I recently purchased a large lot of patterned, antique cast-iron hardware for use with the upstairs doors that did not have nice hinges. I don’t remember where we picked up this trick, but I’ve always heard that a simmering pot of water with a few shakes of baking soda will loosen the old paint from iron hardware and give you an almost-new finish to work with.
So, I went to the Rappahannock Goodwill store recently and purchased a small $5 stock pot. There was no way you’d catch me using any of my daily ones for this. Who knows what’s in the multiple layers of paint combinations, including lead!
I started the pot on a simmer outside, careful not to create a toxic fumes issue inside the kitchen, and added the baking soda and a small portion of the hardware as a test. Almost immediately the water turned a murky brown with a sallow foam rising to the surface. After about an hour of simmering, I took an old pair of tongs and checked the hardware. Indeed, the paint was peeling right off and the hardware finish was remarkably clean.
I took all of the items out of the water and began to peel any remaining paint. Those parts that I couldn’t get with my gloved fingers, I used a fine wire brush. This worked very well and took the thin layer of rust off with the remaining paint. After a little scrubbing, the hardware looked almost new! I think that I will complete the refinishing with a thin layer of applied beeswax.
And after all of that, I’m not sure that I will actually end up using them upstairs. I am seriously debating trying to track down a source of hand-wrought HL hinges to complete the composition that was begun on the first floor. Much of that hardware appears to be original to the 18th century and it seems unnecessary to begin an entirely new style on the second floor. But we will see how economy and other variables affect this decision!