Skip to Content

3 Easy Ways to Make Copper Patina (Green Verdigris with Household Ingredients!)

Sharing is caring!

We may earn a commission on purchases made after clicking links on this page.

copper patina recipe

by Robin

Last week we shared our big, fun ideas for the ugliest room in our house.  Our old basement laundry room is being transformed into our new cozy, industrial underground pub and hobby room.

It’s a room that I’m really excited about because it’s a space we can have so much fun in!

It will be fun to play in when we’re done, but also we’re having a blast creating some really interesting DIY projects to make it come to life.  (You can check out our whole vision for our basement bar and craft room here.)

The first area of the room we’re tackling is the staircase.

Last week you saw the BEFORE: our stairs in their great-grandma chic glory. Right now they’re covered in yellowing sheet vinyl top to bottom, with some very functional glued on vinyl nosing.

When our basement bathroom was being photographed last year for Better Homes and Gardens magazine the photographer’s assistant nailed it: “Wow! I feel like I’m going down my grandparent’s actual basement stairs here.” I’m sure it was one of his more impressive shoots. (And I laughed to cover my embarrassment.)

We’re finally ready for our stair makeover – and this is project #1.  Our vision is stained wood treads and eye-catching risers.  These will be copper stair risers!

And not fresh, shiny new copper. They’re going to be old-world aged copper with the green verdigris patina that I love. 

In this post, I’m sharing 3 ways to make copper patina – subtle, green and blue. And would you believe that you’ve probably got all the ingredients in your home already? Kitchen chemistry is so much fun! 

3 Easy Copper Patina Recipes

The first part of my job was to figure out how to patina copper sheets.

We bought enough of these copper sheets to cover our stair risers. They’re a great size, perfect thickness for our idea and cut really easily!

I decided to experiment with the off-cut bits to get the patina just right without wasting anything. I did three experiments with stuff I already had at home (or borrowed from my friend Judy because our shed was full of demo stuff for the dump.)

1. Subtle Copper Patina Recipe

copper patina solution
This one took the shine off the copper and added some small and very subdued green areas.

Here’s what I did:

1) Made a solution with the following ratio:

  • 3 Tablespoons White Vinegar (5%) (45 mL)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt (5 mL)

2) Stirred very well until the salt dissolved completely.

3) Let the copper soak for 30 minutes.

4) Removed the copper and let it dry.

** A word of caution! Use disposable equipment that you don’t mind ruining.

don truinyourutensils
I didn’t think salt and vinegar would do such damage to my fork!

(I think I heard salt and vinegar and thought: chips! Not sodium acetate and hydrogen chloride solution. Don’t DIY hungry, folks.)

I learned from this mistake and used plastic tools from this point on.

2. How to turn copper green

how to turn copper green
I was a bit disappointed with that first experiment. I wanted something more striking and green. I got just that with this recipe!

Here’s what I did:
1) Made a solution with the following 3:1 ratio:

  • 3 Tablespoons Water (45 mL)
  • 1 Tablespoon Miracle Grow plant food (15mL)

2) Stirred very well until the Miracle Grow dissolved completely.

3) Let the copper soak for 30 minutes.

4) Removed the copper and let it dry.  The colour will develop gradually while it dries.

3. Blue Patina on Copper

blue patina on copper
This one is pretty too!

More dramatic than #1 and more blue than #2

Here’s what I did:
1) Made a solution with the following 3:1 ratio:

  • 3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar (45 mL)
  • 1 Tablespoon Miracle Grow plant food (15mL)

2) Stirred very well until the Miracle Grow dissolved completely.

3) Let the copper soak for 30 minutes.

4) Removed the copper and let it dry.  The colour will develop gradually while it dries.

copperpatinasolution
My kitchen chemistry tools – not show is the plastic fork I used for stirring once I wised up.
 

If you want to learn even more ways to make copper patina – and every single thing there is to know about copper – check out this site

I didn’t show a few more recipes that they discuss above, like one with boiled eggs and a couple with ammonia.  (I am weirdly odour sensitive – and avoid using scented products for fear of triggering headaches or migraines – so I chose the least stinky options.)  The egg one seemed way too involved for me to want to even try.

So far my plan for our copper stair risers is to do a mixture of the finishes. 

I’m going to do recipe #1 to dull the shiny copper – for this I’ll soak the pieces.  Then I’m going to use the other two finishes in certain areas of each riser. I’m going to try:

  • pooling the solution in large sections,
  • using droppers to create random patterns, and
  • spritz some areas with a misting bottle.

Each copper sheet has two sides – so I’ll have double the choice of riser for the final stair makeover. Room for error gives me much more confidence to play!

I’m excited and nervous about how this will all turn out. The sweet spot for really interesting creative projects, no? 

Update: Here’s our completed DIY Copper Stair Risers project!

Stay tuned to follow along on our renovation journey! Don’t miss a thing by subscribing to our weekly-ish newsletter here.


You can find all of our beautiful – and budget – Craft and DIY ideas here!

Sharing is caring!

Cait

Monday 4th of October 2021

Do you need to rinse or neutralize the copper after it comes out of the solution?

frugalfamilytimes

Monday 4th of October 2021

We just let it dry, Cait. :)

Jon

Sunday 28th of March 2021

I was impressed with the wear to your fork. It makes it look like a family heirloom.

frugalfamilytimes

Friday 14th of May 2021

That's a very positive way to look at it, John! :)

Donna Lockamy

Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Just saw your DIY process for making copper patina stair riser covers. Very impressed with the look, and what a dramatic improvement. When carpet was removed from my stairs it was apparent the treads needed to be replaced and the risers needed some attention, so wish me luck in trying your idea. Thanks so much for sharing.

frugalfamilytimes

Friday 14th of May 2021

Hi, Donna! I'm so curious - did you try out idea? I'd love to see it. :)

Kelly

Friday 2nd of October 2020

Hi just curious did you spray the copper after it dried with clear coat or anything to keep the patina from coming off? Thanks for the helpful guide!

frugalfamilytimes

Saturday 3rd of October 2020

Hi Kelly! For the samples here I didn't spray anything on them - so far the patina hasn't come off - but they don't get much wear and tear. For the copper stair risers we made we did spray them - you can see it all here: https://www.frugalfamilytimes.com/2020/07/how-to-make-copper-stair-risers-diy-makeover.html