How can you get years of layers of gross old paint and whatnot off of your cool vintage hinges and handles? The not-so-secret weapon is a humble secondhand crock pot! Soaking hardware in hot water for a few hours can help loosen old paint, varnish, and even rust and impurities.
Soak your hardware on medium heat for 2-4 hours. It may take longer if the paint is very thick.
With a plastic or silicone scraper, simply peel off the offending paint. Avoid using metal or anything that will scratch your hardware.
Pro-tip: a rounded or well-worn edge is less likely to scrape or damage the metal.
For brass and bronze: mix 1 part baking soda and 1 part lemon juice or white vinegar into a paste. Spread the paste over the piece and let it set for 30 minutes. Wipe clean with a soft damp cloth. If you want to get a newer, cleaner finish, you can use steel wool or a wire-bristle brush to get a little more shine from your hardware.
For plain copper, the same process can be used if you want to remove any patina or discoloration. However, if your pieces have a finish, like “Japanned” copper which uses heat and chemical treatments to achieve a striking mottled black finish contrasting with copper. This type of finish is easy to damage, so avoid using sharp tools or any acid that will corrode the color.
To remove rust, wipe the area with alcohol on a soft rag. If the rust is stubborn, a toothbrush is your answer. Most nylon bristles are fine to use on a softer metal like copper.
Once all the icky is removed, you can burnish your cleaned hardware with some beeswax and a clean soft cloth to seal and restore some luster.
Pro-tip: Place your beeswax puck on top of your crock pot lid to soften it up.
Most importantly, peeling old paint off of hardware is really satisfying. Be safe, don’t drink your chemicals, and have fun!
Here is a video going over these steps. Seeing the paint come right off after boiling really is quite satisfying to see!