Which cleaner/lubricant should I use to restore this vintage door hardware? It is likely 100 years old. E.g. regular machine oil or gun cleaner/oil?


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  • 1
    WD40 or gun cleaner would work well, penetrating and removing rust. Give it a few foam floods until it drains non-yucky. Next time it needs oiled, switch to 3in1 or sewing machine oil. You need to keep it greasy to keep the mild steel from rusting.
    – dandavis
    May 19 '21 at 7:19

Graphite has long been a popular lock lubricant. The properties that make it a good choice are that it is dry so it won't attract dust, it can get into very small spaces and it is not affected by cold or heat. It used to be dissolved in alcohol brushed onto the pieces. when the alcohol evaporated it left the graphite in place. Now it is available in aerosols which makes it more convenient to use.

  • Do you know what the commercial name is for the spray?
    – amphibient
    May 19 '21 at 0:13
  • Think graphite spray is all you need. Some cans I have seen, had graphite in big letters on the spray can.
    – crip659
    May 19 '21 at 0:32
  • Blaster (brand name), Hillman, Lock-ease, Slip all make graphite aerosols.
    – mikes
    May 19 '21 at 0:34
  • The problem with graphite is that it won't stop rust. Older steel/iron needs to stay oiled, like an antique rifle for example.
    – dandavis
    May 19 '21 at 7:23

For cleaning it, you appear to have paint on it, so careful scraping with something softer than brass followed by brass cleaning/polishing compound or abrasives for external surfaces. Be very careful about using anything abrasive on a machined working surface. If you want to, brass and copper are particularly easy to polish to a mirror finish. A rotary tool makes it even easier. For the inside parts, I'd experiment a bit with loosening up the crud with a few chemicals before blasting it with a pressure washer if there were parts I had trouble with. A garden hose spray head can achieve significant pressure too if there is no pressure washer available. Cleaning the interior may also be unnecessary and it wouldn't be expensive to experiment with just lubricating it first.

  • It doesn't need blasting. Just a chemical clean, just like a gun
    – amphibient
    May 19 '21 at 2:01
  • @amphibient it has nooks and crannies though. I like to use the chemical to soften and then blast with hose or pressure washer to save Q tip work. You certainly could clean it manually though.
    – K H
    May 19 '21 at 2:36
  • It looks less technical to clean than an average semiauto, so the extra work is OK with a q tip
    – amphibient
    May 19 '21 at 2:38
  • Fun Fact: you can use electrolysis to cheaply, easily, and perfectly remove rust from nooks and crannies. I use 10p water and 1p vinegar, 16v DC. Wear gloves and flush the residue, that stuff is nasty. Watch a youtube or something for details.
    – dandavis
    May 19 '21 at 7:21

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