It’s no secret that I love reusing and upcycling my sewing and craft materials whenever I can. Belt buckles, D-rings, and other hardware never wear out as quickly as the rest of the garment does, so I save them and repurpose them in new projects. But the older buckles and rings are usually tarnished and kind of rough-looking, even if they are still structurally sound. How do I make them look like new again? And better yet, how do I do it without using any harsh, smelly, dangerous chemical compounds?
This simple tarnish-removing trick works on more than just belt buckles. It’s removed tarnish from my house numbers, hinges, and even a large metal planter that I wanted to use as a trash can. It’s ideal for items that are made of solid brass, but I have used it dozens of times on different kinds of metals, and the results have always been impressive.
If you are not sure what kind of metal your item is made out of, you can still try it, but be aware that the color of the metal underneath the tarnish might not be exactly what you were expecting. You may end up with a more copper or silver tone than you originally started out with. And just to be safe, I wouldn’t use it on anything that is special or has sentimental value. I have never had bad results, but since most hardware doesn’t say what kind of metal it is made of, there is a chance that you could end up ruining your metal.
For this tutorial, I am removing the tarnish from four random buckles that I cut off of old belts:
- I thought the one on the top left might be a lost cause. It definitely looked the worst to start out with.
- The one on the top right had one side that already looked silver, and I thought for sure that it would end up silver all over.
- The one on the bottom left was stamped “solid brass”, and it had the least tarnish of any of them starting out. The others had no writing on them, and I think they are probably a mix of different metals melted together to make an inexpensive alloy – in other words, “pot metal.”
- The big rectangular one (bottom right) seemed to be plated with a different metal, because it had a few deep scratches, and you can see that the material underneath the plating is silver in color. I didn’t want to remove all of the plating and end up with a silver buckle, but it looked so bad to start out with that I really didn’t have anything to lose.
The results are impressive! The big rectangular one actually did great; besides the original deep scratches, the plating is still in good shape and I think it looks a lot better. Even the one I thought might be a lost cause looks amazing now, and I’d use any of them on a new project. So here’s how I did it:
Start by getting a small cup or bowl that is about the same size as the buckle (I’m using a yogurt cup). Place the buckle inside, and cover it with ketchup.
Make sure there are no air bubbles like the one I pointed out in the picture. You can thin the ketchup out with a tiny bit of water if you’re having trouble getting it to cover the buckle smoothly.
I believe “ketchup” refers to a different food in some countries… for the sake of clarity, I’m talking about tomato ketchup, like this stuff. You probably have some random packets of it from a restaurant (that’s what I’m using).
Let the buckle sit, completely covered in ketchup, for about 10 minutes.
Now take the buckle out, and scrub it with a plastic scrub pad (a scrub pad like this; the kind that’s safe to use on nonstick cookware. You probably have some on hand). You should notice the tarnish coming off, and the buckle shining more and more. Make sure to get in all of the corners and crevices. If there is still more tarnish on the buckle, you can put it back in the ketchup for another few minutes and then scrub it again.
When you’re satisfied, give it a good polish with a wet rag and a dab of toothpaste, then rinse it well and dry it off. Ta-daa! You have a belt buckle that looks like new, ready to be put to use in another project.
Try it out for yourself on some old dingy D-rings or buckles, or pin this idea to use later!