Seroj Terian on restoring discolored door locks

Updated: 2013-01-27T02:47:47Z


Special to The Star

Q.The doorknobs and locks on the outside of my house have discolored, and the finish on some has begun to peel. They are 10 years old. Is there anything I can do to restore the brass-colored finish? Obviously the builder used inferior fixtures. I do not wish to replace them as there are five outside doors. — Carolyn Wheat, Knob Noster, Mo.

A. This is an excellent question, as I find myself in the same discolored boat. When I built my house six years ago, I used what I thought to be quality Schlage locks with a satin nickel finish. After just a few years, the finish on the exterior locks started to peel and discolor. The worst was on the front door, which faces south and gets a lot of direct sun.

Your question prompted me to investigate what can be done. Most newer door locks have a thin, decorative finish or plating over a base metal. A layer of lacquer or clear coat is applied to protect the decorative finish. With use and sun and weather exposure, the clear protective layer wears or peels away, and the decorative finish begins to deteriorate. Many old door locks were made of solid brass, and even though they would tarnish, they could be polished back to their original luster.

I called Schlage to report my problem, and they said I would need to replace the locks. They said they stand behind their products and promised to ship me a new set of locks. I would recommend you contact the manufacturer of your locks and see whether they will warranty them.

Barring that, you can attempt to restore the finish, although I don’t know how much success you will have. To start, remove any remaining lacquer or clear coat. You can use some paint stripper and 0000 steel wool (the finest type). Don’t be too aggressive, as the plating is probably very thin. Finally, try using a commercial brass cleaner or polish to see if it will restore the shine of the brass.

Seroj Terian is the handyman for Jewish Family Services Help@Home program.

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