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topic 17968

Refinishing Oil Rubbed Bronze

A discussion started in 2002 but continuing through 2019


Q. I recently applied hardware to a door with a US10B (oil rubbed bronze) finish. Most of the hardware industry uses a finish that simulates this look but this particular hardware is actually OIL RUBBED BRONZE. The problem that I am faced with is that the protective packaging that we use damaged the finish. My question is; is there a way to refinish this hardware on site rather than replacing it?

Neil Schoenherr
- Reed City, Michigan


A. Can't the hardware on-site be cleaned and "oil-rubbed" once again? I'd guess it depends on how long the finish dries, if it's not fast enough, people would be walking away from the doors with brown-stained hands.

Jake Koch
G. J. Nikolas & Co., Inc.
supporting advertiser
Bellwood, Illinois
nikolas banner ad


Q. I also love the look of oil rubbed bronze fixtures, but imagine my surprise after investing a considerable amount of money to find out that this is known as a "living finish" and will wear off. One of the pieces was purchased on e-bay due to delivery time restraints from the manufacturer and now I am sitting with a $330 Roman Tub Faucet that I cannot use. Any ideas on resolve?

Robin Butler
interiors - Orlando, Florida


Q. Re. the US10B oil-rubbed bronze LIVING finish.

I'm considering about $1,100 of Yale door hardware in this finish for our new home. Has anyone lived with hardware or faucets in this finish long enough to describe the natural change process that occurs? Does the color become more coppery over time? Does it look "rusty" or corroded or does it develop a pleasing patina? Any pictures you can send me? Thank you very much.

Debbie Bibb
- MANCHESTER, Tennessee


A. Robin, it isn't quite clear to me why you "cannot use" it. By "living finish", what they are trying to say is that the finish remains similar but is not static over the long term. Like an old penny that stays in circulation, or a brass handrail, or a school ring. The factory oxidation will gradually burnish off the highest wear areas, but meanwhile the natural oxidation process is continuing in the low wear areas. The central idea is for it to thereby last longer than other finishes, not shorter. Still, you can lacquer it, or use automotive clearcoat on it if you prefer. Good luck.

Amerock ORB handles

Debbie, in principal it will become more coppery in the highest wear areas and will turn brown in the areas of no wear. How well one particular run of one particular brand of door hardware will perform under one particular family's pattern of use probably remains an unknown though. But I think we're talking about generations, not about months.

We have Amerock oil rubbed bronze pulls =>
on our kitchen cabinets and they are very attractive, but they apparently have a clearcoat topcoat rather than being a living finish.

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


Q. Can one purchase an oil rubbed bronze repair kit that allows you to repair scratched or damaged oil rubbed bronze? Also -- our handyman sanded an area of our exterior door and sanded the finish off areas of our oil rubbed mailbox. Is there a way to re-apply that finish as well?

Garrison Hull
- Warm Springs, Virginia


A. I am not aware of kits specifically for that purpose, and can't promise an exact match, but you can get Brass Darkening Solution [linked by editor to product info at Rockler] that will impart a general brown-black coloration. Presumably you can buff away the blackening from the wear points for the right look.

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


Q. Refinish Oil Rubbed Bronze Fixtures? On my most used fixtures, the oil rubbed bronze is turning copper. I want to refinish it to the original look. What can I use.

Thank you,

Carolyn Bolger
hobbyist - Schaumburg, Illinois

March 9, 2008

A. We are using oil finishes in our production I have never tried to do it on Brass surfaces as we have chemical aging techniques to do it much easier, but the main idea behind the finish is following. You heat the part or parts lets say in a wood fire than when the part are heated you dip it into oil, which can be used oil also like used car engine oil or whatever is cheaper to get. You should be careful as the oil could light up , I suggest a metal recipient and a metal cover if it really starts to burn. The temperature of the metal part you keep in the fire should be more than 300 °C about so you should keep the products about 15-20 minutes in good fire.

After you dip the hot products in oil the oil will burn onto the surface of the metal, you could try a few times before doing it onto your final part with some metal parts which you aren't afraid to destroy.
After the oil is on your metal part burned you need to wait to cool down and you need to dry the extra oil on the part left after taking it out from the oil tank ,this can be done with saw dust or with a dry cloth, be very careful use protective equipment and do it in a open space because quite lot of fumes are being generated by the process.

Istvan Szentgyorgyi
- Sg. Mures Romania

March 8, 2009

Q. I have purchased and installed over the last few years several oil rubbed bronze bathroom fixtures. I have well water which seemed to dis-color the fixtures. Actually, the water has removed the finish leaving part of down to the bare metal. Any way to put color to these areas?

Sally Donnelly
- Boulder Colorado

March , 2009

A. Hi, folks. We have a thread on line here, letter 34482, which explains exactly what an oil rubbed bronze finish is, and how it's done. This may help you puzzle through the touch up / refinish question. Good luck.


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

A. The finish on copper products is very delicate and quickly damaged from improper cleaners and cleaning pads.

BarrysRestoreItAll offers a kit called the Copper Patina Repair kit which quickly restores the brown oil-rubbed' finish or black finish to all bronze, brass and copper products and a colored wax to protect the finished product.

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

July 15, 2013

Q. I was cleaning my front door with a bleach solution and it got on my oil rubbed bronze door handles and now they are dull and discolored. Any way to fix this? Thanks!

Robin Gauthier
- Pineville, Louisiana, USA

August 24, 2015

thumbsdownWe have oil rubbed bronze his and her sinks in our bathroom and have had them for 10 years. At about 3 years, the beautiful brown on the faucet handles has turned yellow over time. My husband and I believe its mostly due to us turning the handles. Something from the oil from our hands. He uses the cold handle more and I use the hot more and it's obvious. It looks horrible to have the gold next to the brown. Also, toothpaste splatter can cause green specks in the oil rubbed bronze too. It seems high maintenance and is a pain to me as I don't need any extra work around the house. I bought some stuff to darken it up for furniture some sort of stain but it didn't work at all. Seems like it needs to soak in it forever but what a pain to have to take it apart to soak it...I don't recommend it.

Lana Maeder
- Meadow Vista, California USA

Soap Dispenser

September 7, 2015

Q. We have had oil rubbed "bronze" finished faucets throughout our Victorian home for more than 11 years. All of the faucets look perfect except for the soap dispenser top that my husband soaked in God knows what to unclog it. The finish is ruined on that piece. I am looking for a restoration product or process. However, our faucets are Delta (Kitchen) and Price Pfister (baths) and they look beautiful. I have done nothing to them except clean them with mild dish washing liquid or non-bleach, non-ammonia kitchen and bath cleaners. Perfect! Really love them.

Pudgys Mom
- Ozark Arkansas USA

September 2015

A. Hi, Pudgys Mom. I think you'll find that your faucets are solid brass but the soap dispenser is cheap plastic. So I wouldn't be too harsh with your husband's attempts to clean it. But if I were you I'd scour Amazon, ebay, Craigslist and Walmart for a replacement first. Spending hours, lots of money, etc. trying to refinish a $5 piece of plastic to make it look like metal may not be the way to go :-)


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

November 16, 2016

A. My painter got lazy and didn't remove my front door thumb latch door handle/combo deadbolt before painting. He tried to tape around it and of course, imperfectly. I removed the whole set and have razored off the paint. I now have a few scratches in the 1/16th of an inch where it meets the door.

Digging around for how to tint the scratches, I ended up reading this thread. I have two thoughts. One is a dark colored furniture wax. This would work better on frequently handled things. I might do a coat or two and then put some plain polish on top. Remember, a living finish will have shinier areas that show more of the base metal in its almost polished form. So it's probably better to embrace that and not try for a totally dark finish.

The other involves a hand-crafted lamp-maker that used old motor oil to create a darker patina on a number of metals from copper and brass to a tinned silver finish. Her lamps were sold in our gallery. She told me that if spaghetti sauce or another acid splashed on the lamp base and left a pink spot on copper, gold on brass, shiny silver on the tinned finish, that the customer should take a rag and pull the dipstick from their car and deposit a blob on the rag to wipe over the affected area and allow to "dry". These finishes looked great with a natural patina! They were darker in crevices.

I think if you had a real "spot" with hard edges, you could use some fine steel wool to soften the edges and then rub either the motor oil or dark furniture wax into the area.

I would advise either removing the fixture to work on it or loosen enough to put, plastic, tape or a couple of sheets of waxed paper to protect adjacent surfaces; think about this step carefully and use an appropriate barrier.

So think about the amount of handling the affected area will receive and choose a method that will not come off on people's hands.

Nicole Richards
- Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

June 22, 2017

Q. Can I protect the "living" oil rubbed finish by putting a top coat on it prior to installation?

Gina Machado
- Queens, New York

June 2017

A. Hi Gina. Probably. Unless the blackening rubs off so easily that the clear coat has nothing to adhere to.


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

July 31, 2018

I have what I think is "rubbed bronze" kitchen taps that were looking a bit dull. I cleaned them too well (scoured!) and now they have a white film coating. They actually still look good when wet, but the film reappears when dry. Any clues, anyone, please?

Tessa Sisson
- Marietta, Georgia - USA

July 2018

A. Hi Tessa. although there is such as a thing as a 'living finish' as you read just above, I think most oil rubbed bronze on commercial products like kitchen taps is clear coated. Abrasive scouring is too tough for organic (paint or lacquer) clearcoat finishes, and I think you've roughed it up. The fact that it looks good wet is a strong indication that it's the roughness (which the water smooths out) causing the loss of shine. I think you'll find that if you re-lacquer them they will be a lot better. It would be preferable to get all the old clearcoat off first, but doing that without losing the blackening might require really nasty strippers and probably require disassembly. So I'd just try brass lacquer or Everbrite [a supporting advertiser]. Let us know what happens. Thanks.


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

August 12, 2018

Q. We bought a house that is completely oil rubbed bronze and dated. Much of the finishes have worn off and I like it better with that patina. I'd like to get that look on everything. How do I remove the coating and black on purpose to get down to that warm brass bronze color?

Emma Powell
- Riverton Utah

August 2018

A. Hi Emma. Unfortunately, while you know what these finishes look like, you don't know what they actually are. Some could be paint, some could be actual oil-rubbed solid bronze, some could be copper plated steel or zinc followed by a sulfide darkening compound protected with a clearcoat of various types or left unprotected. Some could be super-hard PVD coatings.

If you can get to it all with steel wool or extra fine sandpaper you can probably get all of those finishes off (except PVD finishes which might be too hard). But you have no guarantee that what is underneath will be bronze in color -- you may scratch through to bright nickel plating, bare zinc or steel. Chemical removal of unknown finishes is difficult and can be dangerous.

If you hate the existing finishes, and none of it is irreplaceable, and you enjoy this kind of craft work, by all means go for it! But expect some serious disappointments :-)

Luck and Regards,

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

November 9, 2018

A. Hi all....First, Tessa, what you are describing is damaged work clear lacquer which may be lifting so looks white till wet. You need to thoroughly, remove and re-patina (if want), then re-coat with new clear finish.
I would be happy to advise you on this process at

A. And Emma, assuming a true black patina finish under lacquer, you will need to strip the existing finish down to the brass or bronze base using water and a scuff pad like the 3M burgundy Scotch Bright pad. This will cause some scratching in the finish so you can create a satin finish using this pad by going in linear pattern or use '0000' steel wool to 'buff' out scratches to create higher shine. Finally, spray apply clear lacquer to protect (protect surrounding areas from spray. Good luck, sounds beautiful.
We can advise from

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

April 17, 2019

Q. I recently purchased an ORB front door handle by Rockwell. The handle, plate and lock are all solid black. How do I speed up the Living Finish look?

Tracy frey
- Portland, Oregon, usa

April 2019

A. Hi Tracy. It may not be possible. In my limited experience, a lot of "oil rubbed bronze" is not a true living finish. Much of it has a clearcoat on it which looks similar to automotive paint clear coat (some of it might be a black hard coat applied by PVD processes rather than a blackish oxidizing agent; I'm not sure).

If the finish is a true US10B, it is a living finish, but you would need to find from the descriptive materials or from Rockwell whether that is what you have. It might be theoretically possible to speed the abrasion with a buffing wheel on an electric drill, but that doesn't sound very promising unless you are an experienced artisan.


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

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