How to Rust Primitive Bells, Safety Pins, or Other Tin Items

I am going to share a primitive rust recipe of my own creation that works well for me, and doesn’t leave a toxic concoction that is hard to dispose of afterwards. First, place your items to be rusted into a container that has a lid – I use an empty glass candle jar. Pour enough bleach into the container to cover the items you are rusting, and then put the lid on. Let it sit like this for about 24 hours. I then drain the bleach into the toilet (get a second use out of it as a disinfectant!), leaving the metal items still damp in the jar. Next cover them with cider vinegar and add in a healthy dose of salt. Cover again, and let sit overnight. Pour the used vinegar down the drain (you can also get a second use of this as a drain unclogger if it follows a dose of baking soda), leaving the damp bells/safety pins/what have you in the jar. Put the jar out in the sun to dry, uncovered, and the metal items in it will rust as they dry.

This post is ©2008 by Stephanie Baker of Old World Primitives. You may not copy or repost this text elsewhere without express written permission, but you are welcome to link to this post if you would like to share the information.

40 thoughts on “How to Rust Primitive Bells, Safety Pins, or Other Tin Items”

  1. Thank you so much for the safe rusting tips. I have always wanted to try this, but some of the other tips online had me a bit scared to try it, due to the ingredients. I can’t wait to try this out!

  2. Thanks for the tip! I had always used that TOXIC recipe and gave up on it for the very same reasons everyone else has avoided it! It is too hard to dispose of.

    One question for you if you dont mind. Does it matter what type of metal you are trying to rust? or does it have to be tin? I have always understood and I may very well be wrong here, but rusting certain metals is impossible, is that true? What kinds of bells are you purchasing to rust?


  3. Heather – You’re welcome! I have only used this recipe on tin craft items so far. If you are trying to rust jingle bells, buy a package of silver tin jingle bells from a craft store (the less expensive, the better – the cheaper ones rust easier). If you were to try rusting a metal like galvanized steel instead of tin with this recipe it would probably just give the item a weatherbeaten “white rust” sort of look instead.

  4. i was so glad when i found your recipe, because buying rusted bells is such an expense!

    however, i have tried this, using cheap, store-bought silver bells, and it has not produced any rusting reaction for me. any ideas or suggestions on what i could be doing wrong?

    any help would be much appreciated!


  5. they were the cheapest bells i could find at michael’s…lol. about 1.99 a bag. the bells still look silver, and they are covered in salt. i did not want to rinse them after decanting the liquid…

    ugh. i appreciate you sharing…perhaps i will try again…it really is highway robbery for what suppliers charge for 12 little bells…

  6. thanks again!

    one last question: how important is placing the bells in the sun to dry? i live in the northeast, where there is little sun these days…

    happy holidays!

  7. ttttttttttyyyyyyy no one ever wants to share anything in the craft world i need all the help i can get anymore tips send my way im interested in prim stuff for scrapbooking tttuyu

  8. Hello everyone, I just want it to share, that i had rusted many bells sucessfully by placing them in a plastic container with white vinegar for a couple of days (2-4) I drain the vinegar and let it dry and so far they rust just fine.

  9. Do you purchase your safety pins at the dollar store as well? I bought some from JoAnn’s but just checked by jar and only bells look to be rusting so far. Found those at walmart I think. I wish I had found your site before I tried the other solution too!

  10. The pins and bells can be dryed in the oven after soaking. I to can not always wait for the sun. . .just dry then single layered on a cookie sheet on low for acouple hours.They will rust alot as they dry.

  11. I am now rusting bells for my christmas tree,Im excited and can not wait to see how this turns out,if it works ill be rusting alot of things 🙂 i bought my bells from the dollar store alot cheaper than the primitive store for they are exspensive.i will post again how it worked for me thanks for the tip MERRY CHRISTMAS AND GOD BLESS!!

  12. Hello there. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your rusting recipe 🙂
    There are many bear makers who are thrilled with your website’s hints and tips.
    Best wishes,
    Lella xx

  13. Hi there, do you sell rusty straight pins.
    If so, how much for 100, 150 or 200 of them please.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Thanks, Lynn

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