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How to Remove Lacquer From Brass to Reveal a Brushed Finish

Before I show you how to remove lacquer from brass, to reveal a beautiful brushed finish, I am going to let you in on a little secret: my Mom and I have been hard at work, giving her kitchen a budget-friendly makeover! (UPDATE: check out the finished budget-friendly kitchen makeover right here).

Today’s brass refinishing experiment is a little project from this kitchen makeover, but there will be a ton of inexpensive DIY projects to share soon.  Get ready for: Painted cabinets! Repaired and refinished laminate counters! The tulip table finding a home after 6 years!  Something with gold tweed!  And sooo much peel and stick tile…

Remove Lacquer From Brass with AcetoneHow to Remove Lacquer From Brass to Reveal a Brushed Finish | Refinish Brass Hardware | Money Saving Hacks

But right now everything’s drying, curing, in transit, or some sort of limbo.  I’ll have more photos soon, but for now here’s a sneak peek of our brass knob refurbishing experiment and an easy tutorial for how to remove lacquer from brass.

My Mom’s cabinetry had the original brass knobs from the 1980s.  They are solid and she likes the shape but, after 30 years, she was tired of the shiny lacquered finish.  From wear and use, some of the brass had started to develop a gorgeous patina that matched that of the original brass door knobs that were installed by my Great-Grandfather in the 1950s:

1950s Brass Door Knob

Infuriatingly, however, some of the kitchen knobs were still very glossy 80s brass and looked brand new My Mom hated the unintentionally mismatched look of old brass/new brass.

Brass Knobs

She loved how my brass knobs looked after I sanded them for painting, so we tried to achieve a similar brushed brass look with less elbow grease.  Here’s how to remove lacquer from brass to reveal a brushed finish.

Supplies for Removing Lacquer from Brass:

How to Remove Lacquer From Brass and Reveal a Brushed Gold Finish:

First we soaked the knobs in an old metal baking pan filled with acetone for a couple of hours:

How to Age Brass Knobs

Clean Brass Knobs with Acetone

How to Turn Lacquered Brass into Brushed

Then, wearing rubber gloves and working outside (a face mask isn’t a bad idea), we gave the brass knobs a good, thorough scrub with a scouring pad.

DIY Brushed Brass Knobs

The glossy finish – and years of grime – came off with a bit of coaxing, leaving behind a really, really gorgeous brushed brass finish, that’s lighter and brighter than the formerly yellowy brass.

We successfully turned lacquered brass into brushed brass!  Best of all, they are all uniformly brushed, with some minimal patina, here and there – much better than the former mix of brassy new and totally worn out knobs.  Plus, it’s a fresh change for my Mom, who is thrilled with the results.  It’s like getting all new brushed brass knobs for a couple of bucks!

Remove Shine and Wear from Brass Knobs

Now the plan is to let them age naturally and develop a more even patina.  But you could also apply a matte clear coat to preserve this finish. Right now we both loved the brushed, but not too perfect look – they look like they’ve been here for years and suit the age of the house.

DIY Brushed Brass Cabinet Knobs

Turn Shiny Brass into Brushed Gold

Clean Gold Knobs with Acetone

Mom loves the brushed brass as a fresh alternative to the formerly glossy lacquered look – plus they look stellar with the newly painted (spoiler alert) fog grey cabinetry!

How to remove lacquer from brass for a softer brushed finish

I’m so excited to share some more updates as we check items off our to-to list.

UPDATE: see the finished, budget-friendly kitchen makeover here.  We’re SO proud of our handiwork!



  1. Vin
    June 29, 2016 / 5:23 pm

    Such a simple change but it looks so good! Can't wait to see the full reveal.This post was also touching, I hope your family finds strength and hope. Hugs.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      June 29, 2016 / 8:22 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Vin. I think once my parents' home becomes a place they can relax and unwind, they might start to feel hopeful about the future. We take for granted what a privilege it is to have a safe space to call home. It really does make me feel happy to be in my home – I'm so lucky for that! I am excited to share more about the room. The blush pink walls are making everyone smile!

  2. Unknown
    June 30, 2016 / 1:09 am

    I love this post. I am just sitting down tonight with some Rub n' Buff to see if I can make my kitchen handles/hinges match my new Champagne Bronze faucet. If I can't do that, I might use your above method.

  3. Cred X
    June 30, 2016 / 4:08 am

    The treatment worked great- those knobs look much better. I hope your mom loves her new kitchen refresh. It's true how much it can affect how you feel. My home is a sanctuary for me, for sure. A good organizing project does wonders for me- I can feel overwhelmed by disorder. I'm not naturally organized and some friends find it funny that I would makes such an effort, but order brings me peace. I have lots of spots that need organizing, it's not like my whole house is sorted, but key areas, like my kitchen, are key to my well-being. I hope that your parents find some comfort from sprucing up their place, too.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      June 30, 2016 / 5:16 pm

      What you say about organizing is so true! My Mom and I both feel overwhelmed by disorder too. I find it calms my mind to get things orderly and I need to keep at it for my mental health! It's interesting the role our homes play in our happiness and well being.

  4. Noelle
    June 30, 2016 / 5:22 am

    This is wonderful, Tanya! I love how you tackle risky projects- this one really paid off. You motivate me to put a little effort into my dated kitchen. Wishing you and your family the best during these difficult times and good on you for helping your parents through them using your special talents.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      June 30, 2016 / 5:18 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Noelle. I am really excited to finish the space for my Mom – even with the stove and fridge still pulled out, paint curing, and the kitchen table shoved in her living room, and the counter top unusable while it cures, she looked around and said, "I'm so thrilled!". She was beaming!

  5. chelsie
    June 30, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    I'm really looking forward to seeing more!

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      June 30, 2016 / 5:21 pm

      I'm so thrilled you're excited about this makeover! We still have some work to do but I'm already loving the transformation. We're just waiting on some paint to cure and some items to be shipped, but it won't be long. Oh yeah, I have to get my butt over there and make my Mom a painting, too… Yikes!

  6. Ashley Peterson
    June 30, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    This came at just the right time! I just bought a bunch of those same knobs from a thrift store and wasn't quite sure how to get them to look current. I've heard of using CitriStrip to get the shellac off but your method looks so good I'll have to try it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      June 30, 2016 / 5:19 pm

      CitriStrip might work just as well, I've never tried it! It was funny because we happened to need some acetone for a boat project so Hubby and I both had "acetone" on our shopping list. It was a convenient item for us to buy, lol. Hope your knobs turn out great – I'd love to see when you're done!

  7. brikhouse2
    July 2, 2016 / 10:23 pm

    They look much better! We're still waiting on a final "after" of your bathroom! :o)

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      July 6, 2016 / 6:40 pm

      I know! A shower curtain really held me up. Lol. Of all things. I just have to attach the liner, give it a deep clean and then I can share some pictures. I feel guilty every time I'm in there, enjoying my aqua sinks, haha.

    • brikhouse2
      July 13, 2016 / 7:49 am

      Thought ya forgot all about us while you moved onto another reno project *sniff sniff*

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      July 13, 2016 / 5:31 pm

      Haha, NEVER!

  8. Robert Smith
    July 23, 2016 / 5:54 am

    Thanks for great guide. It helps me a lots. Hope to see more tips on your blog in the future.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      July 23, 2016 / 9:12 pm

      Thanks Robert, happy you found it useful!

  9. Dirty Karma
    July 23, 2016 / 6:52 am

    The knobs look shiny new again. Totally love this makeover.I really like how you take notice and spend time on even tiny little things like this. Reading your blog, it makes me thing twice if I really put effort in keeping my house.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      July 23, 2016 / 9:13 pm

      Awww, don't feel bad! I could publish a post of all of the many things I let slide, lol. I am detail oriented when it comes to things that look good, but there are definitely areas in my home where I'm not putting in as much effort – I swear!

  10. Shredder News
    August 8, 2016 / 8:03 am

    It looks amazing! The knobs turned out new and shiny. I'm too lazy to do this for my house. Thanks for your helpful tips. I will give it a try.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      August 9, 2016 / 1:37 am

      Happy you think this tutorial is helpful!

  11. Allison
    March 24, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Do you think this application would work on outdated brass door knobs? My home was built in 2004.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      March 25, 2018 / 11:42 pm

      I think the date of manufacture probably doesn’t matter. What matters is if they’re solid. If it’s just a brass plate, it might not work as well, but I’m not certain. I’m just imagining that a brass finish might not react the same. These were solid. If you really hate your knobs, try this technique! If it doesn’t work, you can always sand them and paint.

  12. April 5, 2018 / 2:04 am

    thanx alot

  13. November 23, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    very good information given by your blog.

  14. Victoria
    April 7, 2021 / 9:03 pm

    Did you seal them with anything after so they don’t end up tarnishing or developing patina and getting darker? I want to do this for my fixtures and they look great but I’m concerned I need to seal the brushed finish or else it will eventually darken and need to be re-shined.

    • April 8, 2021 / 8:20 pm

      I did not seal them because my Mom wanted them to develop a cool patina, which they didn’t lol. But I am sure you can easily coat them with a lacquer designed for metal.

  15. TML
    September 17, 2022 / 5:23 am


    Do you have any advice on how to turn antique brass into brushed brass or polished brass? I bought some bathroom accessories that looked like a light gold online but in real life they have an antique brass look to them and I can’t return them!

    • September 17, 2022 / 5:46 pm

      Have you tried brass polish? Is it real brass? If it is, I’d suggest the trick I used here to remove the lacquer. Not knowing what has created the antique brass finish on your accessories, I can’t say for certain how to remove it, but this *should* strip off any layers and reveal the raw brass underneath.

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