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Cleaning/repairing zinc tabletop

Meguiars Carnauba Paste Wax

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Q. I have this metal table with zinc finish. It got some water damage and I naively tried to fix it with baking soda and vinegar. It's all scratched up now. It looks a bit better with a Turtle Carnauba Wax scrub but there's parts where the zinc is completely removed exposing the bright steel underneath.

19866-8a   19866-8b  

Does it make sense to strip the wax and maybe more of the zinc and just reapply the zinc finish? Can I patch the scratched areas up?

Joshua Guerci
- San Francisco
May 8, 2022

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

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 oven & cookware cleaner [on eBay or Amazon] with a lot of elbow grease and #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon] takes it back to a mirror like finish. Then I apply super resin polish (Autoglym Autoglym [affil links]). 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.

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 cleanser [on eBay or Amazon] (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
January 5, 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 [on eBay or Amazon] 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. Brasso [on eBay or Amazon] gives much the same result -- but I have found that it polishes up slightly more matte/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 McLaren
- London, UK
November 13, 2008

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.

February 6, 2012

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 #0000 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon], 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 10, 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) 00 steel wool [on eBay or Amazon] or similar, but 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
Crithwood Ltd.
Westfield, Scotland, UK
crithwood logo
December 21, 2012

Black Patina for Zinc/Pewter/Camé

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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.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 24, 2012

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
March 20, 2013

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 28, 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 lean towards thinking it's staining of some sort. 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.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 2014

P.S. September 2017: We now have an inquiry with markings which are almost surely "filiform corrosion". And now that my eyes have been opened to viewing your pictures from that perspective, I think that's what your issue is as well.

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.
September 21, 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 :-)


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2014

Zinc vs. steel for a desktop

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 4, 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.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 2015

Stripping & re-patina of zinc counter

Q. I have done patina for years but on copper & brass more than not. I have a client who has a zinc counter with a light patina (most likely spritz applied). There has recently been a contaminant introduced to the counter that darkened portions of the counter. The counter has been protected by wax only. I have been asked to remove the existing patina and re patina to match the original. I would seem to me there are 3 basic steps:

1. Remove the wax- That's a no brainer.
2. Strip the existing patina. This one is a little more tricky. I assume that a diluted acid is the best way to get back to bright Zinc? My years of experience on other metals tells me this will be a bit difficult to restore back to raw zinc without leaving some discoloration behind. I fear that just allowing the cleaned and rinsed surface to air dry will create mottling. Most likely compressed air should be used to dry the top more quickly and evenly.
3. Re patina the zinc to match the original. Though cupric sulphate seems to be the most common chemical used, dilution rate will mean everything. My research indicates that the original finisher used "Sure Thin Super Antique Forty". I have not been able to locate this product and question whether or not it is even necessary. How will the acid washed surface react to the patina as apposed to unfinished zinc? My guess is it will react quicker but I do not know.

Any advise from a professional who has had first hand experience with my particular situation would be more that appreciated.

Fred Johnson
professional finisher - Carbondale, Colorado USA
June 15, 2015

Q. I have a zinc top table that I am using on a screen porch. It has been coated with something that is now peeling. How do I remove all of the coating and what do I put on it to protect it?

Becky Shelly
Homeowner - Atlanta, Georgia USA
February 12, 2017

Brass Lacquers
on eBay or


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A. Hi Becky. If what is peeling is a simple lacquer, then acetone [on eBay or Amazon]/nail polish remover (flammable) will remove it. If it's a more robust clear coat, you'll probably need aircraft stripper … this is noxious stuff requiring goggles and rubber_gloves, and working outside and upwind.

You can leave the zinc bare, or you can apply brass lacquer.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 2017

thumbs up signThank you so much for your answer! A BIG help!!

Becky Shelly [returning]
- Atlanta, Georgia USA
February 12, 2017

Q. We purchased a zinc topped wooden table to be used outdoors. However, the surface becomes so hot in the sun that it makes the table unusable. What could I cover the table with that will not get hot. I don't care about covering the zinc. I simply want a usable surface. Thanks all.

Judith Weldon
- Atlanta, Georgia USA
February 15, 2017

Self Etching Primer

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A. Hi Judith. After priming it with a self-etching primer, white paint will be the best answer short of just throwing a white tablecloth over it on days when you use it.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 2017

Q. Hi,
I just purchased a zinc top table at a huge restoration hardware sale. It isn't really meant for outdoors but I am here in So Calif. so figured I could get away with it. However it poured yesterday! haha. But I like rustic and figuring it will weather. Wondering now tho what it will weather to? Should I put any kind of waterproofing protectant? I got such a screaming deal on this beautiful table because it has some scratches on the zinc top, wasn't sure if that will make rusting more of an issue?
Thanks in advance for any advice!

Karen Kaemerle
- Dana Point, California, USA
May 8, 2017

A. Hi Karen. You tried to come to an 'expert' site here, and unfortunately you'll find people ducking the question. The thing is that there are thousands of materials and finishes, and the description of an item is written by copywriters trying to induce you to buy rather than trying to inform you :-(

If it's actually solid zinc, rather than 'zinc clad', it can never rust because only iron and steel can rust; rather, the corrosion will be 'white rust'. And again, the effect of the scratches will depend on whether the table top had or didn't have a clear coat to deter that white rust. If it didn't, the scratches should have no effect; if it did, the scratches penetrated that clear coat.

My answer would be: just try it as is because -- you may be happy with it; if you're not happy with it you can later polish away all the white rust and clearcoat it if it's solid zinc. And if it's actually just zinc plated steel and gets red rust, it probably wasn't really that great a deal :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 2017

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