DIY · Home & Garden

How to Use Rub ‘n Buff on Metal Vintage Light Fixture + milk glass effect

Discover how to use Rub ‘n Buff to freshen up a metal light fixture for a complete makeover with less than $10. After adding finishing wax and creating a milk glass effect on the globe, this vintage fixture has more flair and less of an outdated style to it.

How to use rub n buff on metal is shown by a vintage light fixture after being madeover.

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Rub ‘n Buff has to be my favorite tool to use to restore vintage pieces or to make new pieces look more antique. At about $8 a tube, you can completely transform a piece of decor, hardware, or an old fixture. 

I personally love this set HERE that includes five popular colors commonly used for vintage pieces. 

When we began planning our cottage kitchen renovation, I knew we’d be on a budget so I’d have to cut costs where possible. One way of doing this was to use lots of paint on old things we couldn’t afford to replace. 

In the case of this old 1950s original light fixture above the kitchen sink, I decided to use a Rub ‘n Buff finishing wax to restore the color in the metal fixture and some white paint to achieve a vintage milk glass style on the glass. What a difference it makes!

I’m glad we didn’t decide to completely replace the fixture because it was specially designed for the location of this light. It would be difficult to find a replacement or expensive to buy a custom light to fit this exact opening.

Thankfully, some spray paint and finishing wax gave it a completely new style on a budget. I was able to get this project done in an afternoon and think you’ll love the ease of using this product. It’s simple, effective, and affordable.

Okay, now that I’ve got you convinced let’s get into exactly how to use Rub ‘n Buff on metal to restore a vintage light fixture… 

How to use rub n buff on metal is shown by a vintage light fixture after being madeover.

What is Rub ‘n Buff?

Rub ‘n Buff is a metallic liquid finishing wax you can buy in a variety of golds, silvers, copper, and black. It’s often used to give new metal or wood items an antique look or for restoring worn pieces. The small tube packs a punch and lasts for ages. Just dab on a little and spread it with a small brush or rag, rubbing it in lightly. A little goes a long way, which is why I love it so much. With so much versatility, it’s every crafter/artist/refinisher’s secret weapon. 

What else can I use to give a light fixture a vintage look?

My secret to updating the glass portion of the light fixture is to give it the milk glass style by painting the inside of it with white spray paint. Depending on the size of the opening, this is a fairly simple task. You spray the inside of the glass, let it dry and it’s done.

A clear globe is boring and old and in need of a makeover.
Before, old and dated, a glass globe is in need of a makeover.
After, the globe has been painted white for a milk glass vintage style.
After, the globe has been painted white and has a vintage milk glass style.

How to Use Rub ‘n Buff on Metal Light Fixture

Supplies | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

Rub ‘n Buff color of choice

Old rag

Old metal light fixture

Dish soap

White spray paint

Paint brush

Black paint, optional

Before, a lackluster fixture hangs and is in need of a refresh.
Before, a lackluster fixture hangs and is in need of a refresh.

Tips for Success | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

Rub ‘n Buff dries very quickly, but use caution when handling. It does take some time to cure, so I recommend waiting a day or so before reinstalling the light fixture. 

Adding a primer first (like black paint, in this case) helps Rub ‘n Buff stick better. I also think using a black paint under the metallic finishing wax gives it a more accurate color. This is why I strongly encourage you to paint the metal part black before applying the Rub ‘n Buff. If you’re switching drastically from one color to another, adding black first and then the Rub ‘n Buff after gives a more authentic gold color.

I recommend dabbing the tiniest bit of Rub ‘n Buff onto any screw heads that will be showing. I personally waited to do this until after reinstalling the light. This is very easy to do with a small artist brush.

Select a white spray paint that specifically mentions using on glass. Some paints will not stick to glass well.

Rub n Buff is shown up close to show off the European gold color.

Steps | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

1. Clean light fixture | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

Remove the light fixture and separate the bulb from the glass bowl and metal portion. Set the bulb aside until it’s time to reinstall the light. Wash the glass and metal portions with hot, soapy water. You can also use a 1:1 solution of vinegar water to clean it instead, if desired. Pat dry before moving to the next step. 

2. Create milk glass effect | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

Lay the glass globe out over newspaper. In a well ventilated area, begin spray painting the inside of the glass. Apply until it is fully covered. You may need to add another layer to create an opaque film. Let it dry before reapplying.

3. Add a primer to the metal portion, if needed

If you are making a drastic color change on the metal fixture, add some black paint to it first. This helps prime the Rub ‘n Buff and acts as a base to soften the strong pigment. Use a paint brush to cover it completely. Let this dry before moving on to the next step.

4. Apply Rub ‘n Buff | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

To apply the Rub ‘n Buff, squirt a drop onto a q-tip, rag, or paint brush and begin spreading it over the fixture. As you go, you’ll want to rub it in and buff it out gently. A little goes a long way so start with a small amount. Cover it completely until you’ve reached the desired effect.

5. Reinstall | how to use rub ‘n buff on metal light fixture

Let the painted parts dry for an hour before touching or moving. Let it cure for at least a day before reinstalling the light fixture and newly painted glass bowl. Add the globe back, securing with screws.

Rub n Buff on metal is shown on a vintage light fixture hanging above a sink.

More DIY Projects

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How to Strip Paint from Wood Doors

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How to Refinish Metal Patio Furniture

DIY Antique Gold Rub ‘n Buff Aged Picture Frame

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