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How To Age Brass in Less Than 5 Minutes

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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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.