How to Clean Vintage and Antique Hardware

We have some beautiful vintage and antique hardware for sale here at the ‘Lift. But it’s often covered in layers of paint. How do you get it off without damaging the metal? Our Vintage Pricing Coordinator, Melissa, has step-by-step instructions for you.


Please note, this method works for solid brass, bronze and cast iron hardware. If the piece has brass or chrome plating, the plating will probably not survive this method (but it may have been already destroyed by the paint anyway).


This is the equipment you will need:


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An old pot, one you no longer cook with. (I also suggest you do not use a non-stick pot, as chemical reactions may occur that make paint removal more difficult or affect the metal.)
Tongs to remove HOT items from the pot
Flathead screwdriver or other such tool to scrape paint off flat areas
Sculpting tool to pick paint out of detail areas
Scrubber sponge to remove residue
Stiff brush to scrub detail area
A thick layer of newspaper to work on. (The pieces will be wet.)



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Fill the pot 1/3 full with water and bring it to a full boil. (There is no need to add anything to the water. Some people use a slow cooker and let it go overnight with the hardware in it. I am too impatient for that. Plus, I cook in all my slow cookers.)


Carefully place the hardware in the water. Let it “cook” for at least 15 minutes. (If you are really lucky, the paint will come off in the pot while the piece cooks.)




Use the tongs to remove the hardware from the pot.


Place the piece on the newspaper. As you can see, the paint has bubbled up and is ready to be removed. Work quickly — as the item cools, the paint will harden.


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Scrape off the loose paint with the screwdriver.





Then, scrub the residue with the scrubber sponge.




Then, wash it using a stiff brush and hot soapy water. Use the sculpting tool to pick out paint from the detailed areas (if there are any).


Then you are left with a wonderful, paint-free piece! (If your piece is not yet paint-free, you can repeat this process up to 3 times.) I originally thought the backplate I used as my example was cast iron (because it’s heavy and a magnet stuck to it).

But as you can see, it is a wonderful cast bronze piece by Yale and Towne.