Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Strip Old Paint Off Of Vintage Hardware

The hinges and door knob hardware that I am using on our master bedroom closet project is all vintage.  Some of it I salvaged from the doors that we are using in the project, and some of it came from Caravati's (a wonderful architectural salvage yard, about an hour south of here in Richmond.)  All of it was covered in layers of globby, peeling paint and had to be cleaned.  This is how I did it.

Here is the Before and After of a polished brass door rosette.

These brass door hinges had at least four layers of paint on them that all had to come off.

My main equipment for this job is a $14.99 crock pot that I bought years ago at Walmart.  This particular pot is ONLY used for stripping paint ... I have another one that we use for cooking.

Fill the crock pot about 3/4 full of water, with a small squirt of dish soap ... add the hardware, put the lid on the crock pot, set it to High, and walk away from it for a few hours.

The beauty of this method of stripping paint is that you don't have to time it or watch it, and you can be off doing something else while it's happening.  After a few hours, you'll see that the paint on your hardware is getting really loose.

I used tongs to remove one of the hinges.

See the loose paint?

Working quickly (and carefully, because this thing is hot), peel off the loose paint.  As the piece cools, the paint will harden ... this is okay, just peel what you can and put it back into the pot for a while to soften up again.

This is all I could get off this hinge on the first try, so back into the pot it went.

After the hinges had stewed for a little while longer, I removed them one by one and used the edge of a plastic card to carefully scrape off the remaining paint.  (I used my Panera card, which is now ruined.)  Do NOT use a metal scraper or a wire brush, or you will scratch the brass.

To remove any remaining little bits of paint, and give the brass a good shine, I used 0000 steel wool.

These are the original 40+ year-old brass-plated Stanley hinges that were installed on our doors when the master bedroom was added to our house in 1967 ... looking as good as new again.

I would have liked to have left a bit of patina on the hinges and other hardware, but it wasn't possible ... considering what it took to get all the paint off of them.  Since they are unlacquered brass, I expect it won't take any time at all for them to start to oxidize and darken again.

The jewelry on this project will be late-1800s (or early 1900s) pressed glass Mercury-filled door knobs.  There were a few of these on some of the doors in our house when we bought it, and I have added more when I find them for a good price.

Here is a word of warning:  Before you try this method of paint stripping on your own hardware, take a minute to determine exactly what you have.  Old iron hinges shouldn't be boiled like this, because they will rust.  If your hardware has a unique patina or finish, scrubbing it with steel wool will probably ruin it.  In my case, the hardware I am using is plain polished brass ... and this didn't hurt it a bit.

At the end of the day, all of the hinges, rosettes, escutcheons, and screws were clean and shiny ... and they are all ready to be used as the beautiful finishing touches on our closet doors.

If you haven't been following our master bedroom closet project, click these links to get caught up.

Construction Day One
Construction Day Two
Construction Day Three
Construction Days Four and Five
Overview and Final Reveal


  1. That was interesting, very interesting. I've never heard of that, but Bob probably has, I'm forwarding to him. Looking good Connie!

  2. I wish our old hardware had cleaned up that nice, but it was all plated and the plating had worn off. Ultimately, I bought new solid brass hardware because I wasn't into black hardware.

  3. GREAT idea, Connie- I have used stripper but really hate working with it- what a perfect way to do it- xo Diana

  4. This is great and it beats using chemical solvents!

    They look wonderful, Connie!

  5. The burning question at our house tonight is how you arrived at using a crockpot to strip paint. We have used the “hot water with stripper” method over an electric or gas burner. You have to watch it so nothing blows up. We have never used a controlled heat. Brilliant!

  6. Great info Connie! I actually soak my hardware in ammonia with some hot water added overnight or a few hours depending on how much paint is on it. The paint bubbles and falls off... I've been using this method for at least 20 years and have never had a problem... Other than the smell ;) just another option for you! Cant wait to see the final reveal!

  7. You are a freaking genius!!!!

    janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  8. That is brilliant! I have never heard of this method but you can be sure I will use it. Thanks for sharing!

  9. My husband and I are about to buy our first home. It was built in 1909 and have beautiful doorknobs (no one else apparently thought so they have sooo much paint on them) I would love to strip them and reuse them. Problem is I'm not sure what material there made from?? And would feel horrible if I ruin them. How do I find out what metal they are? And also they use skeleton keys how easy is it to get new ones? Are they easy to find? We don't have a huge budget to run through but I for one want to keep them( but hubby wants them functional!) help please!!

  10. Jmendoza, you asked such a great detailed question and you didn't leave any contact info for me to send you an answer.

    Let's take this discussion offline. Email me:


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