How to Clean Tarnished Metal Door Handles
It's a sad fact that metals are going to tarnish over time, some for the better and, definitely, some for the worse.
In this article, we will explain our best advice on how to clean and maintain the following -
- Brass & Real Copper
- Lacquered Brass
- Chrome & Nickel
We are now also selling a new range of tools and consumables which will help with the maintenance around the workplace or home. If you want to talk after reading below, please give us a call and hopefully we can help you! 01252 786510.
Cleaning Unlacquered Brass & Real Copper Door Handles
Brass is generally thought of as a very traditional material, mostly seen in older style properties. However, they are currently undergoing a renaissance in popularity. Like silver, they're both highly susceptible to tarnish, but they are easy to manage if you're prepared to roll your sleeves up occasionally. Here's a great DIY way to clean your brass and copperware.
You're going to make a paste which will clean the tarnish away for you. Take a bowl and measure in one tablespoon of flour, one of salt, and one of vinegar. Mix it thoroughly until it turns to a paste, and then rub it on to the surface of the brass or copper. We now sell the microfibre cloths which you use. Leave it for a couple of minutes, and then wash it off with hot soapy water. Then rinse it and buff it with a soft cloth; your brass or copper handles are restored!
Alternatively, take a cut lemon and dip it in salt. Then rub it onto the surface of the metal and wipe it clean with a cotton cloth. This simple method is also highly effective and works on brass and copper very well. This method should not be used on lacquered brass or copper or brass plate. For these finishes, simply dust and clean with warm soapy water, then dry thoroughly.
Natural, unlacquered metal materials can achieve a lovely patina when tarnished over many years and this is sometimes very attractive.
If you prefer a cleaner look, then real, unlacquered brass can be buffed up to a lovely shine with a cleaner such as this From The Anvil Maintenance Wax.
Cleaning Lacquered Brass
Lacquered Brass can be damaged easily by rings and keys and these little cuts in the lacquer will allow the air to tarnish the metal underneath over time. The best way to clean lacquered polished brass is to remove surface dust with a soft cloth, and then use a mild solution of soapy warm water to clean sticky or dirty marks.
Once clean, thoroughly dry with a soft cloth. A light coating of natural wax will then give them an extra bit of protection. We sell some maintenance wax by a company called From The Anvil which comes highly recommended. Keep this up on a monthly basis, and your door handles will last much longer. Most manufacturers will only give a 12-month warranty on lacquered finishes, so this is well worth doing to keep your handles looking fresh and shiny and well maintained. Never use commercial or harsh cleaners on this finish as this will damage them. Regular maintenance is the key!
Pewter also suffers badly from the damaging effects of tarnish, and if your door furniture is made from pewter it will need special attention. Funnily enough, pewter responds best to treatment by the outer leaves of a cabbage. It might sound a bit like a village witch-doctor remedy, but it's true. Take the outer leaves of a cabbage and rub them firmly over the surface of your pewter. Then buff it with a soft cloth. Sounds strange, but it works well.
Pewter is made mostly of tin and, over time, may develop a dark patina. This dark patina can be a very desirable look for some people. Further, the proper way to clean your pewter may depend on the type of finish your pewter has. Generally, pewter will have a polished finish, a satin finish, or an antique (oxidized) finish. Following these simple methods will help keep your pewter in fine condition.
To clean pewter, put one teaspoon of salt in one cup of white vinegar. Add flour into the salt and vinegar mixture until it makes a paste. Apply the paste and let it sit on the pewter for fifteen minutes to an hour. Rinse with clean warm water and polish dry. There is no need to rub and polish too much - pewter is not meant to look like silver.
If you love the look of real pewter but your budget does not allow it, then have a look at our pewter effect finishes. This gives you the look without the high cost and can be very effective.
Cleaning Plated Chrome and Nickel Finishes
Most door handles these days are lacquered or plated over brass or a mixture of materials. Natural unlacquered brass, real copper, pewter and silver can be very expensive, so most of us choose a lacquered or plated finish.
Just like lacquered polished brass, plated finishes need just a light dusting followed by cleaning with mild soapy water and drying with a soft cloth. Do not use harsh or commercial cleaners on this finish. Complete the maintenance with a light coating of wax. We recommend this Maintenance Wax by From The Anvil. Again regular maintenance is the key! And, bonus! It's easy and cheap to do.
A Brief History of Tarnish
'Tarnish' is a word taken from an ancient sense of things darkening. The roots of the word can be traced back beyond English, beyond French and through to a long-extinct European language known as Proto-Germanic, and is distantly related to the word 'dark' (both words find their roots in a very ancient hypothesised word, 'darnijaz', used in central Europe deep in our tribal past). From the long history of the term, we can see that tarnishing is an effect with which humans have been familiar for a considerable time. So what is it?
In short, it's a layer of corrosion which affects certain metals. It's like rust, only much slower acting. The metals most commonly affected by tarnish include aluminium, brass, copper and silver, so it's no surprise that door furniture is one of the most common casualties of tarnishing, since door furniture is often made from one of these metals.
Tarnishing manifests itself as a dulling down in the surface of the affected metal. The metal loses its shine and reflectivity and, if left untreated, will result in a surface layer which looks grey and black - a little like mould. The texture of the surface of tarnished metal changes too, from a cold, smooth one to a rough, gritty one. Designers are increasingly incorporating tarnish in their furniture designs, and it has a profound aesthetic effect and can actually look great when it's deliberate. But when the tarnishing is natural, when it's the byproduct of a lack of maintenance, it doesn't look so good. It's a noisy indicator that the owner has neglected their house, and it can dampen the ambient mood of any room. The door handle is often the first part of a room to be encountered; if it looks unappealing it can be difficult to shed that first impression.
Tarnish is caused by the metal's interactivity with the air - in particular with sulphur, but there are many contributing airborne chemicals. It's important to keep it at a manageable level because when it comes to selling your house, bright, sparkling door furniture can give the entire building a subtle - but important - boost.
We now sell a large range of new cleaning products on our site, along with many other tools and consumables. Feel free to ask if there is something you cant find.
Also see here...
Our very handy buying guides
- How to measure your door for locks
We really value our customer feedback. We have now received over 4000 reviews on Trustpilot, which you can read here. And if you would like to leave a review on your experience with us, you can read how to do so here.
You are also welcome to call us and ask us any questions you have on 01252 786510.