How to Clean Antique Brass Door Handles?

Antique brass door handles are not just hardware – they’re miniature works of art that add a touch of vintage charm to any home. Their warm, metallic sheen instantly enhances a space, creating a luxurious feel. However, keeping them sparkling can be challenging because, over time, they can accumulate dust, tarnish, and grime, losing their luster and charm.

But with proper cleaning and maintenance techniques, you can restore the beauty of your antique brass door handles and ensure they are cherished conversation pieces for years. 

In this guide, you’ll learn how to clean antique brass door handles. We’ll also share some preventative tips to keep your brass gleaming and minimize future tarnishing.

What is antique brass?

Antique brass refers to a type of finish applied to metal surfaces, typically brass, to give them an aged or weathered appearance. This finish is achieved through oxidation and patination, naturally occurring over time as the metal interacts with its environment. 

The result is a distinctive look that often includes darkened areas, a greenish patina, and a warm, slightly worn appearance. Antique brass is prized for its vintage appeal. It is commonly used in decorative items, furniture, hardware such as door handles, and architectural elements to add a touch of old-world charm.

Benefits of antique brass door handles

Antique brass door handles offer several benefits that make them a popular choice for homeowners:

1. Timeless Elegance

Antique brass door handles boast a warm, metallic sheen that instantly enhances any space. The aged finish, often featuring subtle variations in color and texture, adds a touch of aged grace. 

2. Durability 

Brass is a naturally strong and resilient material, resistant to corrosion and bacterial activity. With their aged finish, antique brass door handles can hide minor scratches or imperfections that might become more noticeable on polished brass. 

3. Versatility and design options:

Antique brass door handles come in a wide array of designs, from simple and understated knobs to ornate and intricately detailed levers. This variety lets you find the perfect one for your existing décor and personal taste. They pair beautifully with different types of doors, from solid wood to painted MDF, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication.

4. Low maintenance :

While maintaining their shine requires occasional cleaning and care, antique brass door handles are generally low-maintenance. Regular dusting and occasional cleaning with gentle methods (described below) can keep them looking their best. 

Antique brass offers a more forgiving aesthetic than high-gloss finishes that show fingerprints and smudges more readily.

How to clean antique brass doorknobs or handles?

Before exploring the cleaning process, examine your door handles closely. Are they simply tarnished, or are there deeper scratches or dents? For minor surface tarnishing, the methods below should work wonders. 

However, consider consulting a professional restoration service to maintain the handle’s value for deeper imperfections and avoid causing further damage, or purchase a new brass door handle from Frelan Hardware, which is well-known for its quality. 

Here are 5 methods that will help you clean brass doorknobs or handles.

Method 1: Clean with vinegar & salt paste

This method earns the title of best homemade brass cleaner.

Material required:

  • White vinegar/lemon juice
  • Table salt
  • Flour/baking soda
  • Soft cloth
  • Damp cloth
  • Microfiber cloth


  1. Create a paste using an equal quantity of white vinegar/lemon, salt, and flour.
  2. Apply a thin layer to the brass with a soft cloth, letting it sit for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Gently wipe the tarnish away with a damp cloth, then dry with a microfiber cloth.
Note: don’t use too much vinegar because it is an acid that can be harsh.

Method 2: Clean with dish soap

Cleaning with dish soap is the easiest way to remove tarnish from antique brass handles.

Material required

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Microfiber cloth or clean toothbrush


  1. Fill a container with warm water.
  2. Pour a few drops of dish soap into the water and mix well.
  3. Dip a microfiber cloth or clean toothbrush into the cleaning solution.
  4. Scrub the surface of the brass handles gently with the cloth or toothbrush to remove dirt and grime.
  5. Rinse the handles with clean water.
  6. Dry the brass handles thoroughly with a clean cloth.

Method 3: Clean with ketchup

Ketchup is best for tougher brass cleaning jobs.

Material required

  • Ketchup
  • Soft cloth
  • Clean water
  • Microfiber cloth


  1. Spread a thin coating of ketchup on the tarnished brass.
  2. Let the ketchup sit for 40 to 50 minutes.
  3. Rinse the brass thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Then, dry with a microfiber cloth.

Method 4: Clean with acetone

If you want to remove tough stains, you can use acetone for cleaning.

Material required:

  • Acetone
  • Soft cloth


  1. Begin by applying a few drops of acetone directly onto the brass door handle where the tough stains are located.
  2. Allow the acetone to sit for several seconds to dissolve the stains or acidic residues effectively.
  3. Then, take a soft cloth and wipe the area in a circular motion to lift off the stains without causing damage.
  4. Repeat until the stains are completely removed and the brass surface looks clean.
  5. After removing the stains, rinse the area with water and thoroughly dry it using a clean cloth.
Note: It’s important to avoid using excessive amounts of acetone and always perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it is compatible with the brass surface

Method 5: Clean with brass cleaner

While natural cleaning methods can be effective for mild tarnish, heavily soiled or stubborn cases may require a commercial brass cleaner. However, selecting the most appropriate one becomes crucial with many available options. Here are some key considerations to guide your choice:

  • Before you start, take a moment to read the label carefully. Each cleaner has its own instructions, like how to apply it, how long to let it sit, and how to rinse it off. 
  • Look for a gentle formula made specifically for brass that won’t scratch or damage it.

Following these directions ensures you get the best results while keeping everything safe. If you want to be extra careful, especially if the cleaner suggests it, or if you have sensitive skin, wearing gloves can provide added protection during the cleaning process.

Note: Avoid using chlorine bleach or any chloride product, as they can damage your brass handles. 

The after take-care of brass handles

Once you’ve cleaned your brass handles, it’s important to take proper care to prevent tarnishing. Here are some steps for post-cleaning care:

  • After cleaning, don’t leave it in the open air until you are sure that the brass handles are completely dry. If there are any water spots and moisture, use a clean, dry cloth to clean it.
  • Apply a thin layer of brass wax or oil to the handles. This protective coating helps prevent tarnishing and keeps the brass looking shiny.
  • Dust the brass regularly handles with a soft, dry cloth to remove dust or debris. This prevents buildup and maintains the handles’ luster.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals on the brass handles, as they can damage the finish.
  • Follow gentle cleaning methods to preserve the brass’s appearance.
  • Be gentle when handling the brass handles to avoid scratches or dents. Do not use abrasive materials or rough sponges that could damage the surface.
  • Periodically inspect your brass handles for any signs of tarnishing or damage. This will help you address issues early and prevent them from worsening.


Now you know how to clean antique brass door handles. It requires care and attention to detail, but the results are well worth it. You can use the gentle cleaning methods described above to restore the elegance and beauty of your antique brass handles. While cleaning, remember to handle the brass carefully, avoid harsh chemicals, and enjoy the timeless appeal of your restored door handles.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my antique brass door handles?

It’s recommended to clean antique brass door handles after 1 to 3 months, depending on factors like usage and environmental factors, to maintain their appearance and prevent tarnishing.

How to polish tarnished brass door handles?

To polish tarnished brass door handles, use a brass cleaner or a homemade paste of vinegar and flour. Apply, wipe gently, and rinse thoroughly to restore shine.

Can I use WD-40 to clean brass?

Yes, you can use WD-40 to clean brass and remove tarnish, but it’s not recommended for long-term use as it may leave a residue.

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