Home Improvement

How to Clean Door Knobs and Handles Without Damaging Them

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How to clean door knobs and handles cover

The average doorknob or handle is touched over 40 times per day. That means these frequently used surfaces are prime breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. In fact, one germy doorknob can spread infection within hours (source).

While this may be alarming, it’s important to remember that doorknobs and handles can be easily cleaned and disinfected to prevent the spread of illness. With a few simple steps, you can keep your home clean and hygienic while maintaining the shine of your hardware.

Understanding Door Knob and Handle Materials

Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand the different types of door knob and handle materials and their specific cleaning requirements.

Here’s a quick overview of the most common materials:

  • Brass – Made from a copper and zinc alloy. Has a shiny, gold appearance when polished but can tarnish to dull brown over time. Requires gentle cleaning solutions without harsh chemicals.
  • Stainless Steel – Made from steel with a chromium finish that resists corrosion. Provides a grayish silver shine but is prone to water spots and fingerprints. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • Chrome – Made from chromium-plated metals for a shiny silver surface. Shows water marks and fingerprints easily. Clean gently without abrasives, as these can damage the chrome finish.
  • Bronze – A copper alloy with a brownish metallic shine. Develops patina and oxidation over time with green/brown tarnish. Requires special metal cleaners.
  • Glass – Transparent knobs prone to fingerprints and soap scum buildup but they’re relatively easy to clean. Requires gentle cleaning without abrasives.
  • Pewter – A metal alloy that requires gentle cleaning. Develops tarnish easily but takes well to specialized metal polishes. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the pewter finish.

It’s important to use the appropriate cleaning solutions for each material type, as using the wrong ones can damage or discolor your door knobs and handles. 

For example, using acidic or abrasive products on brass or bronze can strip away their protective coating and cause them to tarnish faster. Using harsh chemicals or abrasives on chrome or glass can scratch or chip their surface and make them lose their shine. Read product labels carefully before applying any cleanser to your handles.

Curious about how door knobs work? Discover all about the parts and their functions in our detailed guide on the anatomy of doorknobs.

Essential Cleaning Supplies for Door Knobs and Handles

Spraying disinfectant on a door knobPin

To clean your door knobs and handles effectively and safely, you will need some basic cleaning supplies, such as:

  • Warm water: It is also gentle and safe for most materials. You can use warm water alone or mix it with other cleaning agents, such as soap or vinegar, to enhance its cleaning power.
  • Mild soap or detergent: It’s gentle and safe for most materials. You can use any mild soap or detergent that you have at home, such as dish soap, hand soap, or laundry detergent. Avoid using any soap or detergent that contains bleach, ammonia, or other harsh chemicals, as they can damage or discolor your door knobs and handles.
  • Soft cloths or sponges: They are gentle and safe for most materials. You can use any soft cloth or sponge that you have at home, such as microfiber cloths, cotton cloths, or cellulose sponges. Avoid using any cloth or sponge that is rough, abrasive, or dirty, as they can scratch or contaminate your door knobs and handles.
  • Cotton swabs or old toothbrushes: These can reach hard-to-reach areas, such as crevices, grooves, or edges. They are also gentle and safe for most materials.
  • Specialized cleaners (if necessary): They are effective and safe for the material they are intended for, but they may not be suitable for other materials. Follow the instructions on the label carefully, and test a small area first before applying to the entire surface.
  • Gloves (optional): They are optional, but they may be useful if you have sensitive skin, allergies, or cuts on your hands.

Cleaning Door Knobs and Handles

Now that you have identified the material of your door knobs and handles, and gathered the necessary cleaning supplies, you are ready to start cleaning.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for cleaning different material types:

Brass Door Handles

You will need:

  • Warm water
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Brass polish or baking soda and lemon (optional)

Follow these steps:

  1. Wipe the knob or handle with a damp cloth or sponge to remove any loose dirt or dust.
  2. Mix some warm water and mild soap or detergent in a bowl or bucket.
  3. Dip the cloth or sponge in the soapy water and wring out the excess.
  4. Gently rub the knob or handle with the cloth or sponge, using circular motions. Avoid scrubbing too hard or using any abrasive materials, as they can damage the brass.
  5. Rinse the knob or handle with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
  6. If the knob or handle is tarnished or dull, you can use a brass polish or a mixture of baking soda and lemon to restore its shine. Apply a small amount of the polish or paste to the knob or handle and rub it with a soft cloth, following the direction of the grain. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.

Stainless Steel Door Handles

Close-up of a stainless steel door handlePin

You will need:

  • Warm water
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Soft cloth for buffing

Follow these steps:

  1. Dust the knob or handle with a damp cloth.
  2. Mix warm soapy water.
  3. Wet the cloth with soapy water.
  4. Wipe the knob or handle gently.
  5. Wash off the soap using a clean cloth dipped in clean water.
  6. Dry the doorknob or handle with a clean cloth.
  7. If the knob or handle has stubborn stains or water spots, you can use a mild vinegar solution to remove them. Mix some vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray the knob or handle lightly. Wipe with a soft cloth and rinse with clean water. Dry with a soft cloth.
  8. To make the knob or handle shine, buff it with a soft cloth after cleaning. Use a microfiber cloth or a cloth made of natural fibers, such as cotton or wool. Avoid using any synthetic fibers, such as polyester or nylon, as they can scratch the stainless steel.

Bronze Door Handles

A bronze door knobPin

You will need:

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Soft cloth
  • Water
  • Deoxidizing solution (optional)
  • Wax (optional)

Follow these steps:

  1. Mix baking soda and lemon juice: Combine equal parts baking soda and lemon juice in a small bowl. This mixture will act as a natural deoxidizer to remove tarnish from the bronze.
  2. Apply the mixture to the door handle. Dip a soft cloth into the baking soda and lemon juice mixture and apply it to the tarnished areas of the door handle.
  3. Rub the mixture into the tarnish. Use circular motions to rub the baking soda and lemon juice mixture into the tarnished areas of the door handle. Be sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies.
  4. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Allow the baking soda and lemon juice mixture to sit on the door handle for 15 minutes to give it time to work its magic.
  5. Rinse the door handle with water. Rinse the door handle thoroughly with water to remove all of the baking soda and lemon juice mixture.
  6. Dry the door handle: Dry the door handle with a soft cloth to remove any moisture.
  7. Polish the door handle with a clean soft cloth. To add shine and protect the finish of the bronze door handle, polish it with a clean, soft cloth.
  8. If the knob or handle is excessively tarnished or oxidized, you can use a deoxidizing solution to remove the greenish patina. 
  9. To protect the knob or handle from further tarnishing, you can apply a light coating of wax every few months. Use a natural wax, such as beeswax or carnauba wax, and rub it on the knob or handle with a soft cloth. Buff with a clean cloth to remove any excess wax.

Chrome Door Handles

You will need:

  • Warm water
  • Mild soap or glass cleaner
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Chrome polish (optional)

Follow these steps:

  1. Remove dust using a dry cloth.
  2. Prepare soapy water by mixing warm water and liquid detergent.
  3. Wet a sponge or cloth with the soapy water.
  4. Gently wipe the area with the soapy cloth, avoiding harsh rubbing.
  5. Wipe off soap suds with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
  6. If the knob or handle is dull or scratched, you can use a chrome polish to restore its shine. Apply a small amount of the polish to the knob or handle and rub it with a soft cloth, following the direction of the grain. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.

Glass Door Handles

You will need:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap or glass cleaner
  • Soft lint-free cloth
  • Cotton swabs

Follow these steps:

  1. Create a cleaning solution of warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap or glass cleaner.
  2. Dampen lint-free cloth with solution; wring out excess.
  3. Gently wipe the cloth over the entire glass surface. Pay special attention to edges near the hardware.
  4. Use cotton swabs dipped in cleaner to softly scrub around crevices where grime collects.
  5. Rinse the door knob thoroughly with warm water and buff dry with a clean section of the lint-free cloth.
  6. To make the knob or handle sparkle, buff it with a soft cloth or a newspaper after cleaning. Use a microfiber cloth or a lint-free cloth, such as a cotton or wool cloth, to avoid leaving behind any lint or streaks.

Pewter Handles

You will need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Soft polishing cloth
  • Specialty pewter cleaner

Follow these steps:

  1. Make a paste from baking soda and white vinegar. Apply paste to pewter with soft cloth.
  2. Gently rub paste over the entire surface focusing on tarnished areas until stains lift.
  3. Rinse the pewter handle thoroughly with warm water to remove paste.
  4. Pat dry with a clean soft cloth.
  5. Use a specialty pewter cleaner and polishing cloth to add shine.

Here’s a summary:

MaterialCleaning Product
BrassWarm water and mild soap, brass polish, baking soda and lemon paste
Stainless SteelWarm water and mild soap, mild vinegar solution
ChromeWarm water and mild soap, glass cleaner, chrome polish
BronzeBaking soda, lemon juice, deoxidizing solution, wax
GlassGlass cleaner, diluted vinegar solution
PewterBaking soda, vinegar, warm water

Lost in a world of door hardware choices? Decide between knobs and handles with our expert guide and elevate your interior design.

Additional Cleaning Tips

  • Thoroughly rinse all residue after cleaning handles to prevent streaks or soap buildup.
  • Follow handle cleaning by disinfecting with an EPA-approved disinfectant spray or wipe.
  • To maintain the cleanliness and shine of your door knobs and handles, it’s recommended to clean them regularly. Clean handles in high-traffic areas at least once weekly to combat germs.
  • To further sanitize your door knobs and handles and eliminate germs and bacteria, consider using a disinfecting spray or wipe.
  • Rub a small amount of olive or almond oil onto brass and stainless handles occasionally to maintain luster between cleanings.

Maintaining Door Knob and Handle Shine

After cleaning your door knobs and handles, you may want to maintain their shine and luster for a longer time.

Here are some tips for maintaining the shine of different material types:

  • Brass – Rub a tiny amount of brass polish into handles weekly using gentle circular motions. Alternately, create a paste from baking soda and water to gently buff handles to brightness between deeper cleanings.
  • Stainless Steel & Chrome – After cleaning, rub handles in the direction of the grain with a microfiber cloth to buff out streaks and maintain shine.
  • Bronze – Every 3 months, apply a thin coat of paste wax, letting it dry before gently buffing with a soft cloth. This protects bronze’s finish between cleanings.
  • Chrome – To keep your chrome door knobs and handles sparkling, consider applying a light coat of chrome polish every few months. This will help protect the finish and prevent tarnishing.
  • Glass – Use a mixture of distilled water and vinegar to wipe knobs weekly, preventing spotting.
  • Pewter – Every month, gently apply a specialty pewter polish with a soft cloth, lightly buffing afterward to protect from tarnish.

Preventative Measures

Implement habits between cleanings to safeguard your handles’ pristine condition:

  • Use handle covers coated in antimicrobial materials that inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Install self-sanitizing copper handles which kill microbes automatically between cleanings.
  • Keep handles free of clutter like holiday wreaths which prevent grime accumulation.
  • Ask household members to refrain from placing personal items directly onto handles to reduce dirt and oils transferred.
  • Install handles with rounded shapes without grooves, which leave less surface area for grime adherence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What if I have stubborn stains or rust on my door knobs?

A: For stubborn stains or rust, you may need to use a more specialized cleaning solution. For brass, you can try a brass polish or a paste made of equal parts baking soda and water. For stainless steel, you can try a mild abrasive cleaner, such as baking soda or a vinegar solution. For bronze, you can try a deoxidizing solution or a paste made of equal parts lemon juice and salt.

Q: Can I use all-purpose cleaners on all types of doorknobs?

A: It’s best to avoid all-purpose cleaners on most handle materials, as these may contain harsh chemicals, acids or abrasives. Always check a product’s label before use to ensure it’s safe for your specific handle type. When in doubt, stick to gentle dish soap and water.

Q: How often should I clean my door knobs and handles?

A: High traffic door handles should be cleaned at minimum once weekly to combat germs. Areas with less frequent use can be cleaned every other week. Apply disinfectant to all handles twice weekly to kill bacteria between scrub cleanings.

Conclusion

Cleaning your door knobs and handles is an important and easy task that can make a big difference in your home.

By cleaning them regularly and properly, you can prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, and maintain a hygienic and healthy home. You can also preserve the appearance and function of your door knobs and handles, and enhance the beauty and style of your home.

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About the Author

James Mora is the founder of DailyHomeSafety. He is a home improvement expert, contractor, avid DIYer, and security manager. He is passionate about home repairs, remodeling, and teaching. Read More

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