The mere thought of cleaning hardware can make an old house owner groan with dread. There has been many a time when I had a bucket sitting on the porch, soaking old hardware to remove the paint and other gunk that had accumulated over the decades. This is especially true when it comes to old window hardware, which tends to be covered in layers and layers of paint, or kitchen hardware, which has more than a few layers of icky, sticky grime.
After living in one old house after another for so many years, it was impossible for me to believe that I would one day want to go the opposite route with hardware: That it would look entirely too new, and need the patina that comes from age in order to look 'right.' But when it's time to replace old hardware that has gone beyond all hope of repair, often the only available options are bright, shiny new pieces that don't fit the look of your house at all.
Creating that old house patina
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to add that old patina to a brand-new piece of hardware. Though you can always do it the hard way, using anything from wood shavings to urine (yes, urine!), most choose to go with patina formulas that take the guesswork out of the final look and make life much easier.
Start by deciding what patina you want to see in your home. Though the most common is a shade of green, take a moment to look at the doorknobs, cabinet pulls and window hardware throughout your home. What does it look like? Patina can be in shades of red, brown, gray and more. Choose your patina color, keeping in mind that it doesn't have to look exactly like the other hardware in your old house. Each piece wears a bit differently than the next, so the uniqueness is part of the overall 'feel' of your home.
Then clean the hardware thoroughly. This might seem like an unnecessary step for new hardware straight out of the packaging, but the slightest bit of residue, even oily fingerprints, can lead to patina that just doesn't look quite right. Clean it all with a good dish detergent, then use a gentle scrubbing pad to get into the nooks and crannies. Never use steel wool, because this can actually make it tougher to get the patina to work.
Follow directions for the patina solution to the letter. Most of the time, this will mean dipping the piece into the patina formula until the desired look is achieved, and might include warming up the hardware first for better adhesion. Once you have the desired look, rinse the item thoroughly. This will stop the patina effect right where you want it.
Detailing your patina
That could be the end of it, or you could go a bit further and personalize the piece even more by rubbing off the patina in certain areas. This gives the hardware a truly 'used' look, especially if you rub away patina at key points, such as the edges of doorknobs or the end of the locking mechanism on window hardware.
Finally, go with wax and good buffing to protect the look. Avoid any other type of sealants, as these can discolor, peel or crack over time, ruining all your hard work.
Remember that safety comes first. Always do this work in a well-ventilated area, outside if possible, and wear protective gear, including thick gloves and goggles to avoid potential splashes into your eyes.