Patinas with Household Chemicals (2023)

Easy Patinas With Common Household Chemicals

This is more of an informative article than it is a tutorial, but I thought it might be of interst to my fellow jewelry artists. When my daughter participated in her 5th grade science fair, she decided to study the corrosion effects of different gases and liquids on metal. Seeing as Ifrequently "corrode" a lot of my work, I figured that this might be an excellent tutorial to share. Of course, I don't usually refer to the process as corrosion, instead I call it "patina"........sounds better that way. But no matter what you call it......the same process is occuring. I personally love putting apatina on my jewelry not only because it adds color, but it also brings out textures and design.

I had a blast doing this project with my daughter. It was an excellent learning experience and a fun opportunity for my daughter to get to try out what mom does on a daily basis. To begin our project, we had to bravethe snow and stood out most of the morning (in 15 degree weather) to take some photos and get the project underway. I have to say, I'm a littlesurprisedwith a few of the results and am excited to write up the entire project for you all to read.

But before I go any further, I have to make a disclaimer:

When attempting these tests at home, please be sure to utilize proper safety equipment and only work in a well ventilated area. I suggest using some sort of disposable gloves, an apron to protect your clothing, and safety glasses. Tweezers or tongs are also a great tool to keep your fingers out of chemicals. The Liver of Sulfur is extremely bad smelling (think very strong rotten eggs) and you will not want to have that smell on your hands come dinner me.

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She began with three different metals (copper, bronze, and brass), each being immersed inside 4 different liquids (Liver of Sulfur, ammonia, chlorine bleach, and water) and in 4 different gases (sulfur gas, ammonia gas, chlorine bleach gas, and outdoor air).

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Here you can see the three metals in their raw state (from left to right: brass, bronze, and copper).

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(Video) Copper Patina using household items
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Each piece was given a bath in vinegar to clean away anypreexistingtarnish, oils, etc. Then they were tossed into a rotary tumbler with a few drops of Dawn dish detergent, water, and mixed stainless steel shot for a good polishing.

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Next, each of the "pendants" were placed into their testing containers and labeled. The liquid tests were done insidedisposableplastic cups. For most of the items being placed in a gas, we poured each chemical in a medium sized Tupperware and turned three small stainless containers upside down inside the fluid to create platforms for each piece of metal. These platforms allowed the pendants to stay and out of the chemical liquid. The entire container was then sealed tight with a lid.

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The sulfur gas was produced from a boiled egg inside of a ziploc bag.

The clock began and results were taken at 1, 6, 24, 72, and 168 hrs. Results were recorded by denoting an "L" (for liquid) or a "G" (for gas) at each time interval depending on which corrosive agent produced the greatest color change in each of the metals. They were then tallied to see whether liquids or gases were more corrosive overall. What an unusual bunch of colors she ended up with!!!

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Notsurprisingly, she got quite a bit of color change from the Liver of Sulfur after one hour. (For those of you not familiar with jewelry design, Liver of Sulfur is a patina-creating product that is made of mixture of potassium sulfides. It's fairly quick acting.)

Because this experiment started tracking results after an hour, the pictures don't show some of the colors that can be achieved with Liver of Sulfur. LOS is a quickly acting patina that comes in the form of small rocks that you need to add to water, or as a gel.To slow the process of color change, use your LOS in cold water. Have a spare glass of water mixed with baking soda to dip your item in to stop further patination when you reach the color you like. To achieveiridescentcolors, add ammonia to the LOS solution (the following pictures do not have ammonia added to the solution).

She also saw a really nice change in bronze with chlorine bleach. It produced a nice dark brown patina that would work well for vintage pieces. The two other liquid tests (water and ammonia) did not have any change after 1 hr.

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(Video) How to Patina Steel with Chemicals! (Custom Headboard)

The gas tests were only slightly less effective in the first hour. In fact, with the boiled egg in a Ziploc, you can she got quite a bit of change just in the first 30 min. For those of you wanting to try to patina metals, this is a perfect method to achieve a rainbow of colors on all three metals very inexpensively. Liver of Sulfur will produce the same effects, but in a much shorter period of time.

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After one hour, you can see the colors are really coming out. She started with a freshly boiled egg, so you can see some steam in the Ziploc. Copper will start to show a blued steel color very similar to gunmetal.

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Results also showed up pretty quickly with ammonia gas . The last two tests in outdoor air and bleach gas had no change at the end of one hour.

By the 6 hour interval, the metals placed in gases were corroding faster and it looked like they might win the race in the end.

The boiled egg had effectively changed all three metals causing an antiqued look to both bronze and brass, while turning copper to a deep gunmetal patina.

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The bright blue patinas were already quite apparent on both the copper and brass pendants in the ammonia gas. The bronze had already begun to turn black.

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The bleach fumes had even started to corrode all three metals. Copper became a little richer brown, while brass and bronze started to get a duller look to their finish. (No changeoccurredto the pendants in outdoor air).

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Liquids after the 6hr. interval had the following results. Liver of Sulfur turned the copper a dark blue, the bronze a deep blue-black, and the brass had a nice antiqued finish.

(Video) Copper Patinas - How To Patina Copper Metal - Five Recipes - Verdigris, Liver of Sulphur, Vinegar

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The bleach made the largest change on bronze, producing a deep color. Ammonia and Saltwater had not yet begun to make a change.

At both 24 hours and at 3 days, most of the corrosion levels remained the same. The pendants in ammonia gas became more uniformly blue. The liver of sulfur pendants became blacker, and the pendants in bleach liquid and bleach fumes began to slowly show change.

Finally, the experiment ended at 168 hours (or 7 days). If you have the patience to wait this long, the color results in some of the tests are quite unusual and would make for some really neat jewelry. All of the metals showed no significant change in either the water or air tests.

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Patinas with Household Chemicals (19)

Brass turns to a deep brown-black color in bleach liquid. But in bleach gas, it turns lighter brown and develops turquoise speckles all over it.

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It has a golden hue when exposed to a boiled egg. And looks quite similar when left in Liver of Sulfur. In ammonia gas, brass turned a beautiful deep blue, but in liquid form the metal piece only lost a little shine.

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Patinas with Household Chemicals (23)

Bronze also turned a nice deep brown in liquid chlorine bleach. And turned a cool green speckled color in bleach fumes.

(Video) Simple Patina on Metal: Copper & Brass using Everyday Items from Your House

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Patinas with Household Chemicals (25)

Bronze antiques quite well with a boiled egg, but turns solid deep black in Liver of Sulfur (similar to the picture below). Bronze turns black in ammonia gas. I'm curious to do this experiment over again and toss it in to the tumbler to see how much black I can keep while adding a shine! In liquid ammonia, bronze barely changed at all. It only appears to be slightly darker, but not enough so to use in jewelry preparation.

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Patinas with Household Chemicals (27)

This had to be one of the coolest changes we saw. Copper grows a bright turquoise powder when immersed in bleach. Although this particular sample wouldn't work well in jewelry, I can see where this application might work when not left to grow so excessively. In the bleach fumes, copper becomes a coffee brown color with light blue speckles.

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Patinas with Household Chemicals (29)

Copper antiques to a brownish-blue with a boiled egg, and a deep blue-black with Liver of Sulfur. And, in case you would like to look like you have been undersea treasure hunting, ammonia fumes turn copper a pretty but crumbly blue. It's actually a very pretty looking process at a shorter interval of time. Copper also didn't change significantly in liquid ammonia.

After compiling the data, liquids are slightly faster in corroding metal. Upon further research, she learned that metals will actually corrode more quickly when alternated in liquid and then exposed to gases. Which is why steel ships will corrode more along the waterline than they do fully submerged in seawater.

So there you have to patina metals at home with normal household chemicals. It may require an ounce of patience to get the result you want, but it's much cheaper than pre-made chemicals and some even produce effects you can't purchase from a bottle!


What type of metal is patinas? ›

Patina (/pəˈtiːnə/ or /ˈpætɪnə/) is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of copper, brass, bronze and similar metals and metal alloys (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes) or certain stones and wooden furniture (sheen produced by age, wear, and polishing), or any similar acquired ...

What household items can I use to patina copper? ›

Soaking copper in white vinegar and salt will create a blue or green patina. Other ways of doing this are to bury the copper in sawdust or crushed potato chips soaked in white vinegar.

What causes patinas? ›

Patina results as a process of oxidation, weathering or both. Once a material is subjected to agents of weathering such as water, wind, ice, extreme temperature or other agents, it begins to undergo the oxidation process that ultimately leads to tarnish on its coat or surface.

How do patinas work? ›

Patina is a chemical process that happens naturally when metal is left to the elements. The metal oxidizes when exposed to air, much like an avocado (or any fresh surface for that matter) begins to turn brown after being cut. It is a chemical process. Patina is what makes an antique copper pot spot and richen in color.

Can you remove patina? ›

If you know how to remove patinas correctly, they can be simple to remove. Some of the greatest metal rust removers are produced using common household items like vinegar, baking soda, potatoes, and salt. Scrubbing with steel wool or other rough-textured cleaning instruments may typically remove light rust.

Will baking soda darken copper? ›

This solution will turn your copper a darker brown, roughly the color of an American penny. Simply shake baking soda in a bottle of hot water one spoonful at a time, until additional baking soda does not dissolve. Spray the copper with the solution. Use a spray bottle to apply the patina onto the surface of the copper.

What does bleach do to copper? ›

Using Bleach on Metal Surfaces

Bleach shouldn't be applied to copper or stainless steel appliances. That's because the corrosive chemicals in bleach can react with metal and leave behind stains and even corrosion, according to ARCSI.

What is the fastest way to oxidize copper? ›

Most harsh substances are capable of oxidizing copper, but you don't need to buy special acids just for that. Basic products like vinegar and salt can have the same effect. All you need is enough amount of these products to submerge your copper item for a certain period.

What is the meaning of patinas? ›

-ˌnī, ˈpa-tə- : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color. : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use. the beautiful patina of this antique table.

Can patina be reversed? ›

Is Patina Reversible? Copper patina is a desirable texture aging and many people like the look of tarnished copper sinks, copper tubs, and copper pots, but others prefer the look of reddish-brown copper. The good news is that Patina is reversible.

Does vinegar patina prevent rust? ›

The patina will become a protective layer (Magnetite) for the blade and will help prevent rust (Hematite).

How long do you leave patina on? ›

This means that solder must be cleaned thoroughly and patina should be applied ASAP (within 1 week of soldering for copper patina and 2 weeks for black patina). If patina is not applied immediately after soldering, your stained glass piece must be cleaned and stored properly.

How long does it take for patina to dry? ›

If an even patina surface is desired, stipple the wet surface with a brush or block stippler to evenly distribute the solution. As the surface dries (about 30-40 minutes) a true patina finish will appear. Cold temperatures and/or humid conditions will prolong the oxidation process and dry time.

How do you make a patina solution? ›

Soak the metal in vinegar.

Add vinegar to your clean, dry container so there is enough to completely submerge the metal. Then add an equal amount of salt to the vinegar, stir it thoroughly, and insert the metal so it can sit in the solution and create a vinegar-salt patina.

How do I stop patina from oxidizing? ›

Preventing Spot Patinas

To avoid this, be sure to keep your sink dry when you're not using it. Wipe away any residual water droplets. Use pH-neutral soaps and cleansers with your sink and rinse well when you're done using them.

Do you have to seal patina? ›

Heat patinas need to be protected with some form of varnish or sealant as the metal will eventually create its own patina, ruining yours.

Does vinegar remove patina? ›

Vinegar. Yes, you read this correctly. We have already confirmed that vinegar is an efficient cleaning solution to remove patina. Little did we know that vinegar can also be an accelerator by keeping the vinegar near but not touching the watch.

Does ketchup remove patina? ›

For one of the simplest DIY cleaning techniques, apply a layer of ketchup to a copper pan or copper sink, and rub the condiment all over the surface. The tomatoes in ketchup contain an acid that helps remove tarnish. Rinse and dry.

Does pickle remove patina? ›

You could also dip the article in a tarnish remover. Bronze should not be pickled to remove the patina because the pickle will deplete the tin from the surface and leave the piece copper gilded (it looks copper plated).

What happens when you soak copper in vinegar? ›

What happens when you put copper in vinegar? The combination of the acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium chloride (table salt) dissolves copper oxide and makes the copper shiny again.

What chemical will brighten copper? ›

How to Clean Copper With Vinegar or Ketchup. If you don't have any lemon juice, distilled white vinegar or ketchup works very well to polish copper. Vinegar contains acetic acid (ketchup contains vinegar as well as citric acid in the tomatoes) that reacts with copper tarnish and breaks its bond with the copper.

Is vinegar good for copper? ›

The acid in the vinegar will clean copper, some have flour or other ingredients to make a paste to keep the acid on the copper. Ketchup and Lemon juice are also acids and will clean copper and brass.

What happens when you put hydrogen peroxide on copper? ›

Hydrogen peroxide can accelerate the corrosion of nanoscale zero valent copper to produce Cu+. Cu+ can activate hydrogen peroxide to produce reactive radicals.

What happens if you mix bleach and vinegar? ›

Mixing bleach and vinegar creates potentially lethal chlorine gas. If you notice a pungent smell after mixing household cleaners, you should immediately leave the area and try to breathe in fresh air.

Does hydrogen peroxide hurt copper? ›

A good copper cleaner reacts with what's on top of the copper and not the copper itself. The hydrogen peroxide produced tarnish but not lasting damage.

Does hydrogen peroxide oxidize copper? ›

This indicates that hydrogen peroxide can oxidize copper metal on the surface of the penny by displacing it as copper(II) ions, and it's consistent with what we actually see.

Can you oxidize copper with water? ›

Copper does not react with water, but it slowly reacts with atmospheric oxygen, forming a layer of brown-black copper oxide. In contrast to the oxidation of iron by wet air, this oxide layer stops further, bulk corrosion. A green layer of verdigris (copper carbonate) can often be seen on old copper constructions.

Does oxidation turn copper green? ›

Copper will start to react with the oxygen in the air to form copper oxide. The copper oxide will continue reacting to oxygen over time. As the copper oxide continues to react with carbon dioxide and water in the air it coats the surface with that iconic blue-green patina colour.

What does copper look like when it patinas? ›

Over time copper will naturally change colors – transforming from a shiny brown color to darker browns, then blues and finally greens after a number of years. When exposed to the natural elements such as wind and rain, copper develops this “patina” which actually protects and preserves the metal underneath.

How do you use patina in a sentence? ›

2a thin layer that forms on other materials; the shiny surface that develops on wood or leather when it is polished The furniture was old, with the shiny patina of frequent polishing. (figurative) He looked relaxed and elegant and had the patina of success.

What metal is patinas blue? ›

Cupric Nitrate is a classic hot patina for bronze, brass, and copper resulting in a blue green finish. If used on iron or steel, rust will occur.

Does lemon juice remove patina? ›

Removing Patina

Soaking in acidic substances like lemon juice or vinegar helps remove unwanted patina.

What color is natural patina? ›

"Patina" is a term that refers to the blue-green layer of corrosion that develops on the surface of copper when it is exposed to sulfur and oxide compounds. The word is derived for the Latin term for a shallow dish.

Is patina just rust? ›

Patina is a naturally occurring process that iron goes through and shouldn't be confused with corrosive rust. Patina is actually good for iron as provides a protective layer. Cast iron/ductile iron will last many decades with little change if left unfinished.

How long should you let vinegar sit on rust? ›

Key Steps
  1. Soak or spray the rust with vinegar or Coke.
  2. Leave the vinegar to soak for 3 days, or Coke for 24 hours.
  3. Scrub away the rust.
  4. Use baking soda and water for stubborn rust spots.
  5. For a faster solution for outdoor surfaces, try a specialist cleaner like Cif Outdoor Rust Spray.
5 Aug 2019

What can I mix with vinegar to make rust? ›

Start by adding ½ cup salt to ½ gallon vinegar in a plastic container. Drop your rusty extras into the solution, and let them soak for about 12 hours. Next, pour out the salt-and-vinegar solution, rinse off the metal objects, and then immediately return them to the container.

How long should rust soak in vinegar? ›

Allow to Soak

Allow the object to soak in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes. Check the progress. Excessive amounts of rust will require longer soaking, up to two hours.

What is patina solution made of? ›

In urban areas, the patina consists of basic copper sulfate (CuSO4. 3Cu(OH)2), although in marine environments it may contain chloride, or carbonate in industrial areas.

Should I clean patina? ›

So the question arises whether to clean or not to clean an antique piece. The rule of thumb: If in doubt, don't. It is always safer to preserve patina until the piece is appraised and you know for sure whether you are inadvertently removing the history that makes the piece interesting.

What are the benefits of a patina? ›

The surface patina formed on weathering steel in atmospheric conditions provides protection against further corrosion, a benefit which the corrosion products formed on carbon steel do not provide.

How do I reset my patina? ›

The best method we've come up with to reset patina is to use a combination of vinegar dips and dabbing (NOT rubbing) a metal polishing compound, like Flitz Metal Polish. But first, here are a few guidelines: Do not use harsh chemicals. Good results can be achieved with mild products.

Can you seal patina? ›

Everbrite Coating will seal rust patina to prevent stains from getting on clothing or dripping on surfaces below the rusted objects. Rusted metal including Corten or weathering steel will have unsightly staining from water runoff and can stain surrounding paint, stucco and concrete.

How do you encourage patina? ›

Spray your metal object with plain white vinegar, soaking the surface and letting it dry before reapplying. The acidic vinegar lightly etches the metal surface so the piece will rust faster. Repeat the spray-dry pattern a couple of times.

What metal is patinas brown? ›

Antiquing Patina creates an aged brown to black finish on bronze, brass, and copper. On iron, steel, aluminum, and zinc, it will produce a grey to black patina.

What does patinas mean in English? ›

Definition of patina

1a : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color. b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use the beautiful patina of this antique table.

How do you make homemade patina? ›

Soak the metal in vinegar.

Add vinegar to your clean, dry container so there is enough to completely submerge the metal. Then add an equal amount of salt to the vinegar, stir it thoroughly, and insert the metal so it can sit in the solution and create a vinegar-salt patina.

Can you patina any metal? ›

Patina can be applied to specialty metals that are commonly used in bespoke metal fabrication. This means that patinas can be applied to copper, pewter, brass, bronze, zinc, and even stainless steel gets a little color. The most interesting patinas, on the other hand, form on mild steel and iron.

Do you wax black patina? ›

If you're using black patina, you don't need to polish at this stage, go straight to 3. below. Keep buffing it up until the black residue all but disappears (where does all that black come from?!) If you want your panel silver, you're done with this stage – only waxing left!

Does ammonia Turn copper blue? ›

Further addition of ammonia causes the copper ion to go back into solution as a deep blue ammonia complex.

What colors are patina? ›

Patina Colors
  • Dark Bronze.
  • Burnished Brass.
  • Rusty.
  • Iridescent.
  • Hint of Brass.
  • Pro Aluminum.
  • Burnished Copper.
  • Black Dots.

What color is patina color? ›

This page shows RAL color 6000 called Patina green.
RAL 6000 Patina green.
Spanish:Verde patina
3 more rows

Can patina be painted? ›

Patina Paint is infused with metal pieces and reacts when the Patina Spray is applied! Layers of Iron, Bronze and Copper Patina Paint can be layered to create an intriguing array of hues. To get a textured, eccentric look, be sure to dab on your Patina Paint and allow it to be a little messy!

How do you oxidize copper with vinegar? ›

Let the copper soak in a mixture of white vinegar and salt, or bury it in sawdust or even crushed potato chips, then soak the mixture with vinegar. Place in a sealed container for 2–8 hours, checking on the color regularly, then remove and air dry. Use a soft brush to gently remove solid materials.


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