How To: Restore Hardware (Video)

By Scott Sidler December 11, 2017

how to restore hardwareOne of the most satisfying things about restoring an old house is the night and day transformation when you restore hardware. Years of paint and rust can make you think the hardware isn’t worth saving, but I assure you that saving old hardware is worth it!

Most hardware on homes built before the 1930s or thereabouts is usually high quality solid bronze or steel and can be restored to look incredible in just a few simple steps. Check out the quick 2 minute video below to see how easy it can be!

Before you swap out your old hardware for something new, take a look at what may be hiding underneath and consider restoring first.

Remove the Hardware

You’re not going to be able to restore any hardware unless you can get it off the window or door it’s been attached to for decades first. Be careful to not strip the screw heads when unscrewing them. Cutting the paint from around the screws and around the hardware can make it easier to remove.

Old screws can be real buggers sometimes, so if you find yourself struggling try the 4 Guaranteed Tricks to Remove Stubborn Screws outlined in this post.

Once you’ve got the hardware off it’s time to start restoring! Check out the video below and the rest of the steps afterward to get the specifics.

Remove the Paint

removing paint from hardwareThe first thing you need to do is get decades of caked on paint off without damaging the hardware. For that there is only one sure fire technique and that is the crock pot.

Use an old crock pot (like the awesome retro 1970s one I use in the video) that you don’t plan to cook with ever again. Fill it with water and just a bit of dish soap. Turn it on high and toss the hardware in for about 4 hours or until you see the paint bubbling up on the surface.

Put some gloves on and pull the hardware out one at a time and scrub them with a stiff bristle brush until you’ve removed all the paint. If the paint isn’t coming off with ease it may need another soaking for a couple more hours.

Cleaning and Polishing

There are two schools of thought and the video shows both options. Some people want to clean the hardware and maintain the patina. The best way to accomplish this is by hand polishing the hardware with 000 steel wool or 0000 steel wool until you get the desired appearance.

restored hardwareIf you want to go back to the original shine of the bronze then a bronze wire wheel attached to a bench grinder makes short work of things. Crank it up and polish your hardware until you get a high shine. You can also use a cotton polishing disc with a rubbing compound for a very high shine if you desire something even more polished.

Once you have cleaned them up you may have found that you’ve removed too much of the patina on the metal and now they just look too shiny. Or possibly you have a few pieces that needed replacements that don’t look the right color.

If needed you can give them a quick soak in my hardware aging solution called The Patinator to give them that old look again. The solution can take new or old hardware and give it an aged look as dark as you may need.

Now that you’ve learned how to restore hardware the easy way you can make your neighbors jealous with all the shiny bling on your windows and doors!

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6 thoughts on “How To: Restore Hardware (Video)”

  1. I should share what I do to remove all the paint almost effortlessly while preserving the patina. I have a pot dedicated to the task, and I boil them with baking soda. The paint falls right off. I did this with a bunch of very ornate doorknobs and escutcheons recently, and the results were perfect. Maybe there are drawbacks I’m not aware of. Scott can you speak to that?

  2. Great tips! I’ll be on the hunt for an old crockpot now.

    We have a 1920 fixer upper with several rusty doorknobs, hinges and key plates with intricate decorative detail… would the bench grinder still work on those without wearing down the pattern, or should I plan to tackle them with the steel wool only? They don’t have much paint on them, just rust.

    Love your blog! You’ve helped us so much already (starting with saving the windows we’d originally thought we’d “have” to replace)! 🙂

    1. Yay! So glad you’re saving your windows! I think the grinder would help on those to an extent but you might find the steel wool to be sufficient. Start small and do more only if you must.

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