How to Clean Door Handles

Maintaining the cleanliness and style of your door handles and door knobs is just as important as the functionality they provide. Perhaps you have noticed a build-up of dirt on your handle or the beginnings of some tarnishing?

Our experts here at Door Handle Store have curated an easy guide on cleaning door handles and door knobs. In addition, our guide covers how to clean door handles for the most prevalent finishes we use to craft our handles; this includes:

  • Chrome
  • Brass
  • Satin Nickel
  • Stainless Steel

Our article will outline everything you need to know, from the supplies you will need and advice on removing stubborn grime or stains. You will not need to purchase any expensive products or tools; we will show you how to clean your door handles by simply using everyday household items and a little bit of elbow grease.

It is a much easier process than it may seem, and by following our easy tips, you will have sparkling, beautiful handles and stylish doors again in no time at all.

What is tarnishing & why does it happen?

Have you noticed your handles looking a little tarnished? When your handles or knobs become tarnished, their surface can look darker, dull, and appear to have lost their lustre. Tarnishing results from a build-up of a layer of corrosion on the outermost layer of the handle due to a chemical reaction; this may result from exposure to humid air, water, or chemicals.

Taken from the late Middle English language, "to tarnish" stems from the French term "terne", which means dark and dull.

Tarnished door handles may result in a messier look, causing many to become disheartened. It often affects brass, chrome, steel, and nickel door handles, but thankfully, cleaning tarnished handles is not as difficult as you may think.

Tarnished doorknob

Things to consider before cleaning:

What are the door handles made of, and why is this important?

It doesn't matter if you have door handles on backplate or door handles on rose. Before you grab your gloves and start cleaning, it is worth considering the makeup of your handles.

Brass, steel, and zinc are some of the most prevalent materials used to construct door handles. Each metal will require a different cleaning method, so it is essential to recognise the makeup of your handles to ensure that you do not cause any scratches or damage to your handles.

In addition, rough polishing or using strong chemicals may cause damage to your hardware by affecting the plating of the decorative finish.

Do your handles have a coated finish?

Some door handles or door knobs may also have a coating or lacquer protecting the metal; this is particularly common with brass door handles.

Should your handles have a high shine, glossy finish, they likely have a clear coating to protect the metal underneath.

Coated or lacquered brass door handles can suffer easily from damage caused by keys or jewellery. You will notice this damage appearing as minor cuts or marks on the surface; these will allow air to tarnish the metal underneath.

The best way to maintain lacquered brass door handles is to gently clean the handle with a soft cloth and warm water before adding a light coating of natural wax to give these handles some extra protection. With these handles, it is best not to use harsh chemicals or harsh materials such as steel wool, as this will cause damage.

Are your door handles internal or external?

Internal and external door handles require different levels of care: your internal handles will be easier to maintain as they are shielded from severe weather conditions, whereas your external handles are constantly exposed and will most likely pick up dirt, stains, and any marks easier than your internal handles.

External door handles

Exterior Door Handles

We often put great effort into maintaining the interiors of our homes, constantly cleaning our furniture, and hoovering our floors - but we often forget to care for the outside of our homes.

Your external doors are often the first thing a visitor will see when visiting your home. It is thus essential to give it the same level of care as you would your interior handles.

With their constant exposure to the elements, your external door handles are more likely to attract marks and stains easier than interior door handles. As a result, you may find your handles will need a little TLC.

We know it may be confusing to know exactly how to keep external door handles clean, but considering our previous tips, we are confident you will have your handles in pristine condition in no time.

For external door handles, consider the materials:

As with any cleaning project, you need to own the right tools for the job. As before, do not forget to note the material of your external door handle. The last thing you will want to do is make the handle worse! Usually, the door handle, letterbox, door knockers and lock will be the same type of metal.

Whether your external handle is solid brass, chrome, pewter or even a plastic PVC door handle, a simple method of cleaning your exterior handle is to keep it gentle.

What to AVOID:

There are several things to avoid when cleaning your door handles. To reap the many benefits of cleaning your handles, you should avoid these.

  • Avoid using chlorine bleach or other products containing chloride.
  • Do not use wire wool or other abrasive materials.
  • Avoid using hard water. 
  • Do not clean stainless steel door furniture when it is warm. 

Internal and external door handles

As interior door handles need extra care, follow our in-depth guide below:

Chrome Door Handles

Intended to be polished, silver and shiny, Chrome finishes are easy to keep clean. There is a simple method to clean chrome door handles, which will take no time to complete. Check out our instructions below to restore your beautiful chrome handles to their original glory.

What You Will Need:

  • A bowl of warm water
  • 2 Soft cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Wax (optional)

Cleaning chrome door handles

Steps to follow:

  1. Wipe away any dust or debris from the handle.
  2. In the bowl, combine the water and dish soap. Ensure your dish soap is of good quality; cheaper brands may contain salt, which can encourage tarnishing.
  3. Dampen the soft cloth in the warm soapy water and rub over the handle, going from side to side and top to bottom.
  4. Take your dry cloth and dry the handle from top to bottom to avoid any streaks.
  5. To maintain the gloss of your handle, apply a thin layer of wax or polish using another cloth. Using wax or polish will enhance the lustrous finish of your handle and enhance the mirrorlike effect.

Brass Door Handles

Brass door handles and doorknobs are prominent features throughout period properties. Unfortunately, solid brass handles or handles with brass plating are also inclined to tarnish over time.

Fortunately, if you are willing to put in some elbow grease, cleaning brass door handles is easy and an excellent method to keep tarnishing at bay.

There are several solutions to clean brass door handles which we will take you through. You can also follow these methods for cleaning copper handles.

Method 1: Salt, flour & white vinegar

A popular solution to clean brass is to combine simple household products you likely have in your kitchen cupboards into a paste to apply to your handles or door knobs. Follow our steps below to find out more.

What You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tbsp of white vinegar

Cleaning brass door handles method 1

Steps to follow:

  1. Remove any dust or debris from the handle using a gentle cloth.
  2. Mix the ingredients in a bowl until they form a paste.
  3. Lightly rub the paste onto your brass door handle.
  4. Leave the paste to settle for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove the paste and rinse your handles with hot soapy water.
  6. Use a soft cloth to buff the handle or doorknob to improve their lustrous finish.

If you are cleaning an Antique Brass handle or door knob, be careful not to buff them too hard as you may damage the finish!

Method 2: Lemon & Baking Soda

A similar method, but perhaps a slightly more straightforward method to clean brass handles, is to use a lemon.

What you will need:

  • One ripened lemon, cut in half.
  • 1 tsp of baking soda (you can also use salt if you wish)
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Warm water

Cleaning brass door handles using lemon and baking soda

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix a small amount of lemon juice and the baking soda in a bowl until it becomes a thick paste. Lemon juice can be harsh when used in large quantities, so make sure you do not use too much, or you may damage the brass surface of the handles.
  2. Rub the paste over the handle, ensuring you cover the handle in a thin layer.
  3. Leave the paste on the handle for a few minutes before wiping it away with a soft cloth.
  4. Wipe the handle with clean water to remove any remnants of the paste.
  5. Use a soft, cotton cloth to buff the handle and improve its overall finish.

Method 3: Tomato Sauce

The following method of cleaning brass handles sounds strange, but it is highly effective. All you need is a bottle of tomato ketchup, and you can get clean brass handles in no time.

We know it sounds unusual to use tomato sauce as a cleaning aid, but tomato sauce has an acidic content of approximately 4% due to vinegar added to it. This acid helps dissolve dirt, grease and any stains on the surface whilst also acting as an abrasive, assisting in the removal of any residue which may be left behind.

What you will need:

  • Tomato sauce (enough to cover your handle)
  • Soft cloth
  • Warm water

Cleaning brass door handles using tomato sauce

Steps to follow:

  1. Apply a layer of tomato sauce to your brass-plated handle.
  2. Leave the sauce to settle and work its magic for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Wipe off the sauce with a cloth.
  4. Rinse your handle to remove any leftover residue.

Satin Nickel Door Handles

Satin Nickel handles have fast become some of our bestsellers. We craft their popular finish by placing a nickel layer over zinc, providing a robust and durable finish to your handles.

You can easily maintain their subtle glossy finish through gentle cleaning. Here is the best, simplest method we recommend.

What you will need:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Two soft cloths
  • Polish (optional)

How to clean satin nickel door handles

Steps to follow:

  1. Wipe away any loose debris and dust from your handle.
  2. Combine the warm water and dish soap in a bowl.
  3. Soak the cloth in the water and wipe over your handle, moving from top to bottom and side to side.
  4. Using your dry cloth, dry your handle moving from top to bottom to prevent streaks and watermarks.
  5. (Optional) If you find that these steps are not enough to enhance the shine of your handles, you can buff in a small amount of chrome polish onto the surface of your handle.

Stainless Steel Door Handles

Stainless steel handles are amongst the most robust handles on the market. Often used on doors in commercial, industrial, and residential properties, they must be kept clean. 

Cleaning stainless steel handles can be difficult, but you can avoid damage and restore life to your handles when provided with accurate information. 

Cleaning Stainless Steel Door Handles


Perhaps the easiest and safest way to clean your stainless-steel door furniture is by using a damp cloth to wipe down the handles and then using warm, clean water to rinse them off. 

With their bright finish, you may notice your handles have some stubborn dirt or marks on them. Mixing equal parts of white vinegar and olive oil and applying them to your handle will do the trick. 

Top tips for cleaning your door handles:

For extra finesse, incorporate these quick tips to enhance the beauty and shine of your handles:

  1. Remove any dust or debris before cleaning.
  2. Wear protective gloves if you will be working with any chemicals.
  3. Clean from side to side and top to bottom.
  4. Dry your handles from top to bottom to avoid any streaks or watermarks.
  5. Choose a clear, dry day to clean your exterior handles.