Can You Stain Brass?

By Nadia Haris ; Updated September 15, 2017
Give a shiny brass chandelier a dark, matte stain to update it.

If you live in an older home, chances are it has chandeliers, cupboard handles, and other fixtures that are made of solid brass or are plated with brass. Vintage furniture also often contains brass parts. Staining a brass chandelier, lamp, or other object helps to add color or change the finish, and is an economical and environmentally-friendly way to give brass a fresh look.

Types

Before you stain your brass lamp, table, or other object, it's important to know exactly what the finish is made of. Some types of metallic objects may appear to be brass but are actually lacquered or nickel-plated. They may also be made of zinc or brass-plated stainless steel. Some finishes and stains may not be suitable for all metal surfaces. If you do not know if your brass object is actually solid brass, look for stains that are suitable for all metal surfaces. Additionally, do a test patch in a small, discreet area on the brass, and wait for 24 hours to see the results before staining the entire object.

Cleaning

Before you can stain or paint brass or any other type of surface, it is important to make sure that it is free of dust, oils and grime. Any impurities on the surface can prevent the brass from being stained properly or leave unstained areas when it is cleaned later. Vinegar is a natural cleaning ingredient that you likely have in your kitchen cupboards. To make a gentle brass cleaner, dissolve a teaspoon of salt to a cup of white vinegar. Then add flour while stirring until a smooth paste is formed. Apply this paste with a rag and let it sit on the brass surface for about 15 mnutes. Rinse off with warm water and wipe dry with a clean, soft towel.

Stains

Unlike paints, stains are generally transparent colors that let some of the original brass colors and finishes show through. This can give objects subtle and flowing hues rather than bright, very noticeable colors. Glass stains that are usually used on ceramic, porcelain and glass objects can also adhere to brass and other metal finishes. These stains can be thinned with a lacquer and come in a variety of colors and shades. You can apply glass stains to brass with brushes, sponges or soft cloth rags.

Paint

You can apply several coats of stain to a brass surface to conceal the original color and finish, but completely changing a look may require painting the brass surface. You can spray-paint a brass lamp with metallic silver paint to make it appear to be stainless steel, or paint a brass chandelier opaque black to make a trendy home fixture.

About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.