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topic 2161

How can I tarnish or dull bright brass

A discussion started in 1998 but continuing through 2018


Q. How can I tarnish, or make bright brass dull. We recently installed some doors in our home, they came with bright brass plates and knobs. We hate the shininess, and at the very least want to get rid of that. We'd like to darken the color too, if we can.

Carrie Rice
- Nordland, Washington


Q. I have a similar question - How can I dull the finish on a polished brass chandelier? It is electric, so I don't want to submerge it in water, and was hoping for some solution that I could 'rub' or 'paint' on to dull the very shiny finish and darken it a little.

Heather Dash
- Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA

Rub 'n Buff Sampler

A. Hi Heather. People can be envisioning rather different things when they say they want to dull the brass, but since you mentioned "rub", there are wax rubs with different tints available =>
Good luck.


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


Q. I would also like to hear the answer to the question "How do you tarnish brass?". I am refinishing an antique desk that is missing one knob. We found a matching knob at our local lumber yard but it is shiny brass. We would like to make it look like the same age as the others. I hope you can help. Thanks, Jim

Jim Eggers
- Fairchilds, Texas


A. Hi Jim. Liver of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] will darken brass (if what you are looking at is actually brass, but it's not always easy to tell).

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


A. toilet bowl cleaner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]

Leave it on for a week and it'll turn it nice and dark

Conversely it'll shine your metal right up if you wipe it on and then right off.

Wear chemical rubber gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] (it has acid -- I believe hydrochloric).

I use it to age bronze cymbals. It not only changes how they look, but mellows the tone for jazz and acoustic music.

Miles Fullerton
Fulltone Recording - Corvallis, Oregon, USA

April 4, 2008

Q. I have a light fixture, fireplace doors and bathroom shower doors that have a bright brass finish. I know the light fixture and fireplace doors are actually brass but I am unsure of the shower door metal. I would like to change the finish of each to a antique or dark finish. Do you know what products to use?

Sheryl Wolf
homeowner - Kildeer, Illinois, USA

December 9, 2008

A. You need to make sure it is real brass and not just stay brite over top of some other metal. If it is brass then there is probably a light layer of film over it that stops the brass from tarnishing. Take off the brass fixtures and rub them on a carpet with a generally heavy amount of force. Then try shining it up with Brasso [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] metal polish. if the cloth with Brasso turns black, you should have taken the film off. General use will now tarnish the brass. The oils in your hands help speed along the process too.

James Merritt
- Charlotte, North Carolina

September 2014

A. Hi Sheryl. Unless the shower doors were very expensive (say over $1000), they're not brass; they are anodized aluminum, and can't be darkened except by coating the aluminum with paint, or something opaque or only slightly translucent. Good luck.


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

How to turn brass from bright to a dull gray

Q. What is the easiest way I can treat shiny brass or bronze to turn the finish to a dull grey ? They are already installed on cotton fabric for a historical presentation.

Michael Wagner
- Baltimore, Maryland

September 2014

A. Hi Michael. Well, the easiest way is paint. But the most authentic looking way is probably to "tin" them. We have several letters on line about historical tinning of copper pots and pans. Use those words in the google custom search engine near the top of the page. Good luck.


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

Brass tarnishing solutions won't dull my fishing lures as desired

March 28, 2009

Q. I am a fisherman with a preference to using tarnished brass spinners. I have only five left and the newer spinners I do have refuse to tarnish. They are nickel with a very thin brass plate. Some of the chemical treatments I've tried have either taken of the brass plate entirely, or produced no visible effect. I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me. Thank you.

Donald, 10th Grade, 16 years old

Donald W
student - Olympia, Washington, USA

April 3, 2009

A. Hi, Donald. The bad news is it's probably not brass plating; it's probably a brass-toned lacquer over nickel plating -- which is why the color disappeared when you used certain solvents that dissolved the lacquer. Imitation brass plating is cheaper and more environmentally acceptable than brass plating, so it's getting quite common, but it's obviously a big problem when you want it to act like real brass and it won't.

I would suggest that you try an antique Rub'N'Buff [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and see how the color looks and how long it lasts. Happy fishing.


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

How to dull the bright brass snaps on jacket?

September 10, 2014

Q. I bought a new jacket and it has really bright brass snaps. Any thoughts on how I can dull these?

Emily Boren
- Norwich, Vermont

April 2, 2018

Q. I have a handbag with the buckle super yellow with the Letters GG. I want the buckle to look more brassy dirty than extremely yellow. Help!

Kimberly valdez
- Irving ,Texas

April 2018

A. Hi Kimberly. If the buckle is solid brass you can remove the lacquer coating on it and then use liver of sulfur or brass darkening solutions (or just let it tarnish naturally). If it's a real Gucci, the buckle might be brass. But if it's anodized aluminum, those solutions won't do anything -- and the thing is, consumers will rarely know what something is actually made of. But brass is heavy and aluminum is light, maybe you can tell from the weight? If it's aluminum you are probably limited to getting some tinting dye to add to lacquer or polyurethane before brushing it on. Good luck.


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