Strip Brass With Oven Cleaner

I’ve written about stripping brass plate many times but I finally discovered the perfect one-two combination to make the job faster and easier. The secret — and I expect a decor blogger’s Hall of Fame Award for this — is Easy Off oven cleaner and a spongy sanding block. In the past I’ve used fine and super-fine steel wool with Blue Magic metal polish to do the job, but boy, oh boy, it was hard work. The oven cleaner’s corrosive action cuts down significantly on the amount of elbow grease required.

First, make sure you buy the cold-oven version of the product. An initial spritz tackles the invisible clear coat on the brass; I used synthetic steel wool — available in rectangular sheets for about $2 each — to help remove the Varathane. Then give the brass another spray and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. The spongy sanding pad makes reasonably quick work of stripping the thin layer of electroplated brass but it leaves light scratches on the chrome that polish right out with a little Blue Magic and some fine steel wool. The added advantage of using the soft sponge is that it makes doing the corners of the table a snap and these are typically the most difficult areas to strip. Just make sure you thoroughly wipe the piece down between the oven cleaner and the Blue Magic stages; no telling what kind of chemical reactions might occur.

Now, I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a wiggle-your-nose kind of job; stripping this table took an entire afternoon but the result is enormously satisfying. Craigslist is full of 1980s brass tables and lamps that people are practically giving away because nobody seems to want the look anymore, Kelly Wearstler and I, notwithstanding.  This table was scored on CL for $30 and I spent another $10 on supplies; I flipped it on Craigslist where it sold within hours of posting for $150! I think you’ll agree that the result speaks for itself.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

42 Comments For This Post

  1. Sanj Says:

    What?!! Bravo, I can’t wait to try this!

  2. Sherry Says:

    Do you think this will work on brass shower doors ? I want to up date mine without replacing them.

  3. Chris Says:

    Hi Sherry, the wildcard is that you never know what’s under the brass until you start stripping. People typically paint out brass plated shower surrounds so I’d give the oven cleaner a shot knowing that you might eventually have to paint it anyway.

  4. Sandra Says:

    Wow! Who knew what was lurking under that brass plate, great tip Chris. Thanks

  5. Shannon Says:

    Very Cool!!!

  6. Wallis Says:

    Boss! You, Kelly Wearstler and me!! Can’t wait to do it!!

  7. Lindsay @ A Walk in the Closet Says:

    Thanks for posting this DIY! I’ve seen some pieces at the local Goodwill with great potential but a not-so-great yellow chrome and have passed them by. It’s good to know it’s possible to strip the brass plating, albeit with some work involved.

  8. Lois Says:

    Good afternoon What WHOA?Brass Makeover Tricks you don’t KNOW about StyleNorth…Lois of sure glad we in the know do

  9. Liz @ It's Great To Be Home Says:

    Brilliant!!! I would never have thought of this – p.s. that table looked amazing after you got through with it!

  10. margo Says:

    Hi Chris,

    Did you know that your Brass Makeover tricks is now on line at Apartment therapy?

    Thanks for the tip.

    Margo on Vancouver island

  11. Rosanna Says:

    Great tip, Chris! Read it on my blogroll yesterday…and again today, as it appears Apartment Therapy picked it up. Maybe you *will* get the Hall of Fame award for this one!

  12. Lorena Says:

    You have the most amazing tips!!

  13. dionna Says:

    We just bought a house with brass fixtures all throughout – doorknobs, door hinges, etc. Do you think this would work on these type of items?
    Thanks – great tip!!

  14. Laura Says:

    Hi there, just a follow up I was the one who bought the table, and its funny that you say Kelly Wearstler, because if you look at the updated table vignette I have included her book Hue on it!! I am in love with the coffee table, it couldn’t have come at a better time!! If you are wondering how I found this- I didn’t a friend who follows my blog sent it to me, and sure enough it was the exact same decor that was in the craigslist post- Magda came by last night!! Anyways fabulous find!! xoxo


  15. Tim Says:

    great work Chris! you could have sold it for more. .. I would probably still have said say for $299!

    congrats on AT as well!

  16. Hogtownmike Says:

    I remember seeing your earlier tip–transforming a thift-store brass lamp. I loved that result, and am glad to see that you have a new, easier tip to achieve that same effect.

    Great work!

  17. Kate Says:

    You inspired me to buy these old funky 1970’s brass and glass tables off of craiglist today! I’m going to try your trick and see if I can make it work for me. If it does, I’ll be sure to post the results!!!! Thanks!!!

  18. Heather @ Interior Groupie Says:

    WOW what a transformation! Love the table, and the fact that you found a much easier solution to the metal cleaner route. can’t wait to try this out on some pieces.Thanks for the tips!

  19. Chris Says:

    Shower door surrounds, doorknobs, hinges . . . theoretically the method should work fine provided that a) the item is plated and not solid brass and b) that you can get into all the nooks and crannies of the item; the fussier the piece, the more challenging, which is why this right-angle table was the perfect project. If your items can’t be removed for refinishing, be very careful to tape off the surrounding area HEAVILY. Oven clean is very caustic and I’d hate to see you ruin something great for the sake of the brass. Also, be sure the space can be well ventilated; I did my initial spraying outdoors.

  20. Miguel Says:

    Been doing this for years with the easy off fume free. One further point – sometimes the bright metal base is prone to tarnishing as it was not designed as the final finish… a little car wax buffing at the end will keep it sealed and give the metal a nice final polish!

  21. bob klein Says:

    worked great, can’t beleive the result thanks alot looking forward to next tip

  22. Monique Says:

    Visiting from Mr. Goodwill Hunting…Wow. Your technique is a much better way of removing the brass. I saw another technique that involved a smelly, corrosive product. Can’t believe what an outstanding job you did on this table.

  23. Michelle (Three Men and a Lady) Says:

    No stinkin’ way! Awesome.

  24. Jackie Says:

    holy crap! you DEFINITELY deserve a blogger’s Hall of Fame Award for this!!!

  25. bobbie Says:

    To me… this does make you a blog superstar. I use oven cleaner to strip paint but we just bought a house with an ugly brass shower surround. I’m dying to replace it but I’m going to try this first since it wouldn’t hurt to try before replacing it. thank you!

  26. Theresa Says:

    You are the MAN! Thank you for this tip!

  27. Brian Says:

    I hope this works. Our master bath has brass faucet, towel bars, shower surround and light fixtures.

    Will this work on the faucets?? Please say it will.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    I found some contemporary shaped gold toned wall light fixtures. I tried the oven cleaner. It did take the brass plating off, however some of the piece looked great while some areas look tarnished. I tried to polish the tarnish spots away, but that didn’t work. What went wrong?

  29. Lauren @ From Everyday To Gourmet Says:

    Seriously brilliant! Thanks!!

  30. Carolyn Says:

    I’m wanting to try this on some lamps from the 70s. I’m wondering though, if it turns out to be solid brass, what would the oven cleaner do to it?
    I’m not against spray painting them if they get ruined in the process.


  31. Stacy Says:

    Found this great tip via Pinterest! Tried the first coat tonight on some hardware from the 70’s, and it’s working great! Thanks for the tutorial!!

  32. Ken Says:

    Hi Chris,

    I purchased a metal side table, overly neglected, and was painted gray. Through the scratches of a thin layer paint was brass. I used a spray stripper several times to reveal the brass. I eventually used up the entire spray can. Then I used your method of oven cleaner for cold surface and used (#0) Fine steel wool and Fine sponge sander. It seems the oven cleaner is not penetrating the brass layer as it is still the same brass. Cleaner brass, but still brass. Though I understand each item could have a thin layer, I may have one of those that was coated thoroughly, but may I ask how many times did you have to use the oven cleaner? And how long did you let the foam sit before scrubbing? Was there water and soap involved? And am I getting this correctly that when you used the Blue Magic polisher, you used a steel wool and not cloth? I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the tips!

  33. Beth Says:

    Ken, I just used cold oven cleaner to strip the brass off a couple of swing-arm sconces I picked up on Ebay. Where the metal was just brass-plated, the plating began to dissolve within a few minutes. I sprayed everything once to dissolve the shiny transparent coating on the brass plate and removed quickly. I sprayed a second time and let it sit about a half hour, and the brass plating was pretty much dissolved. Turned out there were a few parts on each lamp that were real brass under the plating, too. I’d say whatever plating was on your table, it’s gone by now.

  34. Cora Says:

    Wow Chris, as a long term MCM collector, I thought I had a Master’s in cleaning and restoring. Apparently, you have a PhD ; – ) Great idea. Will absolutely try it. Cora
    P.S. Same cold oven cleaner (spray version) works great on window screens. Spray, brush lightly, and presto, you can see through your screened windows again.

  35. Jill Says:

    Will this work on an 80’s style chandelier? I have tried to find one online, but everyone seems to be painting them.


  36. alyson Says:

    I just bought a table with a brass base that I want to turn to chrome. Will this process work on it? How would I begin to know if it is brass plated or solid brass?

  37. Carolyn Says:

    Do you think this would work on a brass fireplace?

  38. Jim Says:

    I stripped an entire Airstream trailer that was zinc plated with this method. Many cans. Use rubber gloves and don’t get any oven cleaner on you. That stuff is really pretty nasty and can burn your skin if not washed off quickly.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    I stripped the brass plating from a Milo Baughman etagere purchased at a thrift store. Its a gorgeous piece–I love it. However after following your technique, the chrome underneath is just OK. Any way to really shine it up?–it’s a bit dull.

  40. Sam Bell Says:

    This worked well on our ale pumps

  41. Kim Says:

    Hi. Your table looks beautiful! What brand of paint did you use and what color? Did you prime it first? I want to paint mine and not spray it because it’s for my shower trim and I read the spray goes everywhere!! Thanks

  42. Jackie Says:

    Thanks big time. I just found this blog by google-ing. I have lots of brass plated items to tackle. I picked up a great tip on another blog on how to tell if your item is solid brass or just plated. It said that magnets will NOT stick to SOLID brass. I hope that is correct since it is an easy way to find out if something is solid brass or not.

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