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How We Used a Crockpot to Remove Decades of Paint from Hardware

This is our tried and true method of boiling hardware to remove decades – centuries, even! – of old paint without the use of harsh chemicals.

All the old hardware lined up, waiting to be boiled in the crockpot to remove decades of yucky paint | via Yellow Brick Home

Fellow old home dwellers, how many of you have door and cabinet hardware around your house that look like this 👆? I’ll never forget touring the Two Flat with our realtor, and silently squeezing Scott’s hand. I whispered into this ear, LOOK. Look at the original hardware! We were both giddy with excitement, knowing that we could be the ones to nurture this house back to life.

Hardware | Before

All the old hardware lined up, waiting to be boiled in the crockpot to remove decades of yucky paint | via Yellow Brick Home

I shared the process of restoring the century-old hardware in Stories, but I also want to give the quickest, easiest tutorial here, so that you can refer to this post as much as you’d like! Now, all the gunked-up, painted hardware looks like this:

Hardware | After

A detail of a ceramic knob with brass backplate, all cleaned up using the boiling method! via Yellow Brick Home

Here’s What You’ll Need

How to Use a Crockpot to Remove Decades of Paint

1| Throw all the hardware in a crockpot, fill with water, and add a dishwasher pack or a dollop of dish soap.

Note: This should go without saying, but please never, ever use this pot for cooking again. We borrowed a crockpot from a friend (thank you, Toby!), but I’d recommend downgrading your cooker for this purpose moving forward, or you may have luck finding one at a thrift store.

A side-by-side of filling a crockpot with dish soap and old hardware. I'll be using the slow cooker method to boil the paint off! via Yellow Brick Home

2| Set the cooker to low heat, and leave it alone for at least 4 hours. I like to put the crockpot outside and leave it alone all day. The longer it goes untouched (upwards of 8-10 hours), the easier the next step will be!

An overhead image of our crockpot filled with painted hardware. I'll be using the slow cooker method to boil the paint off! via Yellow Brick Home

3| After an entire day, your hardware stew will look pretty gross, and that’s a good thing! Bring the pot inside and drain the murky water.

A fresh pot of hardware stew, ready to be cleaned off and re-installed! via Yellow Brick Home

4| Using a pair of tongs, remove each piece and run it under cold tap water. It will cool immediately, and layers of paint will literally fall off in sheets. The majority of the work will take little to no effort at all! Yes, it absolutely feels like magic, and yes, it’s as gross and fun as it sounds. (Just me?)

Watch the paint fall right off hardware when you use the crockpot boiling method | via Yellow Brick Home

5| For the more intricate details, you may want to use a small pick + hook set to remove any stubborn goo. Be careful to use a light touch, as you don’t want to scratch the metal.

Use a small pick to remove junk from hardware when you use the crockpot boiling method | via Yellow Brick Home

6| Finally, lay your hardware in a single layer, blot it dry and lightly spritz it with WD-40. This will prevent it from rusting. You can buff away any excess WD-40 the next morning.

Lighting mist the hardware with WD-40 to prevent the hardware from rusting after using the boiling method | via Yellow Brick Home

7| Re-install and admire your beautiful ‘new’ hardware!

A ceramic knob with brass backplate, all cleaned up using the boiling method! via Yellow Brick Home
A brass knob and backplate, all cleaned up using the boiling method! via Yellow Brick Home

I’d be remiss not to mention one small caveat. While the hope is that you’ll discover solid brass, cast iron or copper hardware beneath the layers of paint, be prepared to find out that your beloved hardware might be plated steel or a cheaper material. In the case that some of your hardware isn’t exactly what you had in mind, I have a simple solution for you: hide it on the inside of closet doors!

A brass knob and backplate, all cleaned up using the boiling method! via Yellow Brick Home

For everything else, take your favorite knobs, backplates, latches and the like, and place them in the most prominent places.

A white ceramic knob with brass backplate, all cleaned up using the boiling method! via Yellow Brick Home

The boiling method works well on everything from ceramic and brass knobs, to window hardware to the smallest screws. Throw it all in the pot and see what happens! The waiting is the hardest part. Enjoy!

If you give this a try, tag @yellowbrickhome so we can see your results! And if you’re interested in de-lacquering shiny brass hardware, we’ve got you covered right here.

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  • KWu10.26.20 - 6:31 AM

    Omg those are GORGEOUS! were you able to tell it was originally hardware just because of how intricate it is? How do you tell the difference between the more solid materials and the cheaper ones you put inside closets?ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.26.20 - 9:06 AM

      It depends on how much paint is covering the plate! Honestly though, it was a bit of a cross-your-fingers thing, and once everything was cleaned up from the pot, we could decide where everything would go.ReplyCancel

  • jenn aka the picky girl10.26.20 - 8:58 AM

    Good morning! Every time I see you or Daniel Kanter doing this, it makes me want to do the plate for our front door, but it’s our front door, and I don’t want to be without the hardware. The plate is THE coolest, though, and I wish the other doorknobs weren’t mostly replacements. My other house, built in the same year (1906) had all matching knobs and plates, and they were gorgeous. Maybe that’s my next collection…ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.26.20 - 9:06 AM

      Just do it on a day that you’ll be at home ALL day! Start your pot early in the morning, and you can reinstall by evening!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey10.26.20 - 9:39 AM

    Have you ever been able to get the old locks to work? ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.26.20 - 9:48 AM

      We ended up purchasing these new mortises with skeleton keys so that the locks would operate more smoothly. Some doors were more plug and play than others, the more difficult ones required chiseling and/or wood filling/sanding/re-painting. Our friend Toby helped us with the installs, for which we owe him OUR LIFE. :DReplyCancel

  • Lia10.26.20 - 11:10 AM

    Beautiful hardware – how fun to see it come back to life. I’ve done this many times but never added any detergent or soap – just the hot water did the trick.ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.26.20 - 11:27 AM

      Thank you! We’ve skipped the dish soap in the past as well, but certainly doesn’t hurt!ReplyCancel

  • Tori Bohannon10.26.20 - 11:30 AM

    Soooooo beautiful! Do you have any tips for easily removing the plates/knobs? Mine are covered in paint and look like they’d be really tough to unscrew/remove…ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.26.20 - 11:55 AM

      We like to use the same pick and hook set to clean and remove paint from screws and hardware. Tiny flat head screwdrivers are also helpful. Just take your time and go slow because once a screw is stripped it’ll be a lot tougher to remove!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany10.26.20 - 12:37 PM

    So beautiful, thank you for sharing your process! I’m curious if there’s anything concern about lead paint/exposure when doing this? Is this something you considered/prepared for? My husband and I are looking for a fixer upper now, and are trying to figure out what we can reasonably DIY! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.26.20 - 12:41 PM

      This is a safe way to DIY, since it’s not creating any dust whatsoever.ReplyCancel

      • Brittany10.26.20 - 2:12 PM

        Oh that’s great to know, thank you for replying!ReplyCancel

      • Traci10.27.20 - 1:10 AM

        Is the lead going down the drain not an issue?ReplyCancel

        • Mark9.30.22 - 9:04 PM

          This is DEFINITELY a problem. I let the water cool, pour it in to an empty plastic jug (like detergent), and take it to our hazardous waste drop off.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy10.26.20 - 1:02 PM

    Do you have any suggestions for good places to buy replacement antique hardware? We’ve got some beautiful knobs in our 1915 Craftsman, but at some point it seems some of the plates were removed for painting and never re-installed. I’ve gone to antique salvage stores but it can be so tricky to find something that works. Any advice would be most appreciated!!ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.26.20 - 1:23 PM

      You’re on the right track! We rely on local Chicagoland salvage/antique stores to source most of our replacement hardware. We’ve found that bringing along the hardware that we’re looking to replace is the best way to make sure our replacements are as ‘plug and play’ as possible. There seem to have been fewer accepted standards 100 years ago, so bolt patters, sizes and shapes are MUCH more variable than you might think. Best of luck!ReplyCancel

    • Miruska10.27.20 - 10:29 AM

      I am not sure where you are located, but @woodwardthrowbacks in Detroit have tons of gorgeous antique plates and knobs. They posted on IG that they are loading them on their website so check there. I am sure they ship anywhere (or could) since those would be easily-manageable packages. Good luck finding what you like. ReplyCancel

      • Scott10.27.20 - 4:30 PM

        I just discovered @woodwardthrowbacks myself! They seem like a great resource.ReplyCancel

  • Aimee10.26.20 - 4:58 PM

    This is so helpful! We’ve got some original copper (I think) hardware throughout our 1900’s home. Some is exposed and some is painted so I plan to try this method with the painted hardware. If it’s not copper but steel would you consider or recommend using rub n buff on the hardware to spruce it up a bit?ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.26.20 - 9:53 PM

      If it’s steel, why not?! Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren10.27.20 - 7:03 AM

    I tried this with some hardware from a gorgeous mid century dresser that had been painted. Just the water wasn’t taking the paint off so I added a dish pack and it completely ruined the hardware. I had no idea the hardware was aluminum under the paint and it had a nasty reaction to the chemicals in the dish pack, and it ate off the finish and etched the metal to an irreparable state. I’d definitely recommend knowing your metal before using dish packs just in case. Ruining impossible to replace hardware is no fun :(ReplyCancel

  • Kendall Lettinga10.27.20 - 8:04 AM

    I’m excited to try this!  However, our antique hardware is so painted over I don’t even know where the screws are?!  Any tips for finding and actually unscrewing the hardware.  Can you tell I’m not super handy???ReplyCancel

  • Paula Sullivan10.27.20 - 9:23 AM

    Great post! Could I do this in the oven in a throw away pan (aluminum ones you get at the grocery store)? Not sure I want to change my crockpot’s use quite yet…though maybe I get an instapot! Anyway, if you have any insight, I appreciate it! You guys are so talented!ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.27.20 - 9:48 AM

      The fumes can get kind of nasty, so we’d 100% avoid doing this in the house! A thrift store crockpot (usually $10 or so) is a great option. In the past, we’ve also purchased an old pot from the thrift store and put it outside on an electric hot plate. Whatever you do, though, please don’t attempt this indoors. Best of luck with your project!ReplyCancel

  • PENNY F10.28.20 - 2:39 PM

    old stuff is the best stuffReplyCancel

  • Barb Ternasky10.30.20 - 12:26 PM

    Thanks Kim , I’m going to try this method . Hope you all are doing well ❤️ReplyCancel

  • Lynn8.1.21 - 9:58 PM

    So awesome! I will definitely be trying this. Any tips for restoring the mechanisms of the old hardware that doesn’t work quite right anymore? Just get new from house of antique hardware? I have lots of door latches that threaten to lock us inside rooms! :( ReplyCancel

  • […] night on the lid with a lid. After the metal has been treated, the paint will fall off. To remove crockpot hardware, you should use plastic tongs rather than touching […]ReplyCancel

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