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How To Age Brass in Less Than 5 Minutes

I like brass. I favor the gold finish over silver or bronze.  It adds warmth and a nice patina and contrast to the furnishings in a room – plus brass is classic and will always be in style.  I recently learned how to age brass… you know the bright shiny yellow brass and turn it into aged brass in 5 minutes.

turquoise chalk painted sideboard with aged brass card catalog style pulls.

For this sideboard I painted, I wanted to add aged brass drawer and label pulls, but the un-lacquered pulls I wanted we’re on backorder until mid July.  They did however have bright brass in stock.

I don’t mind bright brass, but for the sideboard, I didn’t want the pulls to be too shiny. I was upset that I couldn’t get the ones I wanted right away, but then figured, I could buy the bright brass and do a little DIY magic on them to tone them down a bit.

How To Age Brass

How to age brass in 5 minutes or less. 3 colors of brass pulls - bright brass, dark and antiqued.

How to Age Brass In 5 Minutes

Below are two methods to age brass. The first uses a product called, Brass Ager.

The second method, uses water and a few household products.

I have also included a way to age brass so it takes on a verdigris color.

Note: Before you use either method, you must remove any lacquer on the brass first. You will learn how to do this in Step 1 in the tutorial below.

supplies needed:

Bottle of Brass Ager and brass pulls.

  • Wear safety googles and rubber gloves when aging brass or any metal.

I bought the brass pulls, here.  I recently found them cheaper on Amazon: Brass Label Holder Pulls

  • Brass Ager – I bought it on Amazon
  • “000” Steel Wool
  • Container large enough to hold item you are aging
  • Optional:  Acetone
  1. Determine if the brass you want to age has lacquer on it. If it does, that needs to be removed before you can age the brass.

Bottle of acetone to remove lacquer from metal and brass pulls on work table

If you are not sure if it has lacquer on it or not – dip it in some nail polish remover or acetone for a minute or two.

Gummy lacquer being removed from brass with acetone

If it starts to look like this… it has lacquer on it.

2. I bought the can of acetone at Lowes.  I poured it in a plastic container to soak the drawer pulls in. Place it next to your kitchen sink so that as soon as you start to see the finish get all gummy, you can rinse it off under water.  You may have to dip it in again to make sure all the lacquer is removed.  It only takes a minute.

brass ager solution and steel wool

The  “000” steel wool does not scratch the surface, it only removes some of the Brass Ager so you can achieve the exact look you desire.

3. Pour the Brass Ager in a container and place the items in for only a few seconds.  Remove when you like the aging effect.

Different Shades of Aged Brass Can Be Achieved

3 drawer pulls showing the 3 shades of brass that can be achieved using the brass ager.

1. Un-lacquered bright brass.

2. Brass that was soaked with Brass Ager for 10 seconds.

3. To lessen the aged effect – rub steel wool over the brass while it is still wet.  If you remove too much – re-dip in Brass Ager and repeat rubbing with steel wool until you get the desired amount of aging.

Brass aging TIP:

  • Make sure that you fill the container with enough Brass Ager to completely cover the pulls to get even coverage.

Before and after drawer pulls after using Brass ager on them.

I removed just enough of the aged color to tone the brass down a bit, but not as bright as they were before.  They will naturally age and get darker from now on, since I removed the lacquer.

How To Age Metal in a Few Hours

I read about using salt and vinegar, lemons and other solutions to age brass, but they do take some time and the results were not as satisfactory.  If you have bright polished brass in your home and want to age it without having to buy the Brass Ager, try this method. It may take a few hours or overnight to see results, it will slowly change the brightness of the brass.

1. Remove the lacquer with acetone and rinse off, let dry. Lightly sand the piece with “ooo” steel wool.

2. Brush on a coat of white vinegar, let sit for two hours. If it is not dry after 2 hours, wait for the vinegar to dry, then proceed to Step 3.

3. Mix 16 ounces hydrogen peroxide, 2 ounces of white vinegar, and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Brush the liquid on the dry metal. Wait for a reaction. When you like the look, rinse the brass with water. Let dry.

How to Make the Brass Verdigris

1. Remove any lacquer or varnish using the acetone (nail polish remover) then clean the piece. Dip the item into boiling water and let it boil for a few seconds. When the piece is cool enough to handle, clean it by wiping it all over with a clean dry cloth. 

2. Soak your item for 1 hour in a mixture of vinegar and salt. Use 1 tbsp. of salt for each cup of vinegar

3. Bake the item in a 450 F oven for 20 minutes.

4. Soak the hot item in the vinegar solution until you are pleased with the color.

5. Shake off the excess vinegar and allow the brass to dry.

More Ways to Age Brass

Two brass wall swing arm lamps that have been aged using a different technique

How to Make Labels for Brass Label Drawer Pulls

Close up of a brass card catalog pull on a white file drawer.

The next step is to make the labels for the drawer pulls.  Using my word processor, I printed out the names for each label.   I traced around the rectangular part of the pull to figure out the size I would need.  I set the font to Engravers MT -size to 22 pts. I printed out the names for each on white card stock.

How to make labels for furniture pulls using printed names on your computer.

I cut a piece of acetate from the top lid of a box of notecards to act as clear protective covers for each label. Then placed both into the drawer pull.

Brass-Label-Holders-and-Drawer-Pulls-from-Van-Dykes-Restorers all finished on turquoise sideboard.

To see the full post on how I made over this sideboard, you will find it here,  Furniture Before & After Makeover in Turquoise

Another Way to Change the Color of Brass Furniture Hardware

Image graphic with spray paint lined up with the words. What is the best silver spray paint for painting metal.

If you want to make brass look like nickel or silver-toned, you can find out how I did it in this post:

Spray Painting Brass/Metal Hardware

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58 Comments

  1. When aging brass in the second method, do you remove the item from the vinegar salt solution before putting in the 450° oven? Or do you put the solution containing the item in the oven?

  2. Could you please tell people to not pour these chemicals down the sink or flush in toilets? Our oceans and rivers would appreciate that. Thank you!

  3. Please do not dispose of the used solution down the drain. Acetone and brass ager acids are TERRIBLE for the ocean and rivers.

  4. Did you try on faucets, shower door, etc? I am interested to see if it works on these items.

    1. Hi Mary Anne – I have never tried the brass ager on a faucet, but it is is real brass, it will work just the same. If it is fake brass, then I am not sure it will.

  5. I have bright brass bead caps I would like to age. I don’t like the look of the Ager. I can’t hang the caps over vinigar and can’t apply liquor to them they must be soaked or dipped. Any soggestions ? Please email

    1. Hi Mary – You could try using a product called Rub N’Buff. I think the Antique Brass may be a color you may like, but there are other colors to choose from. It is sold at most craft stores and online here: https://amzn.to/2I95EO3 It comes in quite a few colors. It works great to change the color of metal, you simply rub it on and buff with a soft cloth. A little tube will be plenty.

  6. Careful mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, it makes peracetic acid, which is nasty stuff to breathe or touch.

  7. We have shined brass bathroom faucets and shower door trim. I would like to tone it down a bit before putting the house on the market for sale. Is it possible to accomplish a project like this while keeping the shower surround and faucets in place?

  8. I would like to polish the church chalice but my problem is there is a thin layer of clear coating on the gold plated surface. How to remove the clear coating without damaging the gold plating?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Vincent – Use acetone or nail polish remover to remove the lacquer. It will come off right away. Once it is off, wash the chalice and then polish. Note though that once the lacquer is off you will need to polish it more frequently to keep it shiny.

  9. how do you distess a BRASS table? I have read you ideas for brass drawer pulls etc…. you cant soak a table over night.

  10. This is a bad idea if you want to ruin antiques. Messing with the old brass patina will devalue a piece considerably.

    1. I’d like to know how long it might take for an un-lacquered brass object (a saxophone in my case) to tarnish. It was deliberately left without lacquer, but at the moment (after 5 months) it’s losing it’s post-build shine and gaining a lot of watermarks.

      I am hoping it will go very flat and look like a much older instrument. But I’m not sure how long this may take, or even if it will happen at all.

      Any advice is welcome.

  11. Diane ~ would you share where you found these pulls? I can’t seem to find them anywhere or maybe I’m not using the right search term. Gonna do this! Thanks!

  12. Thank you, thank you for the info for darkening brass drawer pulls! I have an antique walnut sideboard that someone replaced the drawer pulls with very bright, brass ones. UGH! Used your method and it darkened to perfect aged color very quickly.

    Now that I have the desired color, should I spray with a flat toned lacquer to preserve them?

    1. Hi Karen – The Brass Ager is a pretty cool product. It has been over two years since I did my brass pulls and I did not use lacquer or any type of sealer over them. They have stayed the same color. If you want to seal them, it can’t hurt to use a spray lacquer over them.

  13. It’s a relief to find this information and such clear directions with photos. I have a very large curio all shiny brass and glass. If I follow your directions, is there a way you know of to make it a little vertigras? Or, is there a way to do that without first doing the process you’ve explained for changing shiny brass to darker brass?

  14. I have a similar question as the commenter above — would this work on brass plating? Or maybe it’s just faux brass? I have the builder grade brass door knobs and I would really love to age them like this rather than try to spray paint them — do you think this would work to wipe on doorknobs so I wouldn’t have to remove each one?

    1. Hi Lorene – I am not 100% sure. I will have to try it out. If the piece is truly brass plated, then it would work on the plating, but you would still need to take the lacquer finish off first. I will have to find a piece to try it on and then I will be sure. I will get back to you.

      1. Thanks so much for your quick reply, Diane! I think for around $10, it’s worth a try so I’ll let you know if/when I get to trying it, too! Thanks!

  15. Is the acetone the same kind as is in regular nail polish remover? Also–does the brass ager work on brass plating or only solid brass? Thanks.

      1. Hi Raquel – Yes, the question was answered, but I replied to Phyllis directly via email. It did not show up in the comment stream. Acetone is acetone, so yes you can use nail polish remover if the formula is 100% acetone.

        If the piece you want to age is plated with real brass then the Brass Ager will work. The label holder pulls I used it on I believe are brass plated, not solid.

  16. Can you suggest how I would age a large piece of brass? I have a table base I’d like to age. I can’t imagine dipping it into a big enough tub nor having enough ‘aging’ solution to fill the tub. Can I apply this with a rag instead?

    1. Hi Sue – Yes you will be able to apply the Brass Ager with a rag. Just saturate the rag and make sure to wipe it evenly along the brass. Work one section at a time since the transformation is almost instant. To lessen the effect use super smooth sandpaper or steel wool to remove some of it if it gets too dark. If you make it too light, just add more Brass Ager. Since you will be working one section at a time, use the steel wool to blend each section so the color looks even all over.

      1. I clicked on this tutorial from your lamp tutorial (your swing arm, bed-side lamps). Do you think I could use the technique you just described above to age brass floor lamp? If not, I will attempt your sandpaper method. I will be subscribing to your blog. Lovely ideas here!

        1. Hi Cora – If your brass lamp has a lacquer on it and you can remove it then this is a good way to age your lamp. Smaller items are easy since you can just dip them into the brass ager. With a large piece, I would do it outside and have a hose handy. After removing the lacquer if there any, use a soft cloth to cover the brass with the brass ager. It might take a little longer than dipping, but once you see the color start to change, wash it of with a hose and dry. You may have to do one section at a time, but it can be done.

  17. have a 100 year old writing desk , handles were polished up by someone.
    Trying to find this brass ager in Montreal , no luck. Do you know where
    I can find it, even on line would be ok
    Thanks

  18. Thanks so much for your great recommendation of Brass Ager. When I looked for it online, I discovered that it was $8.59 (8 oz.) at House of Antique Hardware. However, at Kennedy Hardware it was only $3.45 (8 oz.).

  19. Thank you!!!! We are buying a home that has a ton of shiny brass… bathroom, door handles, and around the fireplace. The jetted tub is full of brass. The bathroom shower doors are brass. The list seems to go on and on. I am going to try this! Looks like a great way to fix the problem before we are ready to re-do each room.

  20. Thanks so much for directing me to this page, Diane–never would have found it!! Laura, I’m like you– kind of a daunting task to anticipate, let alone commit to, huh?! I like the thought of aging the brass, cuz I really do NOT care for the shiny gold look, either. Sure a LOT of lacquer and hardware staring me in the face, though. LOL!

  21. I’ve just bought a jacket that has very bright poppers on it. There’s no way to remove these with-out messing up the jacket… but I wold like to age them. So if anyone’s got any ideas?

  22. Thank you for posting this! I have shiny brass door knobs and hinges all through out my house. Far too expensive to actually replace them all. I have thought about painting them with spray paint. I have seen quite a few bloggers do that with success. I don’t completely mind the brass, I just really dislike the super shiny brass. This might be a good solution and I won’t have to worry about it wearing off like I would with spray paint. It is a huge project though, and I have not fully committed to doing it. :)

  23. Would it be possible to do a fireplace surround? My fireplace has a very shiny, builder-grade cover on it and I think I might like it if it didn’t look so shiny and cheap. Do you think it would work to paint the acetone on and then wipe it off and then follow with the ager and wipe it off too?

    1. Hi Lori – Yes, it would definitely work. It may get a bit messy while taking the lacquer off, but once it is off, the brass will age on it’s own. If you want to hurry the process along – the use the Brass Ager. I would have a bucket of water ready to rinse both products off the surface quickly when you see the lacquer getting gummy and the Brass Ager when the brass achieves the color you desire.

      1. I tried this with two swing arm wall sconces, thinking if you could do it on a fireplace surround that you could do it on those. I tried the acetone and waited way longer than a couple minutes and nothing came off, so I figured it didn’t have lacquer. So I rubbed on the ager and it didn’t work. Do you have to soak it in the ager? I even tried to leave a towel soaked in ager on the lamp and still it is bright as ever. Any ideas? My next project was my fireplace surround, so I’d really love to get this to work.

  24. thanks for the informational tutorial. I love how this piece turned out. I think I would have just sprayed them with a bronze spray paint, but that’s a whole different look. Great job and I learned something new.

  25. I didn’t know they made a product for aging brass. This is good to know, thanks for sharing. I do prefer the aged look, too. I collect old brass, there’s something I love about it!
    Debbie :)

    1. Thanks for the tip. On the bottle, it says to pour what you were using back into the bottle for re-use. Worth the $8.95 as it will last a long time, even after many uses.

  26. Dianne, I am obsessed with your dresser redo, and couldn’t wait to see how you aged that brass! I pinned yesterday’s post and will do the same with today’s post. I’m such a stalker. :) I am planning my dream kitchen for our new-build, hopefully happening this spring and summer, and your dresser is the inspiration for my lower cabs, aged brass and all. I included a link to my pin from yesterday to today’s post.

    Thanks for being an inspiration!

    1. Hi Cindy – Thanks for the pins XO. Your new kitchen is going to look divine! I had the paint leftover from projects for my daughters and around the holidays used some of it to paint a bench. I love how it looked and wanted to add more of the color into my decor – now I have two pieces in turquoise. I can’t wait to see your kitchen. Hope you can get it started soon.

  27. That looks really nice!

    The picture of the lacquer being removed looked like my nails when I remove a Shellac manicure ;)

  28. Oh, I just love the change…. I don’t like to shiny anymore either. I used to love bright & shiny gold, but it looks so much more ‘expensive’ to me with the age.

    Thank you ever so much for the ‘how to’ lesson. You are so valuable to me. I am still dreaming of doing at least a chest of drawers (all I have now) like you did your guest room dresser….. I just love it. But then too, I can’t think of anything you have taught me (us) that I don’t love and want to copy.

  29. Diane< THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have been looking at hardware (brass) for a hutch I am redoing. I can now get the shiny that I like and age them myself.