How do I restore a 90 year old doorbell's finish?

by Dona

I'm flipping a 90 year old Craftsman bungalow and (I believe) the original front door has a doorbell that you twist a small handle to make a sound. I think it's brass and it works just fine but its finish tarnished badly. I'm keeping the door and want to restore the bell and door know assembly. I DON'T WANT TO RUIN IT! Help!!

  4 answers
  • Carol Sybrowsky Carol Sybrowsky on Jul 20, 2018

    This seems like a simple fix to me. Have you tried Brasso? If the doorbell is not lacquered, that should polish it right up. If that doesn't work, then remove the doorbell and remove old lacquer with lacquer remover. If you want an antique finish, spray with a dark paint like ORB. Then buff off the paint from the highest spots so that you have some raw brass showing. Then coat with satin or gloss lacquer. You may need to reapply the lacquer every year or so depending on how much the doorbell is exposed to sun and rain.

  • Ili Ili on Jul 20, 2018

    Have you tried some mild soap with baking soda and a soft toothbrush...?

  • Nancy Turner Nancy Turner on Jul 20, 2018

    Have you tried brass cleaners? If it doesn't clean up, perhaps you could refinish it with Rustoleum in their brass metallic color. If it is really tarnished, it may take a while to get the layers off, so be patient and just keep trying. It is no different than trying to clean really tarnished silver, patience pays off.

  • Pjo26908388 Pjo26908388 on Jul 20, 2018

    Easy stuff, and great that you want to restore a nice old piece. Remove it if you can. Hardware like this can be cleaned by boiling or cleaning with a scrub pad (or fine steel wool/SOS/ or Brillo pad) and a little dish soap. A soft cleaning does the trick. Slow and steady to get through the dirt and oxidation.

    If there is a varnish, at times it will need to be removed with a paint stripper. Varnish will be evident after cleaning and will show as slightly different colors to the brass.

    A brass polish can shine it up. If you don't have brass polish a oil like olive oil on a rag will remove oxidation and protect the brass. Keep cleaning until the rag stops taking off black or green.

    If if you want it to stay bright seal it with a clear top coat. I like the patina brass takes on and usually just leave a very thin coat of oil. Brass is very easy to work on and to restore. You'll end up with a nice addition to your house entry.