The Best Way to Clean Hardware

I love to use original hardware on furniture pieces, but with years of use, grime and tarnish build up and the hardware takes on a dark, dirty look.  There are times when I like the darker, years of use look, but other times I like to clean them up, restored to their original beauty.

Lemon Juice & Salt Paste

I love this method because it’s an all natural way to clean.  I add about a quarter cup of salt to a container and then pour in enough lemon juice to saturate the salt – it forms a thick paste.  I simply slather the paste onto the hardware and let it sit for an hour or two.  Afterwards, I use an old toothbrush or sponge to scrub away until it’s shiny and new again.
Ammonia is a strong cleaner that cuts through gunk and grime.  It is powerful; and so is the smell, so I always try to use it outside (yet here’s a picture of me using it inside…it was really dark out).  I usually try to use lemon juice and salt first, but if a piece is being stubborn, usually ammonia will do the trick.
I let it sit in the ammonia for an hour or two.  An old toothbrush usually scrubs away any leftover residue.


Because it’s really hard to tell if a piece is solid brass, or just brass plated, I use a magnet.  If the magnet sticks, it is not brass, and it is a finish plated over steel or iron.
While you can use either of these methods with brass plated hardware as well, I usually stick to the lemon juice and salt paste.  I’ve found that ammonia can sometimes be harsher on plated hardware – sometimes it has removed some of the finish.  When I find a piece is a plated finish, I often choose to paint them, because they never clean up as well for me, anyway.

Aren’t these neat?  I picked up four of them at an estate sale and now I’m just waiting to find the perfect piece for them.

You can find all of my furniture refinishing projects here, along with all my tips and tricks for painting furniture.

2 thoughts on “The Best Way to Clean Hardware

  1. Used your salt and lemon juice recipe on some grubby brass photo chains – worked perfectly! Thank you for sharing this tip!

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