August 11, 2013

How I Give Metal and Wire Pieces an Aged, Rusty Patina Using Vinegar, Hydrogen Peroxide and Salt

aged metal hardware drawer pull on table leg dragonfly
Look at that beautiful aged metal.
Verdigris patina and rusted or aged metal pieces are perfect for 
recycled art projects like my table leg dragonflies and butterflies.

Even though I have a stash of aged pieces and parts I use in recycled art,
I sometimes start with new or new "looking" pieces but want them to 
have a little more character. To achieve that, I use this process and
it works great for me.

Please use your own judgement when mixing ingredients, even "natural" ones.

tubs of aged metal and rusty hardware ready to used in artwork
This is one small section of my supply of metal 
pieces and parts I choose from when I'm creating.

vintage hardware for mixed media art
Some of my supply, like this great vintage hardware, already has a beautiful 
patina of rust, oxidation or chippy paint so I don't touch them, other
pieces need a little help!

I've tried lots of different combos for aging metal. 
I've dissolved bromine tablets that are used for pool and spa sanitation in water then 
sprayed the metal... don't bother, 
I've used straight bleach, straight vinegar and have straight up left stuff in the 
weather and rain. I've gotten pretty good results with all of them, except for the bromine 
but my new process seems to work the best for me.

metal roofing discs recycled art
This is the body of one of my Architectural Angels I made a while back.
Those are metal roofing nail discs that I aged with hydrogen peroxide and salt.
You can buy boxes of these at your home improvement stores and they start 
out very shiny.

aged metal plumbing strap
On this giant vintage reclaimed wood Butterfly, I aged the metal strapping that wraps
around the edge of the butterfly with hydrogen peroxide and salt and it worked 
fine but my latest recipe includes vinegar as well.

I used the combo with the vinegar after loosely following these instructions I found online.
By loosely, I mean I didn't use a degreaser and I didn't measure anything.
After I had the basic idea I just combined ingredients to see what I could get.

create aged metal, rusty metal
I don't have a "during" pic but I start with a big plastic tub and dump in all kinds of metal 
pieces like wire, knobs, washers, house numbers or whatever I have laying around.

I pour plain white vinegar to cover all the pieces and let soak for a while.
It could be a day or a few hours, it just depends on what I have going on.
I have found setting the tub in direct sun seems to speed it all up.

The vinegar helps to etch the metal so the peroxide and salt that I add later can work it's magic.

how to aged verdigris metal hardware
After the items have soaked, I pour off the vinegar then pour on several bottles of drug store hydrogen peroxide and sprinkle with kosher salt, I'm sure regular table salt is fine but I had
a big box of kosher salt on hand.

The basic gist of this process is that hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer and salt, 
when left on metal, is corrosive and will cause rust.

how to create rust metal washers
I usually have my bin packed full so every now and then, I'll tilt the tub to swish the 
peroxide and salt around and over the pieces to make sure they are all getting coated.
If you only have a few items and they are all covered with the solution,
you don't need to worry about swishing it around.

Then I let the pieces sit in the peroxide and salt solution anywhere from 30 min to a day
... so technicalšŸ˜„

how to make things rusty bottle cap art
Final step, I pour off the excess liquid and dump the whole tub of pieces 
on a big piece of cardboard and let dry in the sun.
Then I wait for it to dry to see what I get. It's exciting...really!

create aged, rusty metal house numbers for art
Since I do this processt kind of haphazardly, I can get haphazard results which is actually 
perfect for me. But if anything is not "aged" enough, I will put it in the next batch.
Sometimes newer pieces with heavy duty finishes may need two rounds for the 
vinegar to etch or break through the tough coating/finish.

DIY metal aged pieces used in mixed media art
The metal door knob back plates above that I bought shiny and new from Restore,
Looks like they probably needed to be soaked in vinegar a little longer to etch the coating
so the the hydrogen peroxide and salt could help them rust.

DIY rusty wire
Shown here, rusty wire, metal strapping and roofing discs.
I actually used to pay money to buy rusty wire to use on my dragonflies until 
I realized I could make it.  I buy big rolls of galvanized utility wire from Home Depot or Lowe's 
and create my own rusty wire.  These rolls of wire are usually in the 
picture and mirror hanging supplies area of these stores.

Some rust will come off on your hands as you are working with it but 
once the project is complete, I apply either a spray clear sealer or brush on
 Minwax Polycrylic to protect the finished piece.

DIY rusty hinges and clock hands
Above are huge clock hands that started out shiny black along with metal hinges, and a piece of
copper pipe.

I ended up using those clock hands on my country to funky cabinet makeover.

Thanks for stopping by to check out my rust technique!

Update May 2017
Please visit my new online shop featuring my mosaics.

I still have some items in my Etsy shop as well. You can also find me on
Facebook , Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest too. Thank you!


  1. Thanks for the very helpful instructions.

  2. thanks for that always wondered how this was done cheers vicki

  3. I love this technique. I have hardware that was originally brass. I spray painted them black. Have you ever used this technique on spray painted hardware? Do you think I will need to remove the spray paint first?

  4. Hi Roxy, I haven't done this on spray painted pieces but I bet the vinegar would help etch or eat through the paint finish so the peroxide and salt can get in there to age it.

  5. Hello - I love this post! Do you use galvanized steel wire? And do you coat your items with something to keep the rust from coming off?

    1. Hi Cheryl, yes the wire was galvanized. The vinegar seems to help etch the finish so the other elements can get in there and cause rust. Some rust will come off on your hands as you are working with the wire but after my project is complete, I seal with spray clear sealer or brush on clear Minwax Polycrylic.

  6. Does anybody know if this finish will hold up outdoors? I'm making some large sculptures from tin cans. I've read that some of these rust finishes can actually wash off??? Thanks!

  7. Brandi, as I mentioned in the post, I've had residue of the rusty result come off on my hands when working with it but not the whole finish. I don't believe the whole finish would wash off. I have always used a spray sealer to seal the finish but mine were indoor or covered outdoor use. Maybe you could do a test run of a couple of the pieces before adding to your sculpture to see what happens.


I've moved to to focus on my mosaic art. I'm no longer creating dragonflies or mermaids.

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