be thoroughly
scraped out after every use (i.e.,
between each run of charcoals during Mass and
before storing it away) to keep it as clean as
possible - the cleaner the firepot, the better
the incense will smell.
touchups between thorough cleanings
places wipe the thurible cover down with rubbing
alcohol after Mass to remove some of the incense
residue, followed by a quick polish.
brass, chrome or copper thuribles a good touch-up polish is Never-Dull (a cotton
wad impregnated with polish). Polishing cloths
impregnated with polish are also available both
for brass and precious metals.
enabled with these tips, hopefully you will be
able to enjoy your sacristy's next thurible
Some suggested polishes are: Brasso and
Simichrome for brass, chrome and copper;
for silver, nickel, or gold: Wright's, Weiman, Hagerty, Simichrome.
An alternative to carburetor cleaner is either
mineral spirits or even rubbing alcohol.
The firepot is an important component of every
thurible. If it’s missing from your thurible,
you can order a replacement through a Catholic
church supply company. If your thurible is not a
“standard edition”, then consider having a
sheet metal manufacture make one from copper or
even galvanized steel.
I do not suggest the Silvo brand by the makers
of Brasso – this silver polish tends to be