As the most successful architectural salvage company in the United States, we often find beautiful antique and vintage doorknobs that have been, tragically, painted over. One of our main challenges is removing the paint without damaging the hardware. Using a solvent like paint thinner could damage the metal and ruin the look of the hardware. Removing paint, lacquer, or other deposits from antique metals is one of the main questions we receive from our customers. Luckily, cleaning and restoring those vintage doorknobs is much easier than you might think. All you need is an old pot you’re ready to get rid of, some hot water, and a few simple ingredients that you most likely have laying around in your kitchen.
To get that paint off your vintage pieces, simply fill your old pot with water and bring the water to a gentle boil. Then you can carefully drop your doorknobs in or place them carefully in the pot using a pair of grilling tongs, and after a few minutes, the paint should begin to come right off. The sludge left behind in the pot will be pretty disgusting, and it’s best not to reuse the pot for cooking once you’re done. After boiling, you should be able to easily wipe or gently scrape away any remaining paint. Be sure to wear gloves, and avoid touching the metal with your bare hands! It’s HOT! As an additional bonus, this method will usually also remove any lacquer that has been used on the doorknobs. These now de-lacquered metals will be an excellent choice to use in areas such as laundry rooms, bathrooms, or other more humid areas of your home.
While many homeowners prefer the patina on older metal doorknobs, some homeowners are looking for a more polished look. Vintage metals can look fantastic when restored to their original bright shine, particularly brass. Polishing antique brass door hardware without scratching or otherwise damaging the surface is a concern of many homeowners, and we often get asked what can be done to polish up these beautiful pieces. Unfortunately, many modern methods and suggestions for cleaning can damage doorknobs that are only plated metal. Luckily, there are gentler methods that are easy to mix right in your own kitchen.
Before cleaning your antique hardware, you can mix up your own gentle brass cleaner with a small amount of equal parts flour, salt, and vinegar. This naturally gentle cleaner won’t scratch the surface of your vintage doorknobs, even if they’re not solid brass. Dip a soft, damp cloth into the homemade cleanser and apply to the door hardware. When you wipe clean, even tougher tarnish should come right off. It’s always best to try the gentle method before using the harsher commercial cleaners. In addition to damaging the finish, many of these cleansers have chemicals in them that can leave metals like antique brass looking more like copper. While copper is lovely, it certainly doesn’t have the bright tones that brass does. If you do decide to use a commercial cleaner, be sure to test whether your hardware is completely brass or just plated metal – it will make a difference in which cleanser you will need to use.
As you can see, cleaning up and polishing those antique doorknobs is easy if you’re willing to take a little time and care. Using these gentle methods will help preserve the original beauty of these pieces without damaging the metals or scratching the surfaces. If you still have questions about cleaning your vintage or antique doorknobs or other hardware, feel free to contact us, or come by one of our locations. If you’re looking for some vintage pieces to add to the doorknobs you already have, or if you’re searching for other antique pieces, you can view our wide selection online here.