How to Bring Old Handles Back to Life

Written by Jessica Mitchel

I've been flipping furniture for profit for over eight months. I like to share all of the tips, tricks, and learning lessons along the way.

January 17, 2023

There are two main ways I reuse handles on a furniture flip: clean them or paint them.

I’ve had a lot of success just cleaning the original hardware to give it a new shine. There are a couple of different ways that you can do this. One of the easiest ways is to actually boil the hardware in water for awhile. This can help clean and give shine to the hardware.

You can also just rinse the hardware with soap and water, which is usually my preferred method.

But, there is also another way to clean that has really transformed some of the old brass hardware pieces I have worked with- a brillo pad.

Yeah, I know this sounds weird, but scrubbing the old brass hardware will remove the old finish, leaving you with a bright, fresh looking handle or knob. Now, if you decide to do this, I would recommend wearing gloves as the brillo pads do have chemicals in them and can be quite abrasive. Sometimes I find it also helps to leave the hardware soaking in water with the brillo pad cleaner for a few hours to help soften the original finish. Just be sure to not leave them in for more than a few hours, as your hardware can begin to rust.

You’ll also need some elbow grease for this. I typically have to SCRUB my hardware to get the original finish off. But once it’s off, it looks beautiful and brand new!

If you’re not working with brass or just aren’t into the brill pad idea, then another great option is spray paint. I’ve had a lot of luck spray painting original hardware without any chipping or wear in the spray paint.

If you decide to go this route, you’ll want to first clean the hardware piece- water and soap should work just fine. Then, I like to lightly sand the hardware. I’m using the same philosophy I do with scuff sanding a furniture piece- sanding the handle will help give the paint something to grip too. I’ll then do one more cleaning before the spray paint.

I prefer spray paint to regular paint when working with hardware because it gives a nice finish and is easier to get in all of the areas of the hardware. You’ll want to be strategic when you lay out your hardware so you don’t miss any areas. You might even need to do multiple coats and layouts so you can hit every spot. Sometimes it can even help to screw you handle or knob to a piece of scrap cardboard for painting.

I’ve never used any type of spray poly before painting and really don’t feel the need to. I just go in with my spray paint and do as many coats as I feel it needs. I will, however, do a clear spray poly coat over the top. I like to do at least a few of these since the hardware will typically be used a lot. Then I just make sure the hardware is fully dry before putting it back on the furniture piece.

There are many other options you have for refreshing old hardware, but these are my two tried and true methods.

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