Over time, metal door knobs can become tarnished from the elements and frequent use. Many find that their brass door knobs lose their shine as they patina. Patina can be quite beautiful, but not so much for door knobs. While stainless steel knobs only need a good cleaning to look new again, brass knobs take a bit more effort for a complete restoration. For this reason, we'll focus on restoring dull brass door knobs to look great again.
You'll first need to determine if your door knobs are solid or plated. You can do this by using a strong magnet; it will be attracted to metal like steel and zinc underneath plating. However, magnets will not be attracted to brass alloys. If your door knob is plated and shows signs of heavy tarnishing, it may need to be re-plated by a professional restorer.
- Lacquer Removal
Lacquer is a protective finish that is commonly found on door knobs. To restore the knob, it must be stripped down. Paint stripper or denatured alcohol are preferable, but nail polish remover can be used if necessary. If your knobs are plated, they'll respond best to baking soda and water. With a tablespoon of baking soda, boil a large pot of water and submerge your door knob in it as the water simmers. After 15 minutes, take it out, rinse in hot water. Most of the lacquer should have been stripped away. After it cools, wipe the knob down with your denatured alcohol or paint stripper. This will help remove any remnants.
If this method doesn't work, you may need a commercial lacquer remover, which can be found at most hardware stores.
- Washing the Brass
Once the lacquer is removed, we can address built-up grime and corrosion. A mixture of vinegar and salt with 0000 steel wool should do the trick. Note that steel wool is best for solid brass, not plated. An old t-shirt or shop rag will be ideal for plated brass.
- Soak Treatment (If Needed)
If your door knobs are heavily tarnished, they'll need to soak in ammonia for a short time. Watch over this process carefully, as letting brass sit too long in ammonia can degrade it. This should only take a few minutes. Pull the knob out of the ammonia and neutralize the reaction with diluted vinegar.
- Polishing the Brass
Spread a thin layer of a high-quality brass polish onto your door knob and allow it to dry. There are many different brands on the market, so it may be trial and error to find one that you like for your brass. Once dried, buff the polish off and repeat the process until the brass shines and no tarnish is present. Reinstall your door knob!
For door knobs that just won't respond to your restoration efforts, they'll need to be sent to a professional. They'll have the equipment and expertise to properly restore your knobs. Regularly polish your brass to keep it looking shiny and clean, and you won't have to revisit this process for a long time.