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"Copper Patina is Almost Black Instead of Green"



Q. I am putting a green patina finish on copper tubing. My question is when I apply the solution should the copper turn very dark? The copper was cleaned with 0000 steel wool [affil. link] and washed with Muriatic Acid [affil link] , then rinsed off. The copper was still a bit wet when I started to apply the solution. I used a commercial patina which did produce the green patina. Unsure about very dark copper, Is this normal?


Jeff R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Chambersburg Pennsylvania


A. Jeff, it is likely your tubing is alloy C12200 which contains phosphorus. When applying muriatic (hydrochloric) acid, you would get a smut (coating) formed. I am guessing your patina process, like most, uses mixed, mildly acidic chlorides, or oxides that react with the copper surface, and develop a green color when dry. Perhaps a smut prevents the patina reaction by inhibiting the surface. I would try a dip in 10% nitric acid, to get a bright copper surface, (like a new US penny), rinse with deionized water, then apply the patination solution. Do not allow surface to dry off between steps. If this fails, you may need to use copper tubing that is unalloyed, such as C10200.

W. Carl Erickson
- Rome, New York

Modern Masters Green Patina

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Q. I would like to know what chemicals I could use to put a green patina on new copper.


Craig J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Sandy, Utah


A. 50% vinegar and 50% bleach makes a very nice patina and I also use copper tubing from the hardware store. It is best to clean tubing with 0000 steel wool [affil. link] but the patina occurs on tubing that I have done nothing to. The more you treat it with the solution the more patina. Side note this same solution works very well making tin rust.

Joel H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Tyler, Texas


!! Be very careful with that vinegar and bleach thing! One of the most important household safety tips--which you'll read everywhere--is never mix bleach with other household liquids (except laundry detergent which is designed for use with bleach). Bleach is chlorine gas dissolved in alkali; if you neutralize the alkali with acid, the poisonous chlorine gas comes pouring out into the air.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Steel wool has oil in it to keep it from rusting. Make sure the metal is oil free before applying patina.

John D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Carbondale, Illinois


Q. I have a outdoor fire pit with a 35" copper bowl that I bought new at Target today. The copper is bright and shiny almost like a new penny. The label on the box says that the copper surface will age to a beautiful patina finish. However I don't want to wait. The copper surface appears oily which I presume slows the aging process. If I am going to try the vinegar and bleach method, How do I go about cleaning the surface of the copper before applying the vinegar and bleach patina? Any help?


Greg Z [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Contracting/Appraisal - Richardson, Texas


A. I am not an expert, just learning about this antique patina thing myself, but when working on some copper salt/pepper shakers yesterday, tried acetone Acetone [affil link] to dissolve the sprayed-on plastic coating that was keeping the top bright. I rubbed it with a solvent-dampened coarse cloth, and it came off. I don't know if that would work for you, or if a diluted furniture stripper would work. Why not try some things on the bottom in a small area. Good luck! (By the way, I saw the fireplace bowl that you spoke of for sale here, and it is tempting. It is $100 Canadian here, though.)

John H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


A. Just realized that the coating may be lacquer, so lacquer thinner [affil link] might be better. And, I just visited a site where a fellow sprayed on some plant fertilizer, letting it soak in cloth spread out on his copper garden ball, and it turned green. Again, good luck!

John H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


!! You do realize Vinegar and Bleach make chlorine gas, and at 1000 ppm can literally kill you? Not to mention the damage it can do to the surrounding area.

Be VERY careful doing this...

Jim Swanson
- Charleston, South Carolina


thumbs up signOr better yet, don't do it at all !

The label on bleach clearly says: "DO NOT MIX WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS . . . to do so may release hazardous gases".

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

sidebar 2006

Q. I've recently purchased a copper weather vane and would like to know how to clean it to it's original copper then treat it to keep it shiny and new looking. It's a moon with a stained glass cobalt blue along the side of it. It's been weathered and I like the look of the copper not the patina look? Any help for me? Thanks.

Kim Myers
home maker - Paw Paw, Michigan

July 2008

A. Hi, Kim. Your request is for the opposite of what this thread is about, but is covered by many threads of its own on this site. There are countless brass polishes that can do this. Generally the warmer the glow that a polish imparts, the slower it works. Brasso [affil link] is very slow but can't be beat for the final finish. Vinegar + salt is fast as lightning but leaves copper very raw and salmon looking. I find Revere copper cleaner a good compromise for most things (much faster than Brasso but still leaves an acceptable copper color). After polishing the copper you need to lacquer or clearcoat it or it will quickly tarnish.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. I am trying to patina clean copper with ammonia and salt. I have read a few different methods of doing this and I seem to be having trouble. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Anya Rossien Bredbeck
Artist - Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts


A. A strong solution of Miracle Grow & water, sprayed on copper, will turn it a beautiful green patina overnight.

Patricia Lynch
- Arlington, Virginia


A. Ammonia and Salt makes a really great blue patina on the copper. Try a buried patina - use either sawdust or non-clumping clay cat litter in a ziplock bag and dampen it with the ammonia, then add the salt. You have to use a lot of salt, about the same amount as the ammonia or even more. Make sure it is all well mixed and then bury your copper piece in the mixture. Let it sit for at least 3 days. The longer you leave it, the darker the blue color will be. 5 days makes a beautiful speckled midnight blue and black patina.

Belinda Cook
- Chicago, Illinois


Q. Hello! I am in process of building a barnwood cabinet, with a copper sheeting over the top. I have seen these on-line with a beautiful, very rustic looking patina of red and black.
Can anyone help me to get this look? And how to keep it?

Deb Cushing
hobbyist - Fallon, Nevada

August , 2008

A. Hi, Deb. Those more unusual colors require more unusual chemicals. Please see our FAQ on Patinas. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Copper lighting fixture /how can we oxidize without dipping into liquids? oblong 12 light french fixture;want to oxidize to reduce bright copper color;looking for more black/brownish colour what and how is this possible to be done?

Esther Klein
antique/silver and artifacts - Brooklyn, New York


Just a couple of corrections to previous posts: Vinegar and bleach does NOT make chlorine gas -- bleach and ammonia do. The reason bleach bottles contain the warning not to mix with anything is that so many household cleaners contain some ammonia.

George Carlson
- Wartrace, Tennessee


!! Thanks for replying, George, but unfortunately your reply is absolutely & completely incorrect and dangerous. While bleach and ammonia are a very bad combination, they are not the only bad combination.

Bleach is sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). It is chlorine gas dissolved in a highly alkaline watery solution. The alkalinity is what accounts for the slimy feel of bleach, and it is there to keep most of the chlorine gas in solution. The 'smell' of bleach is the small amount of chlorine gas that evolves even out of that alkaline solution.

As you lower the pH with any acid, the chlorine gas evolves at a faster and faster rate. Sure, just as you can survive in a room where bleach is being used to wash the floor, you can survive in a room where a little vinegar has been added to a little diluted bleach, it will just smell much more strongly. Add more vinegar to less diluted bleach and you'll run out of the room coughing and wrenching. Add still more and you may not be able to run out at all.

There is way more than enough chlorine in a cup of bleach to kill you. While it's theoretically possible to limit the amount of vinegar to a level where the rate of evolution is low enough that you can still breathe, it is playing with fire, so at least keep the fire outside :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 27, 2008

!! Ted Mooney is absolutely correct. NEVER mix anything with household bleach unless your goal is to be a future Darwin award winner.

Jeffrey Cox
- Fredericksburg Virginia

January 19, 2008

A. My male dog has done a nice job urinating on my copper fire pit - blue green patina easy, safe, smelly but free.

That is all

Joe Hanson
- Denver, Colorado

February 23, 2008

Q. Please help. I put the wrong cleaning solution on my brand new hammered weathered antique finish copper sink. The cleaner took off the black weathered finish and made it shiny and green. What can I do to get the antique weathered finish back?

Cathyann Wishinski
hobbyist - Bloomingburg, New York

February 25, 2008

A. Maybe try the egg yolk idea suggested on another thread. Close the drain, put in a few cooked egg yolks, cover the sink with Saran wrap to contain the hydrogen sulfide. If this takes you in the right direction but isn't powerful enough, then try Liver of Sulphur [affil link].

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

July 25, 2008

Q. I wish to place a copper roof on the cupola on a doll house I am building. I have thin sheets of what is said to be "copper sheeting". I want it to look like an oxidized old roof with a typical greenish patina. What do you suggest I might apply to do this?

Thank you,

Bob Barnes
hobbyist - Batavia, Illinois

July 26, 2008

A. Hi, Bob. First you need to know what material it is. If it's very light, it's aluminum rather than copper. If it's magnetic, it's steel rather than copper. If it is copper you can try the approaches listed on this page. Good luck!


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 4, 2008

Q. We just bought a cupola with a copper roof and weather vane of copper. My husband is trying to "age" it with a solution he bought online for that purpose. He has been spraying and spraying and has achieved a really unattractive turquoise color that's flaking off. My contention is that he sprayed too much. He didn't let much time elapse between sprayings to see how the "oxidation" process would go. He says not. I can't seem to find any directions online on how to proceed with the spraying/oxidizing process. Can you give us any guidelines? Thanks so much.

Mardell Mullaly
- Huntingtown, Maryland

August 8, 2008

A. Hello Mardell,
I think the problem you are having is not cleaning the surface well enough. When you patina copper you have to clean the surface to get to the copper. If you don't the patina reacts to the oil, oxidation, etc., and if that happens the patina will either flake off or wash off easily. Do a test, use some fine 0000 steel wool [affil. link] or pure Pumice [affil link] and scrub an unseen area of the cupola. Rinse it with some distilled water, then scrub it again and rinse again with distilled water. Dry it off with a new paper towel. Then try the patina on that spot. Hopefully the patina will work, if it does, use the same process with the rest of the cupola and weather vane.

If the surface feels oily, clean it with Tide Laundry powder and distilled water (not the liquid stuff). Scrub the oil off and rinse it well and make sure you get all the soap off. Dry off the surface and try the patina again. Oil on the surface is really bad for patinas, it acts as an asphaltum.

Hope it works,

Kendall Murakami
- Albuquerque, New Mexico

October 7, 2008

Q. I do have a school project using copper patina in a carving wood piece, I'm pretty sure will be beautiful, nice ...etc.
Can somebody tell me what to do to transfer that green color to my finish wood piece, I not looking for a professional job, but just want to cover 1/4 % of the surface of this wood piece.
Can you help my with steps to do it, what materials I need to used where to buy and how to apply!
Thank you!

Kenneth P. [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Student - Minneapolis, Minnesota

December 2, 2009

Q. How can I make an "Aladdin" copper lamp look old in just a few days?

Lorena Duarte
biotech student - Boston, Massachusetts

February 21, 2010

Q. I am considering buying copper landscaping lighting - raw - will it turn to the green patina naturally? or must I do something to it for it to turn that beautiful color?

Hallie Obrien
- Naples Florida

Lackawanna Railroad Station, Hoboken, NJ

Carousel Building, Asbury Park, NJ
February 22, 2010

A. Hi, Hallie. The answer is that it will turn green but you may not live to see it. It can take several generations.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 25, 2010

Q. We have a copper roof from the 1930s and used ketchup and vinegar to clean it and it worked wonderfully. First apply the ketchup, let it set for 5 minutes and then use steel wool to get the grime off. Then clean off with vinegar. We want to add the patina solution next to bring it back to a clean bluish color.

Nana McDonald
- Longview, Texas

April 23, 2010

thumbs up sign Great advice. This is my experience.

First, I admit I tried the bleach/vinegar thing. Don't do it. Stuff is nasty and I got the same results with vinegar and salt.

I have an outdoor shelf right by my grill. I liked the shiny copper, but knew I would not keep up scrubbing it to keep it shiny forever.

Granted this was a relatively small, flat surface-almost ideal to experiment with, but the cool thing is that you scrub it off and start over if you don't like the direction it is going (I gave it a couple of hours between attempts).

So I used a lot of vinegar and salt over the course of the day. I used a straight solution covering it evenly. It was black, but I did another coat and got it green. I covered it with the solution first and then sprinkled it with water for a nice blobbing effect. I kept mixing and swirling still-wet mixtures for different textures, and even dumped a bucket of water followed by spraying with windex, which resulted in a neat Jackson Pollack effect.

Since this was a surface that would get use, I decided I didn't want a thick patina right now. The breakthrough came when, instead of scrubbing down one of my previous attempts, I just lightly cleaned it with steel wool and windex. I let the streaks set before rinsing off with water and the results was a really neat marbled blue/red patina that preserved the smooth reflective surface of the copper.

The caveat here is that I wasn't trying to make it look authentically "aged." Rather I just wanted to give it a patina that would be more interesting than the black that will eventually come.

Bob Lawson
- Washington, DC

June 26, 2010

Q. I have 1 existing copper roof on a walk out bay window - it is the dirty looking brownish color, despite being 45 years old. I am now installing a 2nd walk out bay window, which will have a new copper roof. I want them to both look aged - the greenish blue hue - and to be the same color. Do you think I could do this myself, and if not, what key words do I search on for a contractor who can help. When I try "copper patina finishes" I found this site and products, but no contractors.

Bob Cameron
- Lake Forest, Illinois

August 16, 2010

Q. Hi, About a year ago I managed to teach myself how to put a copper roof on the bay window of my houseboat from an article and photos in Fine Home Building. I bought the copper sheeting from a metal fabricating shop in a town nearby. Took longer than I thought it would and took more copper than I estimated so wound up using two different weights: 16oz & 20oz. Dry seams, no solder.

5720-1 5720-2

It's brown now, a year later, so do I have to clean it to brightness before trying to patina it? I've experimented with a few mixtures,urine, salt & ammonia, and miracle grow ,on bright scraps. It works, but seems to wipe off rather easily. Do I repeat the process a few times and let it be. Will the rain and snow wash it away or slough it off or will it stay if let be long enough. Thanks.

Don Darnell
homebuilder - Halibut Cove, Alaska

October 31, 2010

Q. Hi, I have been making copper jewelry using recycled materials. Most of the materials I use already have a nice green patina but in some cases I have produced a patina using vinegar and salt. The problem is that in both cases the patina wears off quickly when the jewelry is worn. What can I do to keep this from happening? I have tried applying a commercial lacquer but no luck.

Rebecca Deal
- Monticello, utah

Brass Lacquer

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November 5, 2010

A. Hi, Rebecca. Thanks, but can you be more exacting with what "no luck" means? Does the lacquer quickly wear off; or does it not stick, and just peels away; or did it discolor and look bad, or obscured the colors of the patina? It's hard to suggest an answer to a problem if you're not explicit about the problem. Unfortunately, "a commercial lacquer" is also pretty vague.

But three or four thin coats of brass lacquer should work. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 13, 2010

A. I've found that for smaller Items it's feasible to use old batteries to speed the oxidation process. Apply Sno Bol toilet bowl cleaner to your item with a rag(soaked in Sno Bol) then place the items in a plastic container along with an old battery. The patina is literally overnight if not sooner. Experiment with more fluid if necessary, and also slightly vented containers to allow the proper drying and air exposure. I've had great success. Next is working the adhesion to the copper... I came on here to look for answers. Lacquer doesn't work because it only adheres to the oxidation itself. there must be something that you can apply to the copper before the oxidation process to make sure it properly adheres. Alcohol or brake clean to completely free the surface of any dirt and oil... I will be back in a few days to let you know how it goes.

Warren Barber
RootsandRust.com - Pittsfield, Massachusetts United States

January 27, 2011

Q. Hi, Our copper rain gutters are dark brown. They are about 5 years old. However, I would love the beautiful green that copper gets. How do I move this along? thanks!

Lori Howell
home owner - Encino, California

June 9, 2011

A. I use vinegar and salt to achieve that much desired instant patina on copper! I use a spray bottle with about 1/4 cup salt and two cups of vinegar. I put my copper pipes (from the hardware store) that have been cleaned with steel wool, in a five gallon bucket and spray, spray, spray. I turn the pipes about half way thru the process. I also use copper wire and caps on my garden sculptures so they are also in the bucket. I let them dry between spraying. I can get a beautiful patina overnight! I finish with a rub of linseed oil to preserve the patina. Beautiful results!

5720-3 5720-4

Teri Okarma
Product designer - Pinon Hills, California, USA

Ed. note: Thanks for the idea and the pictures, Teri!

October 31, 2011

Q. I used a solution to add a patina to my copper table. It came out TOO green. Any solution I can use to take some away?

Susan Herrgesell
hobbyist - Cottonwood, California, USA

November 1, 2011

A. Remove the patina using a weak solution of sulphuric acid (10 %) and re use your patina solution more diluted . Or try to put on some wax on your patina ,The wax will darken the patina .

Pieter Vanden Daele
Sculptor of bronzes - Oudenaarde, Flanders, Belgium

Copper Sink

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January 8, 2012

Q. I trust these tips will apply to my bathroom copper sinks? I especially like the Miracle Grow and water idea. I was told not to put any cleanser or cleaners on the finish, so I only rinse and dry the sinks. They look like earth - lovely in their own way - but spotted brown and dull.

Linda Prejean
- San Diego, California, USA

March 13, 2012

Q. I have a nice old weather vane that has a natural black patina on the copper. I am toying with the idea of trying to change the patina to green. Can this be done and if so how?

Don Geuea
- North Pole, Alaska, USA

December 28, 2012

Q. I am attempting to create a patina finish (light blue green), on a piece of copper to be the flow-surface of a large standing fountain (lots of running water!) Can you advise as to how to safely produce a finish which will stand up to a gentle flow of water with hopes of a durable result?

All the best

Mike Lucev
- New York, New York, USA

December 30, 2012

A. Hi Mike. I don't think it can be done without clearcoating. The blue-green coloration is quite soluble and non wear resistant. Pennies resting quietly between boardwalk slats are blue-green, whereas pennies in circulation always turn brown, not green-blue, because the blue-green has no wear resistance.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 2, 2013

Thanks Ted,

Q. Can you advise about what types of coating are suitable for application to patina/copper? I am dreaming in hues of blue/green. Again it is for a fountain flow surface!

All the best.


Mike Lucev
- New York, New York, USA

January 1, 2013

A. Hi Mike. There are excellent books about patinas, such as "Colouring, Bronzing & Patination of Metals" [affil. link on Amazon]. But if you are not an artist, buying a commercial patinating solution such as Jax or Modern Options sounds more promising. I'd try spraying a two-component automotive clearcoat on after the patinating because, as I say, those blue green tones are highly soluble salts (you've probably seen the staining of concrete below most copper, brass, and bronze outdoor items).


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 24, 2014

Q. Hi, I recently purchased 2 large 30" copper seamless lip water bowls, that sit atop our swimming pool wall. Water (salt) fills and flows into the swimming area. New, they were as shiny as a spankin' new penny, but the exterior has since turned a very unattractive dark brown. The interior has formed a desirable blue/green patina, but only at the water line.


I have read previous suggestions, but am looking for help regarding application process, specifically "trapping" the spray. Any ideas for such a large item? Thanks, Rick

Rick Hatfield
- Folsom, California USA

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