How to Age Brass

Do you have any of those shiny yellow-brass circa 1993 doorknobs around your house? We have a whole assortment of different eras represented on different doors around here, but the one in my front hall was the lame-o shiny kind.

But I fixed it up good. Yes I did.

Originally I had thought about maybe just spraying it with a little Oil Rubbed Bronze, but then I remembered that warm metals are awesome.

Someone had installed a little slide lock on the door at some point and it was made from some kind of cheap brass. I guess because of its cheapness, it had tarnished quicker than the door knob and it was exactly the kind of old-looking finish I was looking for.

OK, maybe pretty isn’t the right word for it. But it’s more what I’m looking for to add character and stand out against my crisp new paint job.

Here’s how I worked my magic!

The first thing that needed to happen was to remove the clear varnish that was keeping the brass from tarnishing.

I read that a little vinegar mixed with salt and applied with a scouring pad does the trick. I’m not totally sure if it worked, but I did notice the finish becoming less shiny and yellowy and more raw looking. It was a bit of a lighter color as well. So it must have done something.

Next I rubbed the whole thing with a bit of sandpaper. At first I felt like I was doing something terribly wrong, but in the aftermath, I see if really did help the look overall.

So at this point it just looked like a scratched up, slightly lighter-colored 1993 brass door knob.

I read somewhere that heating the brass up with a flame would help it tarnish quickly.

I grabbed my candle lighter and got to firing that brass knob.

At a certain point it occurred to me that what I was actually doing was holding a flame up to a part of my beloved house and heating that part up more and more.

Um, no.

As usual, I didn’t want to wait to see the results of the natural tarnishing so I grabbed my trusty dollar store craft paints and did a little faux magic, instead of you know, setting my house aflame.

-Wipe on a dab of black everywhere, including in the nooks and crannies. Wipe off.

-Wipe on a dab of burnt umber everywhere. Wipe off.

-Wipe on a dab of gold. Wipe off a little bit, but leave it on mostly.

So that got it half-way there. Over the next couple of days, the natural tarnish filled in and the fake and the real came together in perfect harmony.

So what started out as an experiment and a maybe sorta OK temporary solution ended up being one of my very favorite parts of the room.

Now I just wish I had more brass knobs!



  1. says

    Oh, I hope this is coming back into style since mine is aged already!
    Looks nice and thanks for sharing the instructions!

    Hope you will stop by for a fun glass bottle platter giveaway!

  2. says

    It looks just perfect! But even better is the narrative of your thought process. It is like you have been inside my mind. Oh my word!

  3. says

    Good for you!! What a good idea to remove the shellac-y finish and add some craft paint to achieve a more aged look. So much more mellow and welcoming–just right for your house!

  4. says

    Great job!!! Isn’t it hilarious how we all love old stuff now!! I totally agree the brass drives me crazy. Spraying it was a great idea too! I actually have the brass lever knobs upstairs, but changed my main floor knobs to dark brown round old fashioned looking ones. I am a little obsessed with knobs and light bulbs…have no clue why! LOL I am your newest follower on linky :) Hope you can follow back over @! I just posted about chocolate cake…yum :) Monday is my turn @ Inspiration Cafe and I am revealing an old french door that I lit up for decor-details to come. Hope you can come see it!

    ~ Julie

  5. says

    Yep I have a whole bunch of those brass knobs-Just knocking the shine off does help-thanks for giving me some hope-Brass Be Gone! poof! uhh- It’s still there. Hmm… Looks like I have a lot of work to do.

  6. says

    Good to know. Good. To. Know. I could see using this technique on any number of cheap thrift store items. Hello brassy light fixture, I’m looking in your direction.

  7. says

    Wow I never knew your could age brass? What a great idea since I have so much of it in our little charmer. Your saved a lot of us money and gave us a vintage look on top of it. My fingers are crossed you’ll share with Sunday’s Best tonight – too darn clever not too!

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  9. says

    Thanks for the tutorial! I can’t wait to try this and think that I may attempt it on my bath faucets. The previous owners of our house LOVED some shiny brass and I’ve lived with it way too long. Shiny brass – bad, Antique brass – good!

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