What is Rub-N-Buff? Plus Color Guide and How to Use It

I used Rub-n-Buff to give an antiqued look to these gold-tone lights

If you haven’t used Rub-n-Buff in your home decorating or renovation projects yet, it’s about to change your world. Rub-n-Buff is a wax-like metallic paste that you can use to add glimmering details to all sorts of things. I’ve used it on lighting, plumbing lines, hardware, picture frames, and furniture.

The beauty of Rub-n-Buff is, unlike metallic paint or spray paint, you don’t need a lot of prep before using it, and it can be used on items in place. I.e. You can Rub-n-Buff a wall sconce without taking it off the wall, unlike you’d have to do if you were spray painting it. I also love it for smaller jobs and detail work.

A few of my Rub-n-Buff before and afters

My favorite way to use Rub-n-Buff is on lighting. This is probably because when we moved into our home, all of our light fixtures were that 1980s shiny yellow brass color. I love brass, but not 80s brass. At the same time, though, the style of the light fixtures (particularly the sconces) was very classic, so I couldn’t see spending a ton of money to change them out.

Instead, I gave them a coat of Rub-n-Buff, which totally transformed them (in my eyes, at least, though I know going from shiny gold to muted gold isn’t exactly the most impressive DIY makeover!). You can see in the before photo on the left, that the gold is very shiny and yellow, and then on the right it’s darker and less shiny, which feels a lot less dated to me. I used Rub-N-Buff gold leaf for these sconces.

Before (left) & After (right)

Here’s an Instagram reel of another light fixture I did:

For this one I wanted a antiqued look, so I sort of just smeared it on the light fixture and let it sit, I didn’t do a ton of rubbing or buffing.

What is Rub-n-Buff?

Rub-n-Buff gold tones, via ShopExCorp on Etsy

If you’re wondering what Rub-n-Buff is, exactly, it’s basically a shiny metallic wax that comes in a tube. It’s used almost like paint, to add a shiny finish to home decor, plumbing, frames, hardware, etc, except that instead of applying it with a brush, you apply it with a cloth or your finger.

According to the company, Rub-n-Buff is made from metallic pigments and carnauba wax.

Rub-n-Buff Colors

Image via AMACO Rub-N-Buff

Rub-n-Buff comes in a range of colors, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a suitable shade for your project. Colors include:

I tend to use the Gold Leaf and Antique Gold the most, but if you want to find your own favorite, Amazon sells a Rub-n-Buff sampler pack with a bunch of shades in it.

Certain shades, like Patina ( a minty sage green tint), Pewter (a dark gray-silver) and Ruby ( a deep metallic red) tend to be harder to find, so check your local craft and specialty stores if you can’t find it online.

What do you used Rub-n-Buff on?

I used Rub-N-Buff in our powder room to turn the stainless steel toilet line gold.

One of the great things about Rub-n-Buff is that you can use it on almost any hard surface. I’ve personally used it on picture frames, toilet plumbing lines, light fixtures, and drawer hardware. I’ve also seen it used furniture legs, glass etchings, and to highlight furniture trim/detail work.

Basically, you can use it to refresh or change the tone of metal surfaces, and to add metallic details to furnishings and decor. I’ve tried it on both wood and metal, but I have not tried it on glass or plastic, though I’m sure it would work just fine on either!

How do you used Rub-n-Buff?

As I mentioned, one of the reason I really like using Rub-n-Buff is that it’s so easy to apply: First you rub, then you buff.

Ok there’s a tiny bit more to it than that.

You simply squeeze the product out of the tube and onto your finger, a paint brush or a rag, and you rub it onto the (clean!) surface you want to color. Rub-n-Buff dries pretty fast, so you’ll need to work quickly to spread the paste around and even it out. Then, you use a cloth to buff it to your desired shine. It gets shinier the more you buff it.

That’s it! You don’t need to use any sort of top coat or protector with Rub-n-Buff, which also keeps the application process simple.

Is Rub-n-Buff waterproof?

Yes, Rub-n-Buff is waterproof! According to the manufacturer, the wax base allows it to self-seal and acts as its own waterproof barrier. This is great news if you are thinking about using Rub-n-Buff

Is Rub-n-Buff permanent?

Yes, Rub-n-Buff is permanent, so make sure you’re certain about your decision before you start applying! Like all paints and finishes, it can still be scratched or chipped, so take care with your finished surfaces.

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  1. I’ve never tried it myself, but I’m thinking it would probably work – you’d just have to mix them very well.

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