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How to bring the colour back to deer antlers

Updated February 21, 2017

Deer antlers get their colour from being stained with dirt and sap from the deer rubbing them on trees and brushes. When the antlers are shed in the spring, the sun quickly bleaches out the colour. Restoring the colour to antlers can take a little trial and error, but with a little effort they can look like they just came off the deer. While there are several methods for restoring weathered deer antlers, most taxidermists apply a solution of potassium permanganate and water.

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  1. Make a mild cleaning solution by mixing 1 litre (1 qt) of warm water with a 1/4 tsp of liquid laundry detergent.

  2. Clean the antlers with a stiff-bristled brush and the cleaning solution. Rinse the antlers with water and allow to dry.

  3. Fill cracks in the antlers by working in the wood putty with your fingers. Allow the putty to dry and sand excess putty with 200-grit sandpaper.

  4. Make a colouring solution by dissolving a 1/2 tsp of potassium permanganate in 118 ml (1/2 cup) of warm water.

  5. Apply the colouring solution to the antlers with the paint brush.

  6. Allow to stand approximately five minutes then wipe with the clean, dry cloth. Repeat if necessary to achieve a darker result.

  7. Tip

    Potassium permanganate may be purchased locally or online.


    Potassium permanganate can be caustic and even toxic if misused.

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Things You'll Need

  • 7.6 litres (2 gallons) warm water
  • 1/4 tsp liquid laundry detergent
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Wood putty
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • 1/2 tsp potassium permanganate crystals
  • 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) paint brush
  • Clean cloth

About the Author

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