How to Restore Brass Hardware

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Metal door hardware, especially that which is found in older homes, can retain years of patina and may even be covered with several layers of paint. With the help of a slow cooker, water and dish soap, caked-on paint can be easily removed to restore the original details that give character to a home. This method works on all sorts of brass and metal hardware, from doorknobs to plates and hinges, locks and door knockers. When working with hardware that contains several layers of paint, there’s a good chance it contains lead-based paint if the piece dates prior to 1980. It is important to use caution and wear protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask, when working around these materials to expose the paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • 5-quart slow cooker
  • 1/4 cup dish soap
  • Water
  • Protective gloves
  • Handled scraper
  • Tweezers
  • Brass polishing agent
  • Toothbrush
  • Clean cotton rag
Restore brass hardware back to its original glory.
Restore brass hardware back to its original glory. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 1

Remove the brass hardware from the door by first locating the screws and then gently scraping the paint around and in the centers to grip with a screwdriver.

It may take some wiggling and twisting, but screws will come free from painted metal fairly easily.
It may take some wiggling and twisting, but screws will come free from painted metal fairly easily. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 2

If the hardware is stuck to the door after removing the screws, use the screwdriver to gently loosen and pry it away using one of the screw hole openings.

Removing metal hardware often reveals the original door material underneath.
Removing metal hardware often reveals the original door material underneath. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 3

Drop the hardware into a slow cooker, adding water to cover the metal pieces by at least 1 inch. Add a healthy squeeze of dish soap (about 1/4 cup). Turn the cooker to the low-heat setting, cover with the lid and allow the metal pieces to soak for six to 10 hours or overnight.

The warmed water and soap work to slowly soften the paint, making it simple to peel away from the original brass metal pieces.

Use either a dedicated spare slow cooker for this project or use a liner bag.
Use either a dedicated spare slow cooker for this project or use a liner bag. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 4

Turn off the slow cooker, put on protective gloves and carefully remove the metal hardware. The paint should lift and peel from the original piece with ease.

Double-bag and dispose of paint pieces to help prevent spreading lead paint.
Double-bag and dispose of paint pieces to help prevent spreading lead paint. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 5

Rub any detailed crevices with a gloved hand and use tweezers to peel away any paint in smaller, tough-to-reach places.If small areas of paint remain, soak for another hour before peeling again.

Continue to soak if paint is stubborn.
Continue to soak if paint is stubborn. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 6

Rinse and dry the metal pieces. To dispose of water potentially contaminated with lead, first filter it through a cloth filter, like cheesecloth, before dumping into a sanitary sewer or toilet. For limited quantities of filtered debris, double-bag and dispose of it in the household trash.

If you’re happy with the patina and aged look of the hardware, you’re ready to reinstall the plates onto the door. For a more lustrous finish, use a brass polishing agent to bring out more of the original shine.

Brush a polishing agent into crevices, using a toothbrush, and buff with a clean cotton rag.
Brush a polishing agent into crevices, using a toothbrush, and buff with a clean cotton rag. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 7

Buff and polish the brass hardware until the finish shines to your liking.

Before & after — what a difference!
Before & after — what a difference! (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)

Step 8

Carefully screw the cleaned hardware back in place on the door.

Over time and with heavy use, expect the brass hardware to age and patina.
Over time and with heavy use, expect the brass hardware to age and patina. (Image: Image by Tim & Mary Vidra)
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