How to make brass look old

Updated February 21, 2017

Many different metals are used for home decor, but most don't have the numerous applications that brass does. Nicely shined brass can give flare to any home, but some people prefer a more classical look. Ageing brass pieces can add greatly to a classically decorated home. Knowing how to safely age brass is the first step to this, however. With just a few methods, which can take as few as three minutes to accomplish, you can add the beautiful aged look to your brass accessories that you've been dreaming of.

Make sure the brass really is brass. If you use these methods on something other than brass, it will have a different reaction. If you use any chemicals to age something you believe is brass, but really isn't, it could even be dangerous. One method of verifying that brass really is brass is by taking it to an antique dealer. They are used to dealing with this type of material and can give you assurance that brass is brass.

Remove any varnish that may be on the brass. Brass is flammible and reactive, so there could be undesired effects while trying to age brass if there is varnish is on it. Accomplish this by taking a brush and dipping it into acetone. Rub the acetone all over the brass. Afterwards, put smaller objects into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. If the brass is too big for this, then wipe it down with a cloth that has been dipped in hot water. Allow the brass to dry before beginning the ageing process.

Try a gentle method first. Clean the brush after removing the varnish (or get another brush) and dip it into the vinegar. Cover the entire brass piece with the vinegar using the brush. This causes oxidisation, which will make the brass appear older. Salt water can be used as well, but it will take far longer than the vinegar.

Use a butane torch if you want to age brass quickly. It will also oxidise the brass. You must make sure that the brass is unlacquered before using flame to age your brass. If the brass is lacquered or you are unsure whether the brass is lacquered or not, see Resources for a link to help you remove it effectively. After you are sure the piece is unlacquered, use the torch to burn all over the brass piece.

Another option is to use the process of "acid dripping." This process is completely safe if done correctly. It is probably best to wear a pair of gloves if using this method. Make a solution that consists of 1 part antiquing solution and 10 parts water. The water should be room temperature and the solution should be in a plastic or ceramic bowl that is big enough to hold your brass pieces.

Place the brass into the solution. Agitate the container to remove any air bubbles. Air bubbles will prevent the solution from touching small parts of the piece. You should notice a change in the colours within moments.

Remove the brass at the appropriate time. If you are going to highlight the piece, then you should let the piece darken a little past the tone you eventually want. If you want a more even tone for the piece, just remove it from the solution when it appears to be the colour you want.

Rinse off the piece with warm water after you remove it from the solution. Use a sponge to wipe off any powdery remnants. You can also use a scouring pad. This should cause an immediate highlighted effect. If the brass is too light, then put it back in the solution. If it is too dark, use the scouring pad to make it light again and try the solution again.

Dry the entire piece when you are completely satisfied with the colour. Use lacquer or get the piece waxed if you want it to stay this colour, or you can just leave it like it is and it will continue to age.


If the instructions on your antiquing solution are different from these instructions, go with the product instructions. The company know the best way to use the particular product.


Make sure to remove lacquer and varnish before trying these methods. It will not have the desired effect and can be dangerous.

Things You'll Need

  • Brass
  • Acetone (nail-polish remover)
  • Vinegar
  • Butane torch (optional)
  • Small paint brush
  • Antiquing solution
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About the Author

Curtis Fease started writing professionally in 2007. He has a dual bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice from Augusta State University.