Caring for Your Cabinet Hardware
One of the most common questions asked of our customer service representatives is how to clean solid brass cabinet hardware. To clean and care for your Cliffside Industries hardware, there are only a few simple rules to follow: never expose the hardware to sharp or abrasive objects that will breach the lacquer; never use chemicals, cleaners, or soaps on the hardware; and wash your hands before handling the hardware.
Cleaning bronze and solid brass cabinet hardware
Never use sharp or abrasive objects
Cleaning and caring for cabinet hardware made from solid brass or blended bronze is easy, as long as you follow the simple rules above. The first rule to remember is to always handle your hardware with care. Of course, in kitchens which are used heavily, accidents may happen from time to time. Keeping sharp implements, such as knives and peelers, away from your cabinet hardware is usually no issue, but contact with these objects may occur occasionally. Other abrasive objects to watch out for are wedding rings and other metal objects, which can wear away at the lacquer over time.
A good rule of 'thumb' is to use your fingertips, or the 'pads' of your fingers up to the second knuckle, to open your cabinets and drawers, rather than trying to wrap your entire hand around the pull. Simply getting behind the pull should be enough to open any cabinet without much trouble. The same rule also applies to appliances: reach in with your fingers and pull gently, making sure to avoid contact with rings or other jewelry.
Never use cleaners, soaps, or other chemicals
The second rule, and possibly the most important, is never to use any kind of chemical agent on the hardware.
Some cabinet manufacturers say that you can use furniture polish to clean your cabinets, depending on the finish. Others say that you should use cloths with soap and water, and still others provide special cleaning solutions. However, none of these options are safe for cabinet hardware! For starters, furniture polishes often contain wax. This will cause a build-up on your hardware that will affect the look and feel of the finish. It will also build up over time and may eat through the lacquer, not to mention the other types of chemicals that are present in furniture polishes. Even natural essential oils, like orange oil, contain acid that can hurt your hardware.
Many people believe that mild dish soap would be safe to clean brass cabinet hardware because they wash their plates and silverware in it every day. However, this is untrue: any soap will damage your hardware. Any cleanser, from abrasive kitchen scrubbers down to the mildest soaps, can affect your lacquer. Soaps are derivatives of different types of acid, and as mentioned above, acids can dissolve and separate the lacquer plating that covers the core bronze and brass materials of the hardware in the same way that they break down and remove grease and food residue.
The special cleaning solutions provided or recommended by cabinet manufacturers also run the risk of dissolving your lacquer. If you have to clean off your cabinet doors because there is grease or residue around or under your hardware, the best thing to do is to remove the cabinet hardware entirely prior to cleaning the cabinets and allowing the doors and drawers to dry completely before re-installing. Do this by hand, not with power tools, to make sure that your hardware gets the best possible lifetime of use. Never allow wood cleaners or de-greasers to come in contact with your solid brass hardware or bronze hardware.
Always wash and dry your hands before touching
If you use lotions or other skin creams, these also contain oils which may adversely affect your hardware. To combat this, always wash your hands with soap and hot water and dry them thoroughly before touching your cabinet hardware. This includes the inside and outside of knobs, drawer pulls, and appliance handles.
Then how do I clean my hardware?
Anyone can learn how to clean solid brass hardware, because bronze and brass cabinet hardware are very easy to clean: simply wipe the surface of the hardware with a damp (not wet), soft cloth that is clean (no leftover chemicals or detergents) and non-abrasive (not terry-cloth or other 'scratchy' materials). Moisten the cloth only with water. The best recommendation for soft cloth is either a clean rag or a piece of an old T-shirt.
Brass and bronze are both alloys of copper: brass is primarily copper blended with zinc; while bronze is a mixture of copper and tin. Because of their copper content, both brass and bronze are naturally anti-microbial. Copper has been used for centuries to combat the build-up of bacteria and viruses, as well as certain molds and fungi, in water, and has more recently been tested as a surface anti-microbial agent as well. Because these materials are able to kill off micro-organisms, all that is needed is for you to remove any build-up of dirt or grime with water. The copper content of the metal will kill off any germs so that your hardware will be as safe to use as ever.
Caring for zinc and stainless steel hardware
Although zinc has some anti-microbial properties, they have been mostly studied when zinc is taken internally as an ingested compound, not as a surface metal. Therefore, we recommend still cleaning with a damp, wet cloth, but cannot make any guarantee as to the safety level of the hardware. This is one of the many reasons that Cliffside Industries sells primarily solid brass cabinet hardware instead of zinc die cast.
Stainless steel hardware, just like your stainless steel silverware, can be cleaned with mild dish soap, but should be dried immediately to avoid water-spotting and other potential damage. However, the use of soaps on any hardware is not covered under warranty. Because stainless steel is a 'to-the-core' material, i.e., it is all stainless material, not a lacquered or plated finish over a different core metal, there is almost no chance of any effect on the external finish of the piece, as it is simply brushed stainless steel metal.