Clean and Re-finish Old Door Knobs and Hardware

Introduction: Clean and Re-finish Old Door Knobs and Hardware

The interior doors of my house have the original 1950's knobs - the old style with the long escutcheon plates and the knob-and-spindle doorknobs. When I moved in, they were painted over with multiple layers of paint, although the paint had worn off some of the knobs to show plain steel, with hints of the bronze colour they used to be peaking through.

I finally decided that I either needed to paint them over again, or clean them off and find a way to shine them up. So, here's how I made my worn and sad looking door hardware look like hammered copper for less then $10, and, made them all match.

If you're not sure whether there is lead paint involved, and you have children, or are pregnant, get the paint tested first.

- your door hardware
- metal spray paint in the colour of your choice (I used Tremclad "Hammered Copper")

- knife
- screwdriver
- slow cooker
- disposable metal container
- dish soap
- rubber gloves
- toothpicks and pins
- metal polish (I started with a commercial polish, but ended up using baking soda, water, and a toothbrush)
- surface to spray on

Step 1: Remove the Hardware

For an in depth look at how to remove this type of hardware, and how to clean its innards, I suggest this instructable:

The short version is:
1) Use the knife to carefully cut the paint along the edge of the escutcheon plates. This prevents large portions of the paint from coming with your plate.
2) If needed, use the knife to remove paint from the screw heads on the knob and plate - just enough the get the screwdriver in. The pin may also help.
3) Loosen the screw on the knob and screw the knob off the spindle.
4) Remove the spindle
5) Remove your plates

Step 2: Remove the Paint

There's always scraping the paint off, but if there is a chance that the finish under the paint is in good shape, you don't want to risk damaging it. The best way to get the paint off is with a slow cooker.

1) Place your hardware in a disposable metal container. If possible, avoid overlapping them.
2) Add a good dollop of dish soap, and fill with water.
3) Place the dish in your slow cooker and leave it overnight on low. My paint was starting to flake already, so it only took about three hours
4) Wearing your gloves, remove the container from the cooker, and peel off the paint. Toothpicks and pins will help with the nooks and crannies. If it doesn't peel, put it back in the cooker and leave it longer.
5) Give your slow cooker a good wash, and throw out the metal container.

Step 3: Clean the Metal

1) Rinse the soap and any remnants of paint off the metal.
2) Polish off any loose rust or corrosion.
3) Give the metal a good wash with soap and water and dry thoroughly

Step 4: Paint!

Follow the directions on the spray paint and paint your hardware. Less is more. Start with thin coats and work your way up as needed.

Step 5: Re-install and Enjoy

Reinstall your hardware (it will probably be easier without the paint gumming up the screws), and enjoy your shiny new door knobs!

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    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is a really well documented and photographed instructable, and I particularly like the tip on slow cooking the hardware. But I have to wonder, why go through all the work of stripping down to the brass and then painting? Why not just leave the brass finish? I know, it tarnishes, but nothing a bit of Brasso every few months can't handle;-)

    Mar HK
    Mar HK

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Ah, that was the very original plan, but once I go going, it turned out that the hardware was a cheap brass coating under the paint, and a lot of that had peeled off, and some of the knobs were a mostly peeled gold colour. The spray painting plan was to avoid the steel/gold/peeling brass colour scheme.

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I ran into the very same issue refurbishing 90-year-old doors in my new house. When I stripped paint from the knobs, I expected to find brass, but was disappointed to find steel knobs. So I decided to replace these with "traditional style" brass finished replicas I found cheap on Amazon, and glass replicas from Home Depot. But the escutcheons are actual solid brass, so I'm still in the process of cleaning these. Crock pot has comes in very handy as you well document. Steel wool has also been my trusted friend in this project. Much to my amusement, the bottom layer, or first coat of paint, was gold... Guess someone back in the 1920's got tired of polishing;-) Thanks again for this fine Instructable!