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topic 7229

How to Refinish Brass Lamps

A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2019


Q. Dear Sir,

I have two brass lamps that I would like to make bright again. I think they have a lacquered finish that has worn off. Can I remove this finish with a good brass polish and put another lacquer finish on them? Would I use a spray lacquer or paint a finish on? Thank You, Marion.

Mrs. Marion S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Milton, Pennsylvania


A. If the old finish is a varnish, yes, a polish will remove it.

However you might also find that the finish is removed a bit faster with a couple of drops of Ammonia added to the polish. The Ammonia aggressively penetrates most paints and varnishes and help loosen the paint or varnish. Do this in a well ventilated area and wear rubber Protective Gloves [paid link to product info at Amazon]. A Tooth brush might help reach into tight spots.

Do not soak the lamp in Ammonia or anything else that might make the electrical works wet.

After the lamp is polished, wipe the surface with a dampened cloth dipped in mild detergent water to remove possible waxes that the polish may have.

Wipe again with a dampened cloth having only clear water to remove the detergent.

Dry with a clean cloth and at this point try not to touch the brass with your hands, hold it with a clean cloth.

Now, you can apply a thin coat of clear spray-on varnish of a type that will dry in 1 or 2 hours (but do not touch them for about 12 hours so the paint is dry and hard).

Do not use the 'satin' varnish just the plain bright shiny kind. Try your hand on spraying something else first to determine how much to use for good coverage. Do not spray if the brass is very cold.

Remember when you paint metal the paint has nothing to 'soak' into and can pool and run easier than painting wood.

If the painting goes poorly, wipe all the varnish off immediately with mineral spirits [paid link to product info at Amazon] (paint thinner) and a clean rag and after it dries for an hour try again.

Thank you and good luck.

Jaye W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Burbank, California


Q. I have 3 old brass lamps and want to polish them. However, the brass is pitted. One won't shine at all and I am using a good brass polish. Any help would be appreciated.

Also, one standing tall lamp has 3 places for bulbs (about 8") Can I do anything so I can put a Victorian shade on it? One one of them the bulb would hang down and I want a Victorian shade on it also. Thank you.

Wanda C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Roseburg, Oregon


Q. I have two brass lamps that were in my parents house when it burned. I am trying to restore them, but have tried everything. Some of the finish is pitted. I think they have some type of coating, not sure. I've tried Brasso [paid link to product info at Amazon], but they still need a lot of work. Any help would be great!


Terrie L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
teacher - Newnan, Georgia


A. Try vinegar, with salt added and dip the offending objects in that, leaving for a while, then cleaning in fresh water. Continue until brass is clean. Also works on copper, etc..

Trevor P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kent, England


A. Dear All,

I really feel great to be here with you, with all your questions regarding finishes, please note that the simple lacquered brass polished, pewter, can be easily refinished thru Brasso [paid link to product info at Amazon] I hope this is easily available in your all countries. Regarding other finishes, please note that these type of finishes can be refinished thru washing, such as patina, bronze, antique brass, etc., Well, besides this if you would like to know more about your articles I can always be happy to reply.

Thanks & best Regards,

Rizwan Shakil
wxports of all Indian Artistic Handicraft Items - Moradabad, India


Q. We have a huge turn of the century (1890-1900, that is!) gas & electric chandelier from Pittsburg (I always misspell that -- did I?) We will rewire for all electric but are missing a piece. I have 2 questions...
How do I find out manufacturer and possible other pieces/parts available?
How to refinish and not make it look too shiny new? Want it to look bright but old.

Jan S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
remodeler - Akron, Ohio

sidebar 2006

thumbs up signYou did good on the spelling, Jan -- always spell 'ax' with no 'e' because, while misspelling a 3-letter word is bad, misspelling a 2-letter word is unthinkable! It's the same idea with "burg". Your spelling has won you a cheeseburgher!

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


Q. I have tried to refinish an old brass lamp using Brasso. So far I have used 3 cans of Brasso but can't seem to get the finish to look shiny & clean as I want it. Am I just beating my head against a wall or is there another product I can use to get better results. A friend suggested using Muriatic Acid [paid link to product info at Amazon]. I tried it but was frightened of the "instability" of the acid--smoke, fumes. I would appreciate any suggestions anyone might have.


Susan Seitter
consumer - Corpus Christi, Texas


A. You are right to be frightened by muriatic acid, and it's inappropriate anyway. As previously noted, you must first make sure there is no lacquer on the brass as brass polishes are not designed to remove lacquer; you need lacquer thinner [paid link to product info at Amazon] for that. Then you might try vinegar plus salt in an inconspicuous area; this is very aggressive and will leave the brass looking "raw" but should be correctable using Brasso. You might consider going to the hardware store and getting a buffing wheel for your electric drill to make the polishing quicker and easier on the hands.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


RFQ: I have 2 brass lamps, circa 1970s, that were partially painted per the style of the day. One of the lamps has lost most of its paint while the other is only chipping on the base. I'd like to remove the paint and repaint the lamps. I'm looking for tips on how to remove and repaint OR remove and locate a professional to do the repainting. The paint would be a simple solid color, probably applied by machine. I don't know where I would start looking to find someone that would do this kind of work. Any recommendation will be appreciated.

Ann Casey
Consumer - Red Deer, Alberta, Canada


Q. I have 2 Stiffel brass table lamps. The brass surface appears to have a lacquer finish that is now crazed.How do I restore the beauty of the brass?

Bill Blair
- Clearwater, Florida


A. Hi Bill. Remove the lacquer with lacquer thinner, buff the brass back to a good shine, and reapply lacquer. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

"Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide"
by Nadja Maril
from Abe Books
info on Amazon


Q. I recently purchased a lamp at a garage sale. My spouse says it is brass but it is painted an UGLY black/green. He used a paint stripper but it only softened it. It seems so daunting. We are looking for ANY help so we can re-store this lamp to it's original state.

Donna Kay
hobbyist - Whitehorse, Yukon , Canada


Q. Cleaning the brass bottoms of my white Fenton lamps with Brasso? I am trying to clean the bases of two old Fenton milk glass gwtw lamps I am afraid the Brasso will remove the hand painted flowers and the milk glass.

Karen l Lone
- New Albany, Indiana


Q. I have a, what used to be, gorgeous lacquered brass plated dining table with glass insets. Through the years, wine has spilled into the seams and eaten the brass under the lacquer. Also, a male dog has found the legs very alluring and used them as his fire hydrant. Is there anyway to get it back to it's beauty? It was my mom's pride & joy. I would love to preserve if I could.

Criss Hobbs
consumer - Marble Falls, Texas


A. Unfortunately, the brass plating may not be sound after time & tide, Criss, and you may have to send it to a plating shop for replating. But you could probably start by removing the lacquer with lacquer thinner and trying to polish it with a commercial brass polish. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha


Q. Is there a product available that I can use to change a custom screen from a brass finish to a pewter or nickel color finish?

I have test sampled using some Amaco Brush 'n Leaf [paid link to product info at Amazon] Silver but it is too shiny and bright, but it does stick well. Anyone know how to tone down the brightness of the silver leaf?

And I tried a tube of the Rub'N'Buff [paid link to product info at Amazon] finish, but it simply does not stick well.

Is there a finishing industry product available to homeowners that can be used to change brass color metal items to a pewter or nickel finish?

Bob Duley
Consumer - Dayton, Ohio


A. Hello, Bob. Industrial finishers would not discolor brass in an attempt to make it look like nickel, they would nickel electroplate the brass. So I doubt that you will find an "industrial" product for the purpose. But some spray paints don't look bad.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

January 4, 2008

Q. I have a square vintage brass ceiling fixture with pin holes in it that had a nice "patina" that made it almost a bronze color. Since I recovered it from our local recycling center, I brought it home and cleaned it with Brasso to make my new found "prize" look its best! In a few spots I have taken it back to bright metal, in other areas it's streaked. I'm afraid that I've created a mess of it! How do I restore the antique finish look that I would like to have? What products should I be using?

Blake Shore
Buyer - Deer Harbor, Washington

February 17, 2009

Q. Hi, I have two Stiffel Lamps, gorgeous, and now that I am older appreciate their beauty far more. Unfortunately, I was renovating and didn't require two, and put one down the basement. Although dry, it somehow got pitted on the its base. So upset, since the other one looks like new. Anyway, I can rectify this?Thanks for your help. My husband bought a restorer, but this did absolutely nothing for our problem.

Anna Pilla
homeowner - Bronx, New York

February 28, 2009

Q. Hi, I just bought two shiny wall sconces that I am trying to change the color to antique gold. What should I use to remove the present color and what are the steps to make them antique looking?

Nadia Gonzales
hobbyist - Orlando, Florida

August 15, 2010

Q. I spent hours stripping and polishing two brass lamps from the 1920's period. I sprayed them with high gloss spray lacquer (Rustoleum brand) and since drying, the coat looks very spotted and is extremely dull and rough. 1) What did I do wrong; 2) Can I remove the lacquer with Brasso? Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

Cathy Hall
Homemaker hobbyist - Fayetteville Arkansas US

August 16, 2010

A. Hi, Cathy

Lacquer should be applied in multiple very thin coats, not one heavy coat. You should be able to remove the existing lacquer with lacquer thinner or acetone (nail polish remover). You may have better success with brass lacquer [paid link to product info at Amazon] than with general purpose lacquer because (I think) it contains brass/copper preservatives like sodium benzotriazole to discourage the spotting, and it is probably thinned for application on polished metals whereas general purpose lacquers are probably thicker.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

August 18, 2010

A. I have found Maas metal polish [paid link to product info at Amazon] to be quite successful in polishing brass. It's a cream that comes in a tube, and I ordered it on the internet. Glad to find out from this site how to restore the lacquer finish to brass, thanks!

Marilyn Diaferia
- Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, USA

September 1, 2010

Q. I am trying to restore a table lamp that belonged to my grandparents. It has been in a basement and the "feet" of the brass base have...rusted or corroded. How do you clean this or take the "roughness" from the finish? Have already tried BRASSO.

Denise Shockley
home owner - Emden, Missouri, USA

December 22, 2010

Q. I have several antique brass finish Stiffel lamps. I moved them to India and after 12 years the surface looks pitted, spotty. I asked an agency in India to polish it and now there is a white surface under. How do I salvage the lamp ?

Anuradha Koduri
owner of the lamps - Hyderabad, AP , INDIA

March 25, 2011

Q. I have 2 brass lamps and the style is dated. I would like to refinish them for an updated look.

Any suggestions.

Debbie Mischung
homeowner - Jacksonville, Florida, USA

January 27, 2013

Q. I have an antique brass moroccan lamp and shade. I would like to clean it and place in my mediation room. How do I clean it back to it's original shine, is that possible? It's been in my husbands family for over 100 years. There are no dents - in perfect condition.

Gretchen Jones
- Forestville, Maryland

April 16, 2013

Q. Hi there.. I am looking to find out how to refinish brass rails in my home. It would be great if I can change the finish to look more like a matte nickel look or black, right now they are brass and some are tarnished but shiny. Any thoughts?

Janis Borgueta
- Newburgh New York USA

May 15, 2013

Q. I have several, large, polished brass Speer lamps. I love the lamps but would love them more if I could 'dull' the shine. Can you suggest a method I might try?


Edie Schneider
- Atlanta, Georgia, USA

May 16, 2013

A. Hi Edie. If you are certain that the entire lamp is solid brass you could entertain ideas like brass darkening solution. But making anything beautiful requires artistry that I'm not up to; I don't know if you are, but if you're not, fooling around with stripping protective lacquers, applying darkeners or patinating solutions, and reapplying the lacquers, may leave you with a lamp that is less beautiful.

I think the safest way to try to alter the finish would be by applying a wax rub. I'd try a wax rub in a tone that offers only a subtle change for the first try.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

Black spots on brass table from wine spill

February 14, 2014

Q. I have a polished brass dining table and my guest spilled red wine, and now my brass has some little black spots. Is there a way I can touch this up?

Thank you helping me!

- Irving, Texas USA

February 2014

A. Hi Cindy. Wine is somewhat acidic (pH 3.0 -3.9) and can cause some pitting in brass. Try some Barkeeper's Friend or other brass/copper cleaner and see. But it is a bit surprising that the wine could get to the brass if there was lacquer or a clearcoat on the brass, and a bit surprising that you could maintain polished brass without lacquer or clearcoat. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

Puppy peed on brass


Q. Greetings my name is Terry I'm a handy man /general contractor looking for solution to repairing dark antique brass finish on 2 floor little Yorkshire terrier Max is in need of further training. Any ideas would be appreciated. thanks-Terry

Terry A. Ford
Green home building&Remodeling - Mpls., Minnesota, USA


Q. I own two brass beds, one is over 100 years old the other is 30 years old, both are sold brass. I just discovered dog was pissing on both beds, about the time I discovered this,the urine stains were old and had eaten in to the brass legs. Brasso and other cleaners will not touch it. Can I take a fine sandpaper to get them out or are there other methods? Thanks.

Jeffrey F. Jones
consumer - Manhattan, Illinois

March 7, 2014

Q. Hello. Our new puppy used one of my grand piano legs as a spot to relieve himself. The brass on the bottom of leg has turned, in spots, green. How can I remove this and restore the normal looking finish?

Susan Van Slyke
- San Antonio, Texas, USA

March 16, 2014

A. Susan,
A commercial product like Brasso would be my first suggestion for taking care of the tarnish. I would then find out from the manufacturer what sort of finish was originally used to protect the metal and do that (if feasible).

Marc Banks
Blacksmith - Lenoir, North Carolina USA

July 11, 2014

A. I just restored a 100 year old brass lantern that was completely black with tarnish. I soaked it in apple cider vinegar with a little salt, which made it look VERY DULL, but was then kind of a copper color. I then used "mothers" mag wheel polish and a soft rag. It is coming out looking like brand new. The mothers mag/aluminum polish seems to be doing the trick, although it has taken a LOT of rubbing.

Pam Bulmann
- Hillsboro, Oregon, USA

December 16, 2014

Q. I have a Waterford Crystal Overture Pattern Table Lamp where the brass bass and top lampshade and bulb assembly, has become dull and discolored. What do I have to do to restore the original luster and shine? Does Waterford apply an acrylic finish? What do I use to clean, recommendation? Then a recommended finish??

Thank you

Bob Klein
- Fargo, North Dakota, USA

Brass Lacquer

December 2014

A. Hi Bob. We're happy to post your inquiry, but I think it's very unlikely any reader will know what the finish on your lamp is. Hope that it's just brass lacquer, and try to remove it with lacquer thinner or acetone.

If it's a tougher clearcoat, you'll probably need Aircraft Stripper, which is noxious stuff that contains methylene chloride. Goggles, gloves, and good outdoor ventilation are the minimum requirements for working with it. Once you have the clear coat off, and the brass (if that's really what it is) looking good again, you can apply brass lacquer. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

My dog urinated on the base of my brass floor lamp

June 7, 2015

Q. I don't know when my male dog urinated on the base of my brass lamp. By the time I discovered what he did it was too late. The spots where he took a whizz are missing brass shine as probably the acid in his urine ate through.


NOTHING has helped to restore the base to its original beauty. Solid brass. It is a Torchierre style. Thank you for any assistance.

Margaret Troche
- New York, New York USA

June 2015

A. Hi Margaret, we like your pink cell phone case :-)

We appended your inquiry to a thread where there is an earlier discussion on the same subject; you will probably need mechanical action (a buffing pad mounted on a battery operated drill), rather than just a wipe-on product. Don't use too strong a drill, as you can hurt yourself. This may be beyond your skills and equipment, and may require a brass polishing shop.


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

June 7, 2015

RFQ: I agree and that is why I submitted my post here on I 'twas expecting a response from a supplier who offers the service so, now I am totally confused.


Margaret Troche [returning]
- New York, New York

Discolored brass wall sculpture by Bijan

Ed note: David did not include a graphic, this one is from

June 15, 2016

Q. My wall sculpture "California Sunset" by Bijan has spotting in the trunk of the tree. I am not sure of the cause. Brass polish does remove tarnish from the surface with no visual improvements.

On the back of the piece I did a test with ketchup and received wonderful results. What is the finish that Bijan used? How do I remove it to polish the brass ? I will use your recommended final finish.

David Gress
- Glendale, Arizona

August 11, 2019

Q. Good afternoon. I recently purchased two porcelain lamps at a sale. The wiring is junk so I took them apart. The bases could sure use a cleaning, but I am unsure how to proceed. It passes the magnet test, no sticking. There are some superficial scratches where I see a gold-ish colour where it has been scored. There is plenty of oxidation on the base, whether its from age or the people smoked, I am unsure. On the top, near the hole for the lamp rod, it is stamped "272" and "M M" on the underside, "Pat. Pen". There is also a silver spot on the underside, that leads me to believe this is plated mild steel. I have no idea, thats why I am asking you. What is the proper way to clean this item? Or is it better to leave it with its natural patina? I appreciate your time.

Samantha Figueroa Meeks
- Ocala, Florida

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