What Are the Best Techniques for Aging Brass Fixtures to Add Character to a New Home?

April 9, 2024

Imagine the warm glow of brass fixtures adorning your new home, lending it a sense of antique charm and sophistication. Brass is a versatile material that fits into almost every home design. It’s durable, easy to clean, and its lustrous gold-like appearance can express a timeless elegance. However, you may find that the shiny, new finish doesn’t quite mesh with the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. You might want it to look older, more lived-in – essentially, more antique. So, how can you add a patina to brass fixtures to give them that desired antique look? Let’s delve into the best techniques you can use to age brass fixtures to enhance the character of your home.

Using Heat to Age Brass

The application of heat is one of the most effective ways to age brass. When brass is exposed to heat, it undergoes a process called oxidation, which changes the surface color of the metal, creating an aged look.

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Begin with removing the lacquer finish if your brass is new. You will require acetone or a lacquer thinner for this step. Use a paintbrush to apply the solvent and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with a clean cloth.

Once you have removed the lacquer, wash the hardware with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly. The next stage involves using a propane torch. Keep the flame moving across the surface of the hardware, taking care not to stay in one spot too long as this can warp the brass. As the metal heats, watch for color changes. Brass will typically turn a deep red-brown, then a darker brown, and finally a greenish-blue color.

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Bear in mind that this method requires careful handling of the torch and protective safety measures. It’s crucial to wear heat-resistant gloves and safety goggles.

Painting for an Aged Look

Using paint is another effective way to add an antique look to your brass hardware. This method gives you more control over the final color and is less dangerous than using heat.

Preparation is crucial in this method. Start by cleaning the brass thoroughly to remove any dirt or grease. Next, apply a coat of primer that is specifically designed for metal surfaces. Allow the primer to dry completely.

Next, choose a paint color that will mimic the look of aged brass. A mixture of black and brown can give an excellent patina effect. Apply the paint lightly over the entire surface, allowing some of the original brass color to show through. Allow the paint to dry, then lightly sand the surface to reveal more of the brass underneath. Finish with a clear lacquer to protect the paint and add a slight sheen.

Remember, the key to a realistic patina effect is subtlety. Resist the urge to add too much paint or to sand too much off. Patience and a light touch will yield the best results.

Using Household Items for a Natural Patina

Did you know that you can create a patina on brass using common household items? This technique is an eco-friendly alternative that can yield beautiful results.

Items such as vinegar, salt, and ammonia can cause brass to oxidize, creating a natural aged look. Start by cleaning the brass thoroughly. Then prepare a mixture of equal parts salt and vinegar. Apply this mixture to the surface of the brass using a paintbrush, then place the brass in a container with a small amount of ammonia.

The brass should not be in direct contact with the ammonia. Instead, place a wire rack or some similar object in the container to keep the brass elevated. After about an hour, remove the brass from the container and rinse it under cold water.

This method can take more time to achieve the desired results, but it’s a great way to naturally age brass hardware with minimal effort.

Achieving a Verdigris Patina

A verdigris patina is the greenish-blue color that brass and other metals develop over time due to prolonged exposure to the elements. It’s a beautiful way to add character to brass fixtures in your home, especially if you’re aiming for a vintage or rustic look.

For this technique, start by cleaning the brass to ensure there’s no dirt or grease. Next, apply a solution of vinegar and salt using a paintbrush. Allow the solution to dry on the metal, then apply a second coat. Leave the brass in a warm, humid environment for several days.

Over time, the brass will develop a verdigris patina. This method requires patience, but the stunning results are worth the wait.

Aging brass fixtures can give your new home a sense of history and character. Whether you prefer the rich warmth of heated brass, the detailed design of painted patina, the natural aging process using household items, or the stunning verdigris finish, there’s a technique to suit your style. Whichever method you choose, the end result will express your unique design vision and add a touch of antique charm to your home.

Aging Brass with a Brass Ager

Another safe and effective way of adding character to your brass hardware is by using a brass ager. This is a commercial product explicitly designed to age brass and other metals. It works by speeding up the natural oxidation process, giving brass an antique look in a matter of minutes.

To start, make sure the brass finish is completely clean and free of any lacquer coating. If your brass fixture is new or polished, it may have a protective lacquer coating. In such case, remove the lacquer using steel wool or a lacquer thinner. Next, clean the brass thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, and residues from the lacquer remover.

Applying the brass ager is a straightforward step. With a paintbrush or a soft cloth, liberally apply the brass ager over the surface of the brass. Allow it to sit for a few minutes or until the desired level of aging is achieved. You can control the intensity of the patina by the amount of time you leave the ager on the brass.

After the brass has darkened to your liking, rinse the ager off with water. If you still want a darker patina, repeat the process until you are satisfied. Once finished, you can choose to protect the aged brass with a clear lacquer or leave it as is to continue natural aging over time. This technique truly allows you to customize the look of your brass hardware, making it a popular choice for homeowners and designers alike.

Mixing Metals for a Unique Look

One unique way to add character to your home is by mixing metals. This involves combining fixtures of different metallic finishes in a single space. For example, you might pair aged brass cabinet hardware with a polished nickel light fixture.

To create a cohesive look, consider the color tones of the metals you’re mixing. Brass, for example, has a warm tone, while nickel has a cool tone. When mixed correctly, these contrasting tones can create a visually appealing balance in your space.

Also, consider the style and era each metal represents. For instance, aged brass pairs well with vintage or rustic decors, while polished nickel fits more modern or contemporary styles.

Remember, balance is key. Too much of one metal can overwhelm the space, so aim for a balanced distribution. Being strategic about the placement of different metals can make your space look well-thought-out and professionally designed.


Aging brass fixtures is an art. Whether you’re using heat, paint, household items, a brass ager, or mixing metals, each technique offers a different way to add character to your new home. Aging brass is not just about achieving an antique look; it’s about expressing your personal taste, creating a unique atmosphere, and enhancing the overall aesthetic of your home.

Remember, working with brass requires some patience and attention to detail. But, the joy of seeing your shiny brass transform into a beautifully aged piece is an experience like no other. No matter what technique you choose, the most important thing is that you enjoy the process. After all, your home should be a reflection of you, and every detail, including your brass hardware, contributes to that vision. So go ahead, get creative, and let your brass shine with age!