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Cleaning zinc clad tabletop?


Q. Hi,

A bit out there on this one but maybe you can help? I recently bought a table which has a zinc clad tabletop,I think it has been lacquered although I'm not sure it could be a coating of some sort? but it still tends to mark especially if a wet glass is left on it for any length of time,any ideas on cleaning these out. I can live with marks, chips etc as I think this adds to the character but ring marks just look awful.

Thanks in advance,

Dan Noble
- Hampshire, UK


Q. I have the same problem with my table top - does anyone have the answer?

Sue Rathmell
- London, UK


A. I have the same problem on my Conran table. Using Astonish with a lot of elbow grease and 1000 grade wire wool takes it back to a mirror like finish. Then I apply super resin polish (Autoglym). However it is hard work and I do have some black marks etched in and now looking for a chemical cleaning solution.

Hope this helps

Eamonn Brennan
- Berkhamsted, U.K.

January 5, 2008

A. Re. cleaning your zinc table top: I had the same problem with my (Conran shop) table - i.e, unpleasant ring stains from wine glasses, embedded black marks, etc. In desperation I completely ignored the cleaning instructions which came with the table and used VIM (a very powerful scouring product) in combination with a normal washing-up scouring pad (hard, green and scratchy one side,a foam pad the other)...and guess what. It worked a treat! And has done ever since. Hope this helps you!

Kate Cullinan
- London, London, UK

November 13, 2008

A. A really successful method of cleaning Zinc is using 'Silvo' or 'Brasso'. However, I should warn that this only works if you're looking for a non-weathered look.

Using Silvo Silver Polish [linked by editor to product info on Ebay] you get quite a shine on the finish. People call it a 'mill' finish. It's nothing like polished chrome or anything, but it gives a kind of rustic shiny look which will then tarnish down and become progressively more matte with time and use. Brassoamazoninfo gives much the same result- but I have found that it polishes up slightly more matt/cloudy than with 'Silvo'. So use either depending on what look you want.

For Zinc that has been 'pre-weathered' (blue/pinky/dark grey hue) you're pretty much stuffed... The best thing you can do is the above- with some serious elbow grease! Believe me, I've tried! Will come out great, but is a lot of work. Hope this helps, Luke

Luke McLaren
- London, UK

February 6, 2012

A. Hi
Zinc will mark very easily which over time patinas.
You can sand out the stain with sandpaper or you can send away to be patinated a darker colour.


December 10, 2012appended

Q. I have used a small antique, french medicine cabinet (which I was told was made of zinc... perhaps it is not zinc but some other painted/aged metal?) as a small washstand in my party 1/2 bath. It was drilled and outfitted with a glass vessel sink, wall-mounted taps, and I was thrilled. NOW, not so thrilled.

The hand soap, and/or any soapy residue which drops on the top has terribly marked it. I have used an ultra fine grade steel wool, gently working on the raised whitish rings and/or circles from soapy residue and it has removed the white marks but it also removed what must be a stain of some sort, leaving me with silvery metal spots and/or rings on the brownish surface. Sigh.

marks on zinc washstand

My question is: can I lightly abrade it, stain it (with what?) and then seal it with a polyurethane of some kind? I cannot change it out... into it with a $mall fortune in plumbing co$t$, etc... but I am very capable of fine brush work which will be required around the vessel... sigh... but have few options. I have dabbed certain stains on the spots but they lift right off. I tried to dry brush them with my oil paints. It's all been a disaster. I have put out a lot of hand towels for now which covers the mess. Willing to work hard but just don't know the materials to use on zinc/metal to make it impenetrable to soap and water.

Hoping for a miracle. Thanks. JP

J P Kennedy
- Atlanta, Georgia, USA

December 21, 2012

A. I'm a galvanizer so while I don't know a lot about furniture, I know a little about zinc surfaces and the various things that can happen.

If it's really zinc, (or a zinc coated steel? it might be galvanized steel?), then it's probably not an appropriate surface for such an application.
Zinc's main role in such things is corrosion protection. It does this sacrificially. For example steel coated in zinc protects by sacrificing itself instead of the steel being corroded. It is rarely used as an aesthetic finish, as it is visually unstable. With time a weathering zinc surface will go from initially bright shiny silver to dull grey, and its crystalline nature will show through at different time in different ways too.
Further, if something touches it that leaves a deposit, or if its touched by something acidic, coloured stains occur. Even water left, is likely to cause colouration changes.

So your best plan is probably to coat it, but this raises another problem. Its hard to get coatings to adhere to zinc. Paints, stains, powdercoatings, etc. are like this. Usually, a pretreatment system is used to change the surface to allow things to adhere, but that treatment causes visual changes too. So clear coatings are very rarely used on zinc surfaces for that reason.

You can clean the surface, removing oxides, carbonates or whatever deposits get left, using (as you did) steel wool or similar, bjut that just exposes fresh unoxidised zinc which will react - even with the oxygen in air- and discolour again, and probably not to look the same as uncleaned areas.

This sounds all very negative, sorry. I think if it were mine, I'd consider putting a different coating on it. Either paint, vinyl, Formica (laminate) or something similar, and forget the look of zinc. Pity!

Geoff Crowley Geoff Crowley
galvanizing &
   powder coating shop
Glasgow, Scotland

December 24, 2012

A. Hi JP. Although I don't disagree with Geoff's warnings about the generally non-decorative nature of zinc coatings, a lot of stuff is made of zinc including kitchen countertops.

I think the toughest part is the blending in. If you can't do a touchup, you can probably remove the whole finish and re-patina it per the earlier advice on this thread that we appended your inquiry to. Then lacquer it, or patina it and lacquer or clearcoat it. Make sure it's completely dry before the clearcoating. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Novacan Black Patina for Zinc

March 20, 2013

A. Thank you both for your tips. I think I must try to remove the stain, replicate it and then seal it. You should see what a disaster it is now, several months and six children, a few parties... a new spot from everyone! I do appreciate your thoughts... Do I remove it with...a solvent ... And what on earth do I stain it with? What holds onto zinc? So many projects...and here I thought this one was finished once the sink, taps, and glass bowl were installed. Merci. JP

JP Kennedy
- Atlanta, Georgia, USA

July 28, 2014

Q. I have a zinc dining room table that has slowly been acquiring small squiggly black lines across the top. They look like pen marks or thin little cracks but are completely smooth to the touch and impossible to wipe clean. They don't seem to be associated with areas of higher use, just randomly appearing throughout.

19866-2a  19866-2b

I can't figure out how to get rid of them and am afraid to try anything that might scratch the table's surface. Any idea what might be causing this and how I can fix it?

Erica Guthrie
- Atlanta, Georgia USA

July 2014

A. Hi Erica. You say "black" and you're probably right, although they look dark red on my monitor.

I don't know what it is, but I have never seen zinc do it, so I lean more towards thinking it's staining of some sort than a spontaneous emission from the zinc. I'd suggest trying isopropyl alcohol -- it shouldn't hurt the zinc, it's a disinfectant (which can't hurt), and it removes magic marker stains in case the markings are of that sort.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 21, 2014

Q. This question replicates another on a similar site, but here goes ... a client of mine has bleached a zinc table top with lemon juice. Can the original be recovered? I am no chemist! HELP please, this is outside my comfort zone.

George Judd
antique Restoration - Salisbury Wiltshire U.K.

October 2014

A. Hi George. This is not a stain, where you remove the stain and you're back to original. This is, as you say, bleaching -- so there's no "removing" the bleaching, there is only "restoring" the coloration, and we don't know what "the original" look was. Time and patience might restore the look, but there are black patina solutions for zinc that would hurry it along and might be what you're going for. Good luck!

But "similar site"?! There is no similar site! Take it back or we'll sic the dogs on you :-)


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Zinc vs. steel for a desktop

March 4, 2015

Q. Contemplating making a desk; want to cover it in metal -- sheet metal to be more precise. I was told to use zinc. What's the benefit of zinc vs. steel. Can I still acid wash some patina into the new metal like you can with the zinc. Is the zinc better for some reason. It's going indoors anybody have some insight for me.

Rob Val
Do it yourselfer - USA

March 2015

A. Hi Rob. Steel rusts, whereas zinc "patinates". This thread should give you a feel for the good and bad of zinc surfaces. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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