-- The Home Page of the Finishing Industry

on this site
current topics
Live! From beautiful Pine Beach New Jersey: Welcome to the world's most popular metal finishing website

topic 12868

How to dull brass

A discussion started in 2002 but continuing through 2017


Q. I purchased a new cut crystal ceiling lamp with a highly polished brass rim. I want to dull the brass metal to a dark or aged tone. How do I get rid of the varnish that is on the lamp and what steps do I take to darken the metal?

Mary D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Lacey, Washington


A. Hi Mary. If the 'varnish' is brass lacquer it is removable with lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Then it can be darkened with Liver of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] (which is somewhat noxious stuff that you want to be careful with), or just left to slowly tarnish. Best of luck.

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


Q. I need to know how to dull or age new brass plated hardware.

Peter V [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Retired - Atlanta, Texas


A. Hello Peter. Brass plated hardware is trickier because the brass plating is very thin and you may wear through it, and then the item will rust. What may work on solid brass may not be appropriate for plated brass. I don't think you will successfully "age" brass plated hardware. Maybe try a Rub'N'Buff [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Good luck.

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


Q. I have a lovely new range cooker for a 'show' kitchen. However, it has horrible shiny brass knobs and handles. I was expecting stainless steel or chrome. Could anyone advise me how to 'antique' these fittings or re-paint them. Would they take car spray paint or would a caustic soda solution dull them and how would it be best to apply the soda? any other ideas?

Jill P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
restoration and kitchen design - Via della Barca, Italy


A. Hi Jill. Getting paint to adhere to brass is problematical, but you can try a self-etching primer followed by the paint of your choice. You could also try a wax rub, or brass darkening solution.

A plating shop could certainly nickel or chrome plate them or you, if that remains your preference. Good luck.

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




DAVID T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
HOME OWNER - No. ATTLEBORO, Massachusetts


A. If you get the lacquer (or whatever clear coating is on them) off of them, David, they will tarnish by themselves very quickly (if they are indeed solid brass).

Readers: I'm not the "brass dulling expert"; I'm just the guy who runs the site. I try to answer if no one else does, so people's questions are not rudely ignored -- but please feel free to add your say.

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


A. Note: if brass is varnished or lacquered you must remove the varnish or lacquer coating for this process to work.

1) Take a small plastic tub and fill 3/4 with common household ammonia.
2) Place pennies (copper) at the bottom of the tub, more is better. Leaving space for fittings (brass objects).
3) Place your brass fittings in the tub--not touching pennies. Cover.
4) Leave overnight--outdoors in a secure place--away from children or pets.
5) Your brass will darken from a little to a lot depending on how long you leave it in this solution.
6) Good luck.

Rebeca M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nogales, Arizona


Q. I am currently like those mentioned above who are struggling with turning brass fixtures to more modern, antiqued-rustic looking fixtures. I have a huge, 3-tiered entry chandelier which I would love to look more rustic. I don't want to have to go through the trouble of having to take it down (it's 22+ feet up there!) or spending the $500+ to buy a new one...SO HELP IF YOU KNOW ANY SECRETS! THANKS!

Melissa S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Algonquin, Illinois


A. Melissa, for that application you might want to try a wax rub. They are inexpensive and the brass is unlikely to get much wear up where people wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole :-) Rub'N'Buff [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]


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


Q. My table has a decorative brass sheet on the base. I would like to dull its finish. Is there a chemical or treatment I can apply to cause the brass to oxidize or dull quickly.

Thank you and I await your reply.

J Chua
designer - Makati City, Manila, Philippines


A. J,

Brass will dull and tarnish rapidly. The reason that isn't happening is probably because there is a clear protective coating on it: lacquer (which can be removed with Acetone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] or something more durable which can probably be removed with methylene chloride based Aircraft stripper [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. The methylene chloride is really nasty stuff, to be used only outside, with chemical rubber gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and goggles [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], and only after other stuff doesn't work.

But you need to be aware that everything that looks something like brass may not be brass. Some lamps and other stuff are nickel plated then coated with a brass-toned lacquer. If you remove the lacquer, you remove the brass color.


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

Ed. note, Feb. 24, 2012: Per
"Methylene chloride ... has been linked to the deaths of 13 workers refinishing bathtubs in the United States...
To use products containing methylene chloride safely, work areas must be well-ventilated, and when levels of methylene chloride exceed recommended exposure limits, workers must use protective equipment ...
The finding has prompted the CDC to warn ... public health agencies, manufacturers and trade groups to 'communicate the extreme hazards' of the use of the chemical -- also known as dichloromethane -- to employers, workers and the public."


Q. Copper acid wash? I am a new homeowner. We installed copper valances in our kitchen that are too bright. Can anyone recommend a product that acid washes copper to look more like oil rubbed bronze/more aged? We are not looking for a verdigris patina, just a more aged, oil-rubbed bronze look. Thanks..

Judy K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
designer - Truckee, California


Q. We built a log home in 1993 and installed $6000 worth of shiny brass bath fixtures. I now hate the shiny finish as it is dating the house. My problem is that we purchased high quality fixtures and I cannot afford to replace them. Is there a way that I can refinish these to be dull or antiqued that will work?

Ann M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Spencer, Indiana


A. I discovered a product for darkening brass and giving it an aged look. It is simply called Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler].

Victoria F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Asheville, North Carolina


Q. I am trying to finish a golden brass bowl which I will convert into a sink. I need a solution with which I can make the brass bowl into an aged brown-patina. It will also be in water. Any solutions? No one in town plates this anymore. Is there anywhere I can send it to be plated? It is not lacquered. I have been trying to leave it outside to the elements to age but it's just starting to show signs of rust. HELP! Any leads would be useful. Thanks.

Shyamala A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A. Brass cannot rust, Shyamala -- only ferrous metals like cast iron, steel, and stainless steel can rust. So if it is rusting it is not brass; it is probably brass plating over steel. If it is brass plated steel it will be unsatisfactory as a sink anyway. Check it with a magnet (steel is magnetic, brass isn't). Good luck!

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


A. I just tried this on a shiny brass doorknob and it worked great. Spray brass with Easy Off Oven Cleaner and leave on for 24 hours. Rinse well with water. Dry and then spray and shine with WD-40 [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. A friend of mine told me about this. Hope it works for you.

Dena M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Texas


Q. Are there any techniques to darken plated brass that is on top of steel?

Frank Cornwal
hobbyist - Wilmington, Delaware


A. The problem is simply the impossibility of giving any assurance that it will work well, Frank. The liver of sulphur and brass darkening solutions are applicable to brass whether it be cast or plated. But if the plating is thin or porous then the solution is also acting on the underlying steel or nickel. The answer may be that if the item doesn't satisfy you the way it is, try darkening it, knowing that you may then decide to either throw it away or send it to a plating shop for refinishing.

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

November 23, 2008

Q. Can you tell me how to darken brass plated doorknobs? I'm willing to take the loss if I don't like it. I just wanted to darken as much as I can with household ingredients if possible.


Sean Watson
- Pittsburgh Mills, Pennsylvania

December 9, 2008

Hi, Sean. If you have removed any lacquer or clear coat, you can put the knob in a large zip lock bag with crushed hard boiled eggs, a good source of sulfur. This hint was first proposed by our reader James Watts.


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

March 7, 2009

Q. Hello,

I have read the previous replies regarding brass chandeliers but am still unsure about the following:

How much of the Brass Darkening solution is required for darkening the brass of a medium sized (about 14" x 20") fixture.

Please also advise how one can achieve good results with a chandelier, since it can't be dipped in the solution.

Thank you in advance,


Vivian Tengberg
- Göteborg, Sweden

June 25, 2009

A. To darken brass, you must first strip any varnish on it.

Surprisingly, one of the most commonly available household chemicals you can use to darken brass is Palmolive Dishwashing liquid. Look at the label and see if it contains sodium bisulphite and other sulphur derivatives. These are very similar to the chemicals in Liver of Sulphur.

Apply the dishwashing liquid with very little water to the bare brass and keep rubbing till you get the colour you want. This will take only a few minutes. When you get the colour you want, wash off the dish washing liquid.

Hong Lim
- Avondale, Arizona

August 23, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I recently purchased a solid brass lantern style light fixture for my home. It has a shiny brass finish. I would like to oxidize the brass to attain an aged (almost black) appearance. I've throughly searched the web for ways to achieve this finish. There are many methods that will seemingly work. But most, if not all, are geared to oxidizing small objects, like jewelry, that can be submerged. None that I have found specifically refer to a lighting fixture that is too large to submerge. And I do not want to rewire the thing if not absolutely necessary.

I understand the first step to oxidizing brass is to make sure any lacquered finish is removed. Suggestions on this process are also welcome. The lighting fixture does have a few places with a fairly intricate design. Though I don't mind expending a bit of elbow grease, I would LOVE to avoid scraping lacquer out of these crevices with a dental pick.

I know you're thinking "why not just buy a light with the finish you want?". I've heard that one from my dear husband. My answer to that question is: I simply could not afford this light at full price. I lucked up and found it at a clearance center... I'm thinking it was a customer return. Or the retailer could not sell it because shiny brass is out of style.

Thank you! Margaret

Margaret Headley
interior decorator - Newnan, Georgia

August 24, 2009

Q. I have a 13 year old fireplace insert with shiny brass edging. While at a fireplace shop I shaw a oxidized brass sample. It looked antiqued and dark and I loved it! Can I take my existing glass doors and and put something on the brass to "oxidize" it?

Nancy Mayo
- Kansas City, Missouri

August 23, 2010

thumbs up signOkay, folks, I have read all of this and today, I will start attacking my brass hinges and kitchen knobs. (Wanted a stainless steel finish, but that color looks bad with the wood color, believe it or not. We need some sort of darker brown/bronze/black, and I'd like to save money, so transforming solid brass knobs seems like a good idea!)

Besides wiping acetone on the brass object to remove the possible lacquer, I haven't seen an easier method.

I will then use the ammonia bath to darken (outside, well-ventilated, wearing rubber gloves and eye protection.)

Wish me luck, give me any hints you have, and I'll post the results...even with pictures, if I can manage! :)

Lori Putnam
- Flower Mound, Texas, USA

September 19, 2010

Q. I have a bathroom full of shiny brass that would be extremely costly to replace; including a large soaking tub with brass jets, faucets, toilet handle, shower, etc. (circa 1995). Do the techniques described for dulling brass fixtures apply to these items as well?

Dana Hunter
homeowner - West Caldwell, New Jersey, USA

June 4, 2011

A. For all those that think finding some of the mentioned chemicals is hard, fear not; your cat produces most of them every time it goes to the litter tray -- cheap and convenient

Ross Dootson
- England

June 10, 2012

Q. My fireplace doors have a solid brass perimeter that is shiny and is lacquered and that we wanted to return to natural brass that would darken. I carefully brushed on acetone using a plastic scrubby to remove the lacquer as best as possible in hopes the dulling, darker tone of the brass would begin to appear. In order to remove the residue left by the acetone, I did rub Nevr-Dull polish on the brass to clean the brass. It has been 3 weeks and although the high shine is reduced, the tone of the brass is the same. Any next steps that I can take in order to get these doors to a more antique or natural finish that will oxidize would be welcomed.

Thank you

Bill Bellano
- Springfield, Pennsylvania, USA

Birchwood-Casey Gun Bluing

August 11, 2012

A. Years ago I found an article on how to age new brass and tried it and it worked great! From a sporting goods place, buy some Birchwood Casey instant cold Blueing for guns and rub it on the brass well. The more you use and rub, the darker the brass gets. Then neutralize the chemical with water. I used it on a new brass framed rifle and it looks a hundred years old!!

jesse fox
- cody wyoming usa

Brass Lacquer

June 8, 2014

Q. Hi. Just wondering, after dulling my brass, do I re-lacquer to reinstate the protection that was removed in step one during this process? If I don't, will it not tarnish and turn colors? thank you

karen gionet
- santa monica California usa

June 2014

A. Hi Karen. Yes, brass tarnishes if not lacquered.


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

Want "restock look" on zinc desk grommet

August 11, 2014

Q. I have a desk grommet that's made of zinc, with a polish brass finish.
How do I give it a restock look?

Sarah Ajhv
- Claremont, California, USA

August 2014

Sorry, Sarah, I have no idea what a "restock look" is. Can you point us to some illustration?


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

June 23, 2016

Q. Has anyone had experience darkening a brass stairway railing? We are buying an old house with a grand staircase and the top of the railing is brass. I've considered the brass darkening solution but I'm not sure if it will work for that. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Lindsay Butrum
- Springville, Utah USA

A. Hi Lindsay. If it's remaining bright, rather than tarnishing, there is some sort of lacquer or clear coat on it which must be removed before you can darken it. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

March 31, 2017

Q. I bought a couple of kitchen fixtures, a faucet from Kingston Brass and a pot filler from Signature Hardware. I've called both companies and they said the products are solid brass. I left the handles of both items in acetone for a bit to see if they were lacquered but they are not. I then submerged the whole items in a tub of apple cider vinegar for a couple hours but it did not tarnish, no change at all. I'm thinking that there is something in the metal that is keeping it shiny maybe?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Ian Rodgers
- Gibsons, BC, Canada

March 2017

A. Hi Ian. I seriously doubt that bare brass can resist tarnishing. My suspicion is that these parts have a higher technology clear coating, not lacquer, and acetone doesn't remove it. Try sanding an inconspicuous spot and tarnishing that. If that works, you can consider trying to strip the components with aircraft remover -- a really toxic chemical that requires goggles and gloves and working outside, and upwind. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

April 2, 2017

A. Hi Ian
I think you might find a answer to darken your brass in a book called "Henley's twentieth century formulas" page 129. I have seen this book as a download on the net.
Good luck,

Gert Human
- Alberton South Africa

April 5, 2017

A. I have encountered solid brass hardware that had a color PVD coating over a heavy bright nickel over a heavy copper plate. The items were solid brass under it all but it would take a lot of sanding to get to the brass.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating

supporting advertiser
Albuquerque, New Mexico
red sky banner ad

Modern Masters paints

August 19, 2017

A. I do this (dull the brass) all the time to soften the look of high shine brass plating which has any kind of clear coat. You can trust. Purchase Modern Masters Antique gold paint. Do not mess with the existing clear coat at all. Paint the item with the Modern Masters Antique gold. Let dry and love it.

Mick Riccio
Dynamick Bridge - Palm Sprints California

June 8, 2018

Q. I have a new painted bathroom vanity with a brass frame and inset brass pulls that are much shinier than I expected. I would like to darken them or matte them at the very least. I am reluctant to use acetone near the vanity top. How can I safely remove the lacquer from the brass and then age/matte it without exposing the vanity or the painted drawers to chemicals that could damage them?

Shari Washburn
- Berkeley, California, USA

June 2018

A. Hi Shari. The brass pulls are removable so they should not be an issue, but unless this is high-end furniture they are unlikely to be solid brass and thus may react poorly to aging treatments. It's hard to picture the "brass frame" and how that affects the vanity top. But Mick's advice of painting rather than stripping the clearcoat may be applicable.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

If you have a question in mind which seems off topic, please Search the Site

ADD a Q, A, or Comment on THIS topic START an UNRELATED topicView CURRENT HOT TOPICS

Disclaimer: It's not possible to diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations may be deliberately harmful.

  If you need a product/service, please check these Directories:

JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & Devices

©1995-2019, Inc., Pine Beach, NJ   -   About   -  Privacy Policy
How Google uses data when you visit this site.