How to Use Rub 'n Buff For Easy Updates {With Pictures}

July 13, 2021

How to use Rub 'n Buff wax metallic finish for home decor projects.

If you have a decor item that needs a little something, this "paint" that comes in a tiny tube is the perfect answer for a quick and easy update!

Rub 'n Buff is this amazing metallic finish that is super easy to apply (you just use your finger or a soft cloth). The finish adds dimension and interest to basic decor like frames, mirrors and decorative objects. 

It really shows off pretty detail on those items as well -- so if you have an intricate mirror or frame, Rub 'n Buff is perfect for it. 

What is Rub 'n Buff? 

If you've never used it, you'll be shocked at the power in this little bitty tube!:
antique gold rub n buff

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This antique gold color is one of my favorites! 

Rub 'n Buff is not really paint -- more of a wax paste made from fine metallic powders. It has a strong pigment and applies easily to hard surfaces. You can lightly buff it out to soften the look a bit. 

It's great for smaller details and eliminates the hassle of using spray paint outside.

I've used this stuff for years, and it's my go-to when there's something in our house that is looking a little bland. 

How to apply Rub 'n Buff

It doesn't look like much, but this stuff goes a loooong way. It's easy to squeeze out too much -- you want to err on using too little and you can always add more or layer the finish. 

You only have to use a tiny bit for accent projects. I usually start by dabbing my finger on the opening: 
gold rub n buff tube

I used the antique gold finish for this project. 

For the best adhesion, start with a clean, dry surface. 

I usually use my finger -- I feel like it's easier to do detail work that way. But you can also use a soft clean cloth to apply it: 
how to apply rub n buff

YEARS ago I added a simple gold detail on the front of some frames near our fireplace: 
black frame with gold corner detail

From far away it gives the look of metal brackets. I loved that look so much, I did the same to some of the frames on our family room DIY picture ledges

I used a few pieces of painter's tape to mark off the corners and then just rubbed it on: 
applying rub n buff to frame

It dries almost immediately, so you can buff it out right away. 

Use either your finger or a cloth to rub it in and even out the finish: 
buffing out rub n buff

I like a finger for application and a cloth for the buffing part. You don't have to buff, but it does give it a pretty sheen and blends it nicely. 

You can use Rub 'n Buff for larger projects, but I've always loved the little detail it adds in smaller doses: 
DIY wood ledges on white wall

See how to build those picture ledges here! More about the board and batten here.

I think I'm going to add it to the sides of the frames as well, so we can see the gold accent from all directions. 

I love this mirror in our basement and that it matches the walls almost exactly: 
westchester gray DIY built ins

Sometimes you want contrast, sometimes a more muted look is what you're aiming for. I love how this blends in for a more modern look, but it needed something

When I added the box molding on the walls down there, I moved the mirror to another wall and then added gold accents with the Rub 'n Buff: 
add metallic highlight to boring mirror

The paint on the mirror had a slightly distressed look on the edges, so I used those as my guide. 

It only took a few minutes and made a big difference!: 
gold detail on gray mirror

On something like this especially, there's no perfection needed. Just swipe it on here and there until you get the look you want!

Where you can use Rub ‘n Buff 

This stuff adheres to all kinds of surfaces -- metal and wood are easy. I haven't tried it on plastic so let me know if you have! It's an easy way to change up light fixtures, frames, art, decorative knobs...the possibilities are endless! 

I've grabbed these tubes a lot over the years -- it's especially lovely when used to highlight pretty texture. 

gold highlight on textured frame

You can use it instead of spray paint for smaller pieces too. I "painted" some red metal bells in our Christmas decor last year. The Rub 'n Buff gave them a vintage look with more dimension than straight spray paint would give. 

If you have a large item, you can spray paint it and then add some detail with the Rub 'n Buff on top. It's so versatile! 

I did just that to turn this wood terrarium to more of a metal look
DIY metal terrarium with Rub n Buff

The pewter Rub 'n Buff gave it the look of metal, with some variation that straight spray paint can't give. 

Tips for using Rub 'n Buff

  • Remember, a little goes a long way -- start with a tiny amount!
  • No need for brushes, you can use your finger or a cloth.
  • It's easily removed from your fingers with nail polish remover or mineral spirits.
  • Play around with colors! It comes in nine different metallic finishes, from silver leaf to copper. 
  • The more you buff the finish, the shinier it will get!
I love that it gives pieces an older, aged look because the finish isn't perfect, especially on textured surfaces.

It added detail so our mirror isn't so blah anymore...just enough to make it stand out!: 
westchester gray walls with box molding trim

Have you tried this magical wax finish? It's fun and easy! 

If you're looking for similar gold or brass finishes, their European Gold, Gold Leaf, and Grecian Gold options are beautiful!

Save this tutorial for later by saving this image to Pinterest: 
How to use rub n buff wax

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  1. Thanks for this. It sounds like something I will enjoy using. I was wondering how it would work on a door handle. Does it wear well or is it better for things that are not touched often?

  2. Love Rub 'n Buff. I've been using it for probably 20 years now. Like you said, it is perfect for bringing out details and for adding a touch of glam here and there. One of the things I try to never be out of.

  3. You always open my eyes and have me envision something in an entirely new light! I was positive this post had no application in my life but now I'm looking around to finds ways to incorporate this!

  4. I love this stuff. I had to give plastic a quick coat of spray paint to make it stick. The black rub and buff kinda sucks but maybe that was just my application/project.

  5. I just love your blog. You have the best ideas!!!

  6. I would use latex gloves when applying this. The cheap sponge brushes you can get at a craft store work really good too.

  7. I have an antique spelter figure oil lamp, the metal figure is very detailed, too much for using my finger or cloth. Can i use a small brush with good results? And i really like your posts, thank you...

  8. Thank you! If you used a smaller, stiff brush, I think that would work!


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