The Secrets of Oil Rubbed Bronze

Recently, my husband and I purchased a home that was completely kitted out in oil rubbed bronze. It’s on the faucets, the door knobs, and even the doorstops. And most of it was turning green. I called a popular manufacturer of oil rubbed bronze fixtures, and all they could tell me was to wipe it down with cloth and keep it away from moisture. They left out a lot of information. So did the owner’s manual I was able to dig up online. And you know why? Because oil rubbed bronze is much harder to clean and care for than any manufacturer is willing to let on.

It’s Supposed to Change Color
If someone had tuned me in to this little tidbit, I wouldn’t have spent so much elbow grease and sweat trying to buff out the darkened areas. Over time, as oil rubbed bronze oxidizes, it develops a patina. Some parts will be darker, some will lighten to reveal copper tones. This is not only natural but inevitable. You can’t stop it or scrub it away (you’ll make it worse), so just relax. Your fixtures are building character.

Keep the Surface Clean
The manufacturer’s agent was right when he warned me about water, but he should have mentioned that oil rubbed bronze is also affected by everything else. If you want to keep your fixtures in top shape, get ready to commit the rest of your life to a dry chamois. Keep one near every oil rubbed bronze fixture in the house.

If your fixtures have been touched at some point in the day, wipe it down (never scrub you’ll ruin the finish) before you go to bed or the skin oils will start to eat away at the finish. If you’re oil rubbed bronze is on a faucet, you have to act immediately. Wipe away any water as soon as you’re done using the faucet. Follow behind your guests and wipe it down after they use it. Water spots are the worst. They’re tough to buff out and the buffing action rubs off the finish and leaves behind permanent marks.

Keep the Surface Protected
In my opinion, oil rubbed bronze should only be used in a vacuum. Oil rubbed bronze is one of the most oxygen sensitive of all the metals. To protect it from the air surrounding it, rub it with mineral oil. Moisten a chamois with it then rub it all over the oil rubbed bronze. Scrub in the nooks and crannies and spots where moisture and oxygen might come together and completely destroy the surface.

To protect the oil that’s protecting the surface, you’ll need to wax the oil rubbed bronze once every two months. A can of furniture wax will do the trick. Use a chamois to massage it in and wipe it off according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be gentle. Always wipe, never buff. You’ll strip off the finish.

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