I'm currently living in a home that has most likely been painted at least every 2 years since the 50s. The paint-history totally shows on all the door knobs, playing out in accidental swipe marks and drips. If you were to peek behind the knobs you could literally see the years play out in paint layers, with many of those layers ending up on the hardware itself. They say it's the details that create the big picture, and after seeing how sleeker my hardware looks after stripping it, I have to agree. While you might not feel like painted-over hinges and handles are worth the effort of restoring, it's amazing how fresh and new your home will feel. I tried out three different methods of removing old paint from hardware, and am here to tell you what worked. I'll walk you through what I did, what I learned, and what the pros and cons are of each method.
For this method, I used:
Before starting, I put on a pair of gloves and safety glasses (paint stripper is no joke, so please read all warnings and directions on the label before beginning). I placed the first knob outside, and per the instructions on the bottle, sprayed the knob down and let it sit for 15 minutes.
After the 15 minutes were up, I wiped the paint off with a few paper towels, still wearing my safety gear. The first round did not clean the knob entirely, as some of the thicker portions of paint still remained. I repeated the process, letting the knob sit in paint stripper for another 15 minutes.
As you can see, not only did the stripper remove all the paint from the knob, but it also began to remove the finish. Oops! That being said, the paint stripper definitely did what it advertised. After I hosed it down, I ran some steel wool over the door knob to clean up the areas where the finish was peeling.
- Works fast
- Almost no effort
- Potential to damage hardware
- Can take a few applications
For this method, I used:
- An old pot
- Stovetop heat
For this next round of paint-removal, I put a lidless pot of water on the stove and set it to high heat. Next, I opened a nearby window to avoid filling my kitchen with paint fumes. Then I lowered a painted handle in the pot and let it cook.
Depending on how thick the paint is, this method can take anywhere from an hour to overnight. If you are trying to remove a lot of paint (we're talking total coverage) and need to let it heat overnight, I would recommend using an old crock pot rather than the stove - just for safety reasons. Whichever vessel you use to cook your hardware, use something that you don't plan on eating out of again (y'know, lead poisoning and stuff).
There wasn't much old paint stuck to this door handle, and I was able to quickly see the paint begin to lift itself from the metal. After an hour, I removed the handle from the pot (using a pair of tongs), and rinsed it under hot water. The pressure of the water removed most of the still-clinging paint, and I was able to rub the rest off with my fingers. Don't discard your pot of hot water until you have removed all the paint, as you may need to momentarily soak your hardware again if any paint spots are being especially stubborn.
- Least amount of damage to hardware
- Removes massive paint build-up easily
- No harsh chemicals
- Lengthier process
- Emits fumes
- Potential to create rust
For this method, all I used was:
- Steel wool
- Hot water
This was by far the most laborious way to remove paint. It's pretty straight-forward: under hot running water, I rubbed the paint off the hardware using steel wool. I also set my sink's strainer in place to catch the paint flecks as they were removed.
Obviously, using steel wool will scuff your hardware. I would only really recommend this method if you need to remove small areas of paint. The door knob I restored was already pretty banged up, so the steel wool didn't do much more damage to it.
- Leaves scuff marks
After this hardware restoring face-off, I found the most effective method to be #2: cooking the hardware. The paint came off easily, the hardware didn't end up getting scuffed, and it was a fairly pain-free process. It's also the best method if you're restoring multiple pieces at the same time. All in all, heat-soaking your door knobs is the way to go. Side note: whatever method you end up using, restore the original screws too, that way you can reuse them and they match your clean hardware!
Have you tried any of these paint-removal methods? Which worked best for you? Let us know in the comments!
If you're looking for more painless ways to upgrade your space, check out these landlord-friendly upgrades.