How to Clean Chrome Door Handles and Other Plated or Polished Metal Door Hardware - 4 Easy Methods

Cleaning chrome door handles and knobs - stainless steel door hardware - clean door handles


Chrome, stainless steel and polished brass plating are popular finishes for handles and door knobs, as well as other fixtures, fittings and hardware around your home, and they require regular cleaning.

The visual appeal of plated and polished metallic door furniture is obvious, with a highly mirror-like finish providing striking visual appeal, for both traditional and contemporary interiors.

But such highly polished surfaces are prone to tarnishing, with dust, debris, finger marks and even mild corrosion.  

Article Topics:

  1. Introduction
  2. Tackling stubborn dirt and grease build-up
  3. Using the right cleaning methods
  4. Cleaning plated and polished metal door handles
  5. Warm soapy water
  6. Lemon juice & baking soda
  7. Diet coca-cola
  8. Tomato ketchup
  9. Not just for door handles

Tackling Stubborn and Greasy Build-Up

A potential issue with highly polished, mirrored door furniture, compared with other metallic finishes (brushed, satin or antique) is that finger marks, dirt and grease, or other tarnishing can build up and be more visible.

But fear not, polished and plated door handles and knobs are straightforward to clean. It is however vital that they are cleaned in an appropriate way.

Clean door handles - tarnished chrome door handle

Using the Right Cleaning Methods

Because chrome and plated brass are thinner, decorative coverings over a substrate metal underneath (such as zinc), they can be susceptible to tarnishing, scratching and other damage, if cleaned in the wrong way, with harsh or abrasive materials or chemicals.

Washing up with no soapy water in dirty sink

Cleaning Plated and Polished Metal Door Handles

This guide will show you five easy-to-follow methods of cleaning door hardware, outlining everything you need to know, from what supplies you’ll need to handy tips and tricks to enhance the shine of your door handles and knobs.

Sounds strange, but we will be using everyday household items you most likely have sitting in your kitchen cupboards, so there’s no need to purchase new cleaning products or tools.

Quick, simple, and easy to follow, this how-to guide shows that cleaning polished and plated door handles and knobs can be easy and very cost effective.

Method 1: Warm Soapy Water

This technique is the easiest, requiring only warm water, dish soap and two soft dry cloths.

What You'll Need:

  • Warm water

  • A bowl

  • 2 soft cloths

  • Dish soap

  • Natural wax (optional)

How to clean chrome door handles - hot soapy water - wear protective gloves

Steps to Follow:

Remove any dust or debris from the door handle or knob with a damp soft cloth.

In the bowl, combine the water and dish soap to make a soapy solution. You want to make sure your dish soap is of good quality. Many cheaper brands may contain salt, which can cause tarnishing.

Dampen the soft cloth in the soapy water and wipe over the handle.

Use your second soft cloth to dry the handle.

Apply a light coating of natural wax for extra shine (optional).

Method 2: Lemon Juice & Baking Soda

Due to the relative delicateness of chrome and plated brass, using heavier cleaning solutions can cause damage.

So instead, combining lemon and baking soda produces a lightly abrasive paste, which will help remove stubborn marks or stains on your door handle safely.

Baking soda for chrome and plated brass door handles

What You'll Need:

  • Maximum of 1/2tsp of lemon juice

  • 1tsp of baking soda

  • Small mixing bowl

  • Two soft cloths

  • Warm filtered water in a bowl

  • Natural wax (optional) 

Steps to Follow:

Mix a tiny amount of lemon juice and baking soda in a bowl until it forms a thick paste — use a minimal amount of lemon juice at a time, as this can be harsh in large quantities.

Cover the door handle or knob in a thin layer of the paste.

Let the paste settle for 2-3 minutes. 

Wipe away the paste using a soft cloth.

Using clean, warm water, remove any paste leftover from the handle. 

Use a clean dry soft cloth to dry and buff the handle to shine. 

Lemons - for cleaning chrome and plated brass door handles

Method 3: Diet Coca-Cola

An unusual but effective cleaning medium is Diet Coca-Cola. It contains citric acid, which enables the soft drink to dissolve metal oxides to break up small rust particles and tarnishing. At the same time, citric acid is an effective stain remover.

NOTE: to work correctly be sure to use Diet Coca-Cola and not Coke Zero, as it doesn’t contain citric acid.

Diet Coca-Cola is less sticky than regular Coke. Therefore, you will spend less time cleaning the residue left behind on your handles and knobs from the higher sugar content.

What You'll Need:

  • Flat Diet Coca Cola — flat coke is easier to work with

  • Two soft cloths

  • Warm water in a bowl

  • Natural wax (optional)

Diet Coca-Cola for cleaning chrome and brass door handles

Steps to Follow:

Pour some of the Diet Coca-Cola onto the handle.

Gently rub it over the area with a soft dry cloth.

Continue to repeat this process until you achieve your desired result.

Wipe down the handle with warn water to remove any leftover residue.

Dry off the handle with another soft dry cloth.

Rub a thin layer of natural wax into the handle to improve its shine (optional).

Top Tips:

For added flair, try these quick tips to improve the splendour and glow of your handles:

Remove any dust or loose debris before cleaning.

Move from side to side and top to bottom when cleaning.

Dry your handles from top to bottom. Doing so will avoid any streaks or watermarks.

Pick a clear, dry day to clean any exterior handles.

Chrome handles -  cleaning chrome door handles - clean door handles

Method 4: Tomato Ketchup

Another more unusual but effective way to clean plated door hardware, such as chrome, is ketchup. And there’s good reason why it’s so effective.

Cleaning chrome and plated brass door handles - tomato ketchup

Tomato ketchup’s secret weapon for cleaning tarnished metallic surfaces is acetic acid, which is found in one of ketchup’s main ingredients, white vinegar.

The acetic acid found in white vinegar is great for breaking down metal tarnish and revealing the polished, mirrored finish beneath.

What You Will Need

  • A bottle of tomato ketchup

  • Rubber gloves

  • Warm water in a bowl

  • Two soft cloths

  • Natural wax (optional)

Rubbers gloves for cleaning stubborn residue on door handles

Steps to Follow

Wear a protective rubber glove.     

Pour a generous amount of ketchup into your gloved hand.

Apply the ketchup liberally to your door handle or knob.

Ensure it’s well covered.

Leave for 15 minutes.

When time is up, use a clean cloth and warm water to wash the ketchup off.

Wipe the handle or knob with a soft, clean, dry cloth and buff to shine.

Top Tip – Tin Foil Scrub

If your chrome or brass plated handle or knob has stubborn tarnishing or corrosion, follow these additional steps for all four methods discussed above:

If the first didn’t finish the job, apply a second coat of cleaning medium.

Ball-up a sheet of tin foil and use it as a scouring pad on the handle or knob — foil is softer than chrome and brass plate, having only a mild abrasive action without scratching. NOTE: Never use steel wool or wire wool to clean chrome or brass plated surfaces.

After a little elbow grease, leave the cleaning medium in place for twice as long before washing off and buffing.

Not Just for Door Handles

The cleaning methods we've looked at in this blog, while are great for handles and door knobs, can be used to clean tarnished chrome and plated metal surfaces, such as bathroom taps, frames, cabinet handles knobs and chrome pipework.

Alternative chrome finishes - bathroom pipes and taps with chrome handles

It's the same for kitchens too. Chrome or plated metal surfaces can be cleaned in the same way as we've talked about in this blog, including door and drawer pull handles and knobs, stainless steel sinks and draining boards, taps, pots and pans etc.

These methods can also be used on chrome and other plated metallic finishes around your home, such as front door knockers and letter boxes, curtain poles, stool bases, table legs, the list goes on.

Basically, any chrome or plated metal surface that needs to be cleaned can be done so with these methods.

Cupboard door knob - brass door handle - clean brass door handles

Final Thoughts

Clean chrome door handles, and other plated and highly polished handles look great, but because they are designed to be touched and show dirt and tarnish more than many other surfaces, regular cleaning is a must.

We are confident that by following these easy cleaning methods, you will restore your door handles to their original glory in no time, helping to keep your home looking good.

The cleaning methods for chrome, brass plated, and stainless steel door handles explored here are safe, practical and economical — significantly cheaper than dedicated metal polish. They are an easy win to improve the cleanliness, shine and lifespan of your metal plated and stainless steel handles and knobs.

And remember, these simple cleaning methods can be used on other metallic home hardware finished, such as solid brass handles and for cleaning pewter.

Try out each cleaning method to see which one is best for you and transform dull and tarnished metal plated door handles and other hardware around your home.  

For more useful home how-to guides, and additional DIY inspirations, visit Hiatt Hardware.