How To Distress & Age Miniature Tin Buckets & Baths

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22 July 2013
imports_HAC_sam-0911_64950.jpg How To Distress & Age Miniature Tin Buckets & Baths
Two simple methods for removing the new shiny look of your tin and other soft metal miniature dolls house items. ...
How To Distress & Age Miniature Tin Buckets & Baths Images

For this project I thought I would stick to the subject of Baths or lack of, so I thought I would tackle the Trusty Tin Bath. Perhaps it may have been  well used, old and tatty, doubling up  as a laundry tub or even somewhere to keep the potatoes!  not a shiny bright item but something that had seen better days. The two techniques used can be easily applied to many other projects thus making it a little more versatile. I have tried to keep the materials required to a minimum, but there maybe one or two products you may have to hunt for. However if you have a problem, please email me (details below), and perhaps I could help.

I thought we could tackle a couple of techniques giving you a choice of two finishes. The first is a  very simple method to remove the new shiny look of  the tin Bath, Bucket, Bowl etc.  This method can be applied to most items made from tin and other soft metals ( it depends on the content of the metal) the second finish gives a much more pronounced degree of distressing creating a look of rusting and corroding.

Technique no. 1

For this you will need:

  • Household  Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Steel Wool
  • A de-greasing cleaning agent  (optional) or warm soapy water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Wide rimmed glass jar such as a Jam jar etc (empty of course)




  • Measure one teaspoonful of salt into the jar and add approx.
  • 100ml of Vinegar. Ideally White Vinegar is the best but you may have a job finding it on the supermarket shelves, however I experimented with an ordinary chip shop variety and although it took a little longer  it seemed to do the job. Please be warned though, because of its deleted strength it may not take on some tins or metals.  
  • Stand to one side and leave to dissolve. 
  • Stirring occasionally  to help this process along (use a wooden mixing stick or similar)


  • Whilst waiting for the salt to dissolve you will need to clean your bucket or bath with the Steel Wool.
  • Use it dry to rub the item well, making sure you remove all residue, dirt, etc from the surface. It will now look even shinier, but if this process is not carried out efficiently any areas you may have missed will not tarnish. 
  • To be double sure you could follow this with a wipe over of a solvent such as Acetone(nail varnish remover) but this is not essential and not worth the expense of purchasing unless you have further use of it.    
  • Next immerse the item in a container of warm soapy water and clean yet again.
  • Remove from the water using a pair of tweezers (not your fingers) and rinse under cool running tap and place on a clean kitchen paper towel and dry. 
  • Avoid handling with your bare hands as the natural oils in our skin can also act as a barrier and thus prevent the efficiency of the tarnishing. 
  • In fact only handle with the tweezers during the rest of the tarnishing process


  • Once the salt solution has dissolved  you may add the water.
  • If you have used  white vinegar, add 100ml of water  to the salt solution and stir. If you have used brown vinegar kind then reduce this to approx. 80ml.
  • Wear rubber gloves from now on as the solution is quite strong and may irritate your skin. Keep away from your eyes, do not ingest or inhale and keep out of the reach of children.


  • Lower small objects into the solution, immerse and leave.
  • Tarnishing can take any time from minutes up to hours so keep checking progress. 
  • Some imported tin baths/tubs have been treated with a spray type coating which requires a longer soaking up to 24 hours or more. This will peel-off  the“coating” and tarnishing will take place. 
  • When it has reached the desired “look” remove from solution.
  • Rinse in clean water, then soapy water, rinse again and dry.
  • For larger objects you will need to keep sponging them with the tarnishing solution or if you have a small spray bottle use that.  
  • Alternatively, mix a larger quantity into a larger glass jar by doubling up the recipe.

The finished tarnished item may now just be left to look aged - or rusting could be applied around the bottom or rim.  Well I hope you found this a useful project that would give a stepping stone to further finishes and above all a cheap one.

Technique no. 2

You will need:

  • Haematite (an Iron and Steel ageing solution available from the makers of LIBERON and should be available from good decorating suppliers)
  • Steel Wool
  • Cheap artists brush
  • Small piece of sponge (optional)
  • Rubber gloves

This finish will give a much more pronounced degree of distressing creating a look of rusting and corroding.


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  • If you intend to use the tarnished look as the base, then prepare the surface of your chosen item using the instructions as above, and then using the dry steel wool to rub down the surface until you create a semi tarnished and silvery finish.
  • Finish off with wet steel wool.
  • Clean in soapy water and rinse in clear.  
  • Dry.


  • Use a clean artists brush or piece of sponge to apply the Haematite to the prepared surface of the bath etc. by dribbling the solution down the sides and around the bottom -  in fact anywhere that you want corroding to take place.
  • As it dries it will leave a stain mark.
  • When almost dry apply another coat.
  • Keep repeating this until you build up a corrosive effect. 
  • You can let it dry completely and then apply more coats the next day.

Many different effects can be achieved using this medium, just play around and experiment. I hope you have found some of this useful and if you should require further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Email: [email protected]

This feature was originally published in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. If you like making miniatures, why not buy yourself a copy of the magazine. Or better still take out a subscription so you never miss an issue. For fans of Facebook and Twitter, or to email, print or comment on the feature, please use the buttons above to share with your friends.



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