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Common household remedies request

I'm painting some more rooms this summer, and I'm struck by the beauty of the "old house" hardware: The doorknobs, the brass watchamaycallems round the keyholes, the window locks, and all that. I'd like to polish them, make them bright shiny metal again. But that sounds like work.

Is there an easy way to revivify old house hardware?

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

I thought I read a question about this very subject only about a week ago. Maybe it was the post featuring a copper or brass morrocan tray table that had "patina" on it.

Ahh, yes, here is the link: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/good-...

Most DIYers love patina but this commenter didn't. I think the suggestion was a combination of baking soda and vinegar, which, IIRC produces a lot of CO2. Should be fun. Try playing with the concoction first by adding some food coloring. Send us pictures.

Submitted by jm on

to safe cleaners you can make from ingredients you probably already have around the house:

How To Make Copper and Brass Cleaner

Copper and Brass Tarnish Remover

I've found that commercially available polishes based on isopropanol and ammonia, like this one, work effectively. Be aware, however, that while not being terribly toxic, they're not entirely benign either.

I've also found that to achieve the best results when dealing with a lot of tarnish, it's easier to remove the hardware before polishing. Of course, this requires disassembly which can be tricky with old hardware.

It's kinda funny, taste that is. While it's perfectly reasonable for you to prefer a polished brass look, I've seen people pay a steep premium for old brass hardware solely because of its tarnished patina. And I've had clients pay me, over my objections, to chemically achieve a faux patina on new brass hardware (this never looks good to my eye, but the customer is always right...).

Watchamaycallems, in this case, is synonymous with escutcheons.

RTFMplease's picture
Submitted by RTFMplease on

A lot of old hardware is plated and it can be difficult to tell the plated items from the solid brass/bronze/copper ones. If your hardware is plated use caution when polishing because it's often a thin plate and easily polished-thru. Of course if you have plated steel a magnet will do its thing but it doesn't rule out lesser metals. In all likelihood you won't run across house hardware of pot metal but I have seen the occasional oddball. Soaking in household strength ammonia will remove tarnish and leave clean brass that can be easily polished from there but care must be taken not to etch the metal and causing a real headache. If your piece is copper I'd strongly suggest further research concerning cleaning. All around the ammonia cleaning method is efficient and economical but should be undertaken with caution. Over exposure, especially to copper and plated items, can easily cause damage and ugly hardware. As a sort of disclaimer, if we are talking about rare and historically significant hardware of great cultural value then just leave the ammonia under the sink, or, if like me, you are dealing with common turn of the century hardware whose degradation or even loss would upset no one but myself, then it can be very helpful.