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How to Care for Your Traditional Ironmongery

Updated on January 15, 2016

Traditional architectural ironmongery, such as door furniture, curtain rails and poles, stair rods, switches and sockets, cabinet and window fittings and taps add a real touch of finesse to a home.

If you are looking to maintain their as-new gleaming beauty, or their antique-effect appearance, there are certain careful steps you will need to take. In this guide we have provided advice on caring for some of the most popular finishes in traditional ironmongery. We hope you find it helpful.

Caring for Brass

In order to achieve its sheen, polished brass is coated with lacquer. If it is cleaned with abrasive metal polish, the lacquer coating will be damaged, and the sheen will be lost. In order to prolong the life of the coating, we recommend regular, gentle cleaning with hard beeswax.

Often the lacquer coating will break down naturally, particularly in the case of outdoor door furniture such as letter plates and door knockers which are exposed to the elements. If this is the case, you will need to remove all remaining traces. If you don’t, the piece will start to pit and then you will have to call in the expert help of professional metal cleaners in order to claw back the original lustre.

In order to achieve its sheen, polished brass is coated with lacquer.
In order to achieve its sheen, polished brass is coated with lacquer.

Dealing with brass lacquer

How to remove lacquer? This can be done using Nitromors all-purpose paint remover or any celluloid paint remover. Once this has been done, the piece will be ready for cleaning, polishing and maintaining. If you wish, you can apply a coat of transparent lacquer, however it is important to remember that lacquered brass calls for a higher level of cleaning than non-lacquered.

Bear in mind that all brass – especially brass that ‘lives’ outdoors - has a tendency to tarnish and this can be caused by numerous factors. If you live close to the sea then the salt spray will exacerbate tarnishing, as will pollution from main roads and high levels of humidity. All of these factors will act to break down the protective lacquer and lead to discolouration. Also beware of scratching from keys or jewellery. As soon as you spot the first signs of damage, take action.

Dealing with PVD brass

If you opt for products in ‘PVD’ stainless brass, you will usually be able to enjoy a manufacturer’s tarnish-free guarantee for 25 years. PVD stands for ‘physical vapour deposition’. Basically it means that the brass has been coated in a microscopic layer of hardwearing metals designed to protect the fittings from discolouration and even the harshest of conditions such as sea air, intense sunlight and high levels of pollution. To clean PVD brass simply dust with a soft cloth and for more stubborn stains, use white spirit or a similar spirit based product.

Caring for Polished Chrome

You will find that you won’t need to apply much maintenance time to products crafted in polished chrome, although you will probably experience deposits on fittings located outdoors. Regular cleaning with a soft cloth and a non-abrasive wax polish is usually all that is needed.

You will find that you won’t need to apply much maintenance time to products crafted in polished chrome, although you will probably experience deposits on fittings located outdoors.
You will find that you won’t need to apply much maintenance time to products crafted in polished chrome, although you will probably experience deposits on fittings located outdoors.

Caring for Polished and Brushed Nickel

Polished nickel and brushed nickel, also known as pewter, are known as ‘living finishes’. Over time they evolve to develop their own patina, so that they acquire their own unique appearance. Both finishes call for a fair amount of care and attention. Any fittings that are prone to getting wet, such as taps, should be dried quickly after use, as the minerals in water can leave deposits if allowed to dry. Where this occurs, some warm water and a soft cloth will often resolve the issue.

Nickel taps that have lost their original sheen can be lightly polished with Autoglym. This is a product originally designed to bring the shine back to chrome bodywork on classic cars. Pewter taps can be cleaned with a purpose-designed pewter pad.

Caring for Black Iron

Iron was the material of choice for an array of fixtures and fittings up to and through the Middle Ages. Robust as it is, whether cast or malleable, it is generally prone to rusting. Often black ironmongery such as door knockers, door handles and letter plates will be covered in black powder coating. However, where parts are constantly exposed to rubbing, surfaces can be affected and rusting really is inevitable. Light oiling is recommended as this will help to maintain the original appearance and prevent the rusting process from kicking in.

Harmful deposits can cause erosion, especially if the property is located in close proximity to the coast. In these cases, we recommend a regular wipe over with a lightly oiled cloth.

Often black ironmongery such as door knockers, door handles and letter plates will be covered in black powder coating.
Often black ironmongery such as door knockers, door handles and letter plates will be covered in black powder coating.

When you first invest in traditional ironmongery products for your home, it is usually because you are taken aback by the eye-catching beauty or the newness of the glimmer and sheen. You’ll want to maintain this, and following the above tips will assist you in doing just that so that you can enjoy your pieces for the longest time possible.

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