Adding patina to a piece of metal can leave behind a stunning array of patterns and a rainbow of colors. However, is there an easy way to get patina on an otherwise ordinary piece of metal in order to turn it into breath-taking artwork without using harsh chemicals? Fortunately, causing a reaction on metal with chemicals found in a grocery store is easy and few of these methods require special tools or safety precautions.

No professional skills required to patina metal

While some techniques involving metal need professional skills to do the job correctly and safety, patina is not that difficult to execute. For example, patina often involves pouring a common food item on the top of a metal that just so happens to have a chemical reaction when it interacts with the food. This means that many of these methods are safe enough to include children.

feather necklace

Natural patina chemicals that require precaution

Most patina chemicals may be all-natural or simple in nature, but one is particularly dangerous when inhaled. Ammonia and saltwater create a specific type of patina for copper or brass, but opening the bottle of ammonia is enough to cause fainting. This chemical should only be used in a well-ventilated room to avoid fumes. When using ammonia be careful that it does not react with plastics or other unintended metals. Ammonia patina should never be done with a child or pets present.

What is liver of sulfur and is it safe?

Often, making a patina on silver involves using a set of chemicals to get the desired outcome. Sadly, like ammonia, this is a substance that could cause lung damage or other cognition problems if inhaled. For this reason, it might be considered all-natural, but it is hardly safe for children. Liver of sulfur also comes in a gel form that is intended to cut down on fumes.

Simplest patina is with heat

Using heat to change the color of copper is a form of patina, and it will produce dramatic results. In some instances, there are specialized torches that are made specifically to patina jewelry on a small scale. The only problem with heating metal to make a patina finish is that precautions will need to be made not to burn hands or singe hair. For this reason, wear fire protecting gloves as well as non-plastic eye shields.

torch firing for patina

Using eggs to create patina

Another simple way to create patina on silver is with a freshly boiled egg that is still hot. The method involves adding the cracked boiled egg to a jar along with the silver that you want to add a patina to. Over the course of several hours, the silver will darken, but the pearls or natural stones in the jewelry will not be damaged by the egg. Afterwards, discard the egg and rinse the jewelry to remove the egg. This patina method is also effective for brass and is less complicated than some of the other brass patina projects.

basket of eggs

Adding a rust effect to iron and steel

The beautiful red color of rust is perfect for certain types of outdoor decorative items like weather vanes or wind chimes. To get this effect with steel or iron, a couple of caustic ingredients are used. While they are all-natural, using safety gloves and eye protection is recommended. The recipe for this type of patina includes white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, table salt and bleach. Since this type of patina can get complicated and unsafe quickly, watching an instructional video before completing the project is recommended.

How to patina smaller items like beads

To add patina detail to specific areas, the best idea is to use smaller tools to apply natural chemicals. One other popular way to patina copper beads in large quantities is by using a mixture made from a teaspoon each of red wine vinegar and Miracle Grow. Miracle Grow has small amounts of ammonia, and it will reveal more blue colors if added with the water instead of vinegar.

Taking on larger, artistic patina projects

By adding different natural items to a simple salt and vinegar patina solution for copper, artistic patterns can emerge. For example, adding water to a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips and putting copper jewelry inside the bag allows for interesting patina patterns to form. Using vinegar and salt, copper can also achieve unique patina from unscented, untreated kitty litter or hamster cage wood chips.

salt and vinegar potato chips

Removing a bad patina job

When a project goes terribly wrong and you wish you could turn back time, there is a way to remove the patina naturally without harsh chemicals. Mainly, the simple method for patina removal involves using one cup of vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of salt. Add about a cup of flour to the vinegar and salt solution. This creates a paste that can be rubbed on a metal surface to remove patina. This can be effective for revealing any etchings in metal that might not be visible without some of the patina being removed.

Removing tarnish from gold or stainless steel

When you make jewelry, you can patina a piece of metal you did not intend. To correct the mistake with gold, get out some toothpaste and use a toothbrush to scrub away tarnish. As for stainless steel, the hazy streaks of patina can be removed with vinegar and refinished with a light rubbing of olive oil.

Should I consider sealants for my all-natural patina projects?

When you are finished with your patina project, you might want to seal it, but is there an all-natural or organic choice? Before you start to use an aerosol can with sealants on your jewelry, consider the item. For example, adding patina to silver filigree will not need a spray-on sealant.

Alternatively, if you want to freeze the artistic patterns in a piece of copper, finding a sealant that has some environmentally friendly characteristics will be your next step. As a precaution, children should not use chemical sealants without a mask specifically designed for the substances you are using. Otherwise, this part of the project needs to be done in an area that children will not be occupying for at least 12 to 24 hours in order to avoid the wet surfaces or fumes.