I've got this here ring.

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It's covered in some sort of grey paint or varnish that I can scrape off to reveal a copper base. I'd like to remove all of the varnish, and scraping will only do so much - I cannot, for example, scrape off the varnish on the inner edges.

What can I use to remove the varnish?

3 Answers 3


Start with acetone (nail polish remover) and see if that does the trick. Agitating with a Q-tip can speed things along. It all depends on what the coating is, but acetone won't hurt the copper so it's a good place to start. If it works but isn't fast, you might try soaking it for an hour or so.

A more aggressive approach would be oven cleaner, but it's likely to remove any patina from the copper and shouldn't be left on there too long. Also make sure to rinse thoroughly with water afterwards to remove any caustic residue.

  • Tried soaking it in acetone, and it actually did help remove any already loose bits, so I'm thinking I might try to scrape the ring up a bit and then soak it again.
    – jackwise
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 12:37

If the acetone suggested earlier doesn't work, put the ring into paint thinner to soak (or mineral spirits, but paint thinner is somewhat less expensive and simply a less refined version of mineral spirits). Let it soak at least 15 minutes, then brush with an old stiff toothbrush. If the varnish comes off, put the ring into fresh paint thinner to soak a few minutes, in order to remove the final residue, wiping the ring between rinsing soaks. Let dry.

If the varnish does not come off with a 15 minute soak in the paint thinner, then soak for increasingly long periods of time, up to an hour, followed each time by vigorous brushing. Whenever it does come off, finish up with several rinsing soaks in fresh paint thinner.

If after longer soaks the 'varnish' still isn't attacked by the paint thinner, then it is probably some sort of epoxy resin coating, or enameling that has been fired on, and only mechanical methods, such as scraping, will safely take it off. (Paint thinner will soften epoxy resins but scraping is still necessary to remove it--brushing will simply spread it around. Also there are very aggressive approaches such as hydrofluoric acid that would attack enameling, but the safety risks are not worth it.)


Another thing you could try is lemon essential oil. It's very strong in this pure form and tends to eat away at things. It won't have any effect on the copper.

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