Good painters remove or cover door hardware before they paint. The other kind of painter just slops it over any exposed metal and ruins the door's appearance. Fortunately, any knob, escutcheon plate, or hinge can easily be made to shine again without the need for noxious chemicals, expensive tools, or uncomfortable gear.

The secret to restoring metal's gleam is simple: A long, hot, sudsy soak in a crockpot. This method, advocated by Brad Kittel, owner of Discovery Architectural Antiques, in Gonzales, Texas, uses nothing more than water, a bit of liquid detergent, and heat to break the paint bond. More often than not, you can slide all the cooked paint layers off with your fingers. A scrubbing with a nylon brush removes the stubborn bits. (Wire brushes or power tools are much too aggressive for this kind of work.)

A beeswax furniture polish after stripping, or a nonabrasive polish like Flitz or Maas can restore the sheen to solid brass or thickly plated hardware.

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