How to clean antique brass door hardware

Written by jerry garner
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Having vintage hardware can bring a special charm to any home, particularly when it comes to your doors. While antique brass hardware for your doors can be beautiful, it is normally tarnished, often excessively so, when you first obtain it. Whether you are restoring a door with antique brass hardware, or just need to polish existing hardware, cleaning the brass is a chore that will need to be done periodically. Here is a quick guide to show you how to clean your antique brass door hardware.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Masking tape
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Brass cleaner
  • Rubber gloves
  • Soft cloth
  • Ammonia (if excessively tarnished)
  • Spray lacquer (optional finish)

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  1. 1

    Begin by placing masking tape around the outside edge of the door hinges. You will first need to tape around the hinges with the door closed, then open the door and tape around the hinges on the other side. This will help protect the wood on the door and door frame from being stained by your brass polish. You could also remove the hinges entirely, but that would mean rehanging the door when you have finished, so it is easier to just tape around them.

  2. 2

    Remove all remaining hardware from the door. This is generally the doorknobs. Sometimes there may be a separate lock, such as a deadbolt, that needs to be removed, but most antique brass hardware consists only of knobs and hinges. To remove the doorknobs, there are generally two screws to remove, which you will need a Philips screwdriver to take out. It is a straightforward process of taking out the screws and then sliding the doorknobs out of their housing.

  3. 3

    Put on your rubber gloves before going any further. You will be working with chemicals and cleaning agents as you clean the antique brass door hardware, and it is important to protect yourself from coming into direct contact with these materials.

  4. 4

    Analyse how badly tarnished the hardware is. If it has been neglected for years and is excessively tarnished, soak the brass hardware in undiluted ammonia for an hour. If the tarnish is not overly excessive and you feel that a good hand polishing is all that is needed, then skip the ammonia and proceed directly to Step 5.

  5. 5

    Open the can of brass cleaner. Most any grocery store or hardware store will sell brass cleaner. Brasso is the most popular and recognisable name brand. With the can open, hold a soft cloth over the opening and tilt the can so that a small amount gets onto the cloth.

  6. 6

    With your cloth dampened, begin to rub the brass cleaner onto the hardware. Do not be afraid to rub it hard. You will not bend the metal, and it is almost necessary in order to clean the antique brass hardware. The more you rub and polish, the more tarnish, grit and grime you will remove from the hardware. It will take several applications, and probably several cloths, but it will begin to resemble a shiny new brass fixture.

  7. 7

    After the hardware is cleaned, you may wish to spray it with a clear lacquer finish. Although this step is purely optional, it will put a clear coating over the brass that will protect it from becoming tarnished again. The lacquer will eventually wear off, and you will eventually need to clean the brass door hardware again, but this will help make those cleanings come less frequently.

  8. 8

    Return to doorknobs and other brass hardware to the door, and remove the masking tape from around the edge of your hinges.

Tips and warnings

  • It may seem at first like you are making no progress. Keep at it. Brass can take a long time to clean and require a lot of elbow grease, but the end result is well worth the effort.

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