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topic 0798

Acid washing of brass elevator doors

A discussion started in 1998 but continuing through 2018


Q. I have a customer who I do a lot of furniture refinishing for. He has two elevators in his condo. Both have polished brass doors inside and out, with brass trim inside. He told me that a company once came in and "acid washed" (?) the doors. Ever since then the doors have required daily polishing and maintenance. He wants me to finish the doors to cut down on the maintenance. I have not been able to find any information on lacquering or prepping brass or even if lacquer is the most desirable material to use. Any information or direction on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

- Commercial Furniture Repair


A. Dear Jeff:

Lacquer is used by the leading metal maintenance companies refinishing elevators and hardware in most major cities.

The process is to strip the old coating, polish the brass, clean the surface and spray the clear lacquer topcoat.


Les Trinity
- Middlesex, New Jersey


A. Jeff:

This finishing work is a bit tricky to accomplish on your own. Companies specialize in such finishing work, and literally refinish thousands of elevators a year.


Tom Stoub
- Kingwood, Texas


A. Dear Jeff:

I am with an architectural restoration company. The procedure for restoring elevator doors on site is very difficult and I agree with Tom that this job should only be done by someone who is knowledgeable due to the fact that untrained persons can cause more damage than good in their attempt to refinish the doors. Your indication that someone had previously used acid to clean the doors is a prime example of that.

Gordon S. Ponsford
- Acworth, Georgia


A. We refinished 108 copper elevator doors which came from the factory with a lacquer finish; right out of the box and before installation they were already corroding. Lacquer has an advantage, it is easy to remove and refinish; however it is not durable.

Solution; make a mixture of 2% benzotriazole and quality lacquer thinner, spray (not too wet) onto any cupric metal (brass, bronze or copper) after cleaning the surface with VMP naptha. This will result in a "snowflake" pattern on the metal once the thinner flashes, within 20 min. spray isocyanate catalyzed automotive urethane, PPG DU 1000 is good or DU 85 (not as much solids).

First one tack coat followed by two wet coatings. Make certain to coat the edges to prevent cupric rot.

The 108 elevator doors have been exposed to exterior Hawaiian environment 100 yards from the ocean for 5 years now and have shown no corrosion. Always test technique first on scrap material to refine skills.

Roger Worldie
- Honolulu, Hawaii

thumbs up sign  Thanks for the carefully detailed answer, Roger!


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

2007 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. We have an old brass elevator, the cleaners while stripping the floor got stripper on the bottom of the brass which removed the lacquer. do I need to refinish the whole elevator or just the bottom where the damage is done. how would I remove the old lacquer and what product should I use to clean and refinish?

Janet Killian
- Wilmington, Delaware

August 20, 2008 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. How can I get stain marks from carpet cleaning solution splashed onto elevator doors and kick boards?

Lance Pattock
Maint manager - Portland, Oregon


Q. I need to know how to cut a circular groove pattern into a brass elevator door. The hotel where the elevator is located is having problems with people "keying" (scratching) the doors. The doors will require a rough finish with a circular half moon pattern.

Larry Bordeaux
brass polishing works - Raleigh, North Carolina

A. Hi Larry. If I understand your question, you are asking how to do what people variously call a "dowel finish", "jeweled finish", "engine turned finish" and several other names. Please see thread 13213 but note that you would only be able to do this with the door removed and on a drill press.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Q. I have several elevator doors that are a "Brushed Brass Finish". My boss wants them to have a brighter (gold) look when I refinish them. I have found that I can apply Noxon 7 [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] with a Scotch Brite Pad to polish them to a brighter finish, then I apply a clearcoat to protect them, however it takes quite a bit of time and I have lots of "scuff marks" that I am sure will be more pronounced on the larger surfaces when I am done.

Does anyone have any suggestions on other methods to ensure a more consistent pattern and maybe even cut the time it is taking me ?

Thank you,

Kenny E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Louisville, Kentucky

A. Dear Kenny,

A gold-dyed lacquer may help. It would take many thin coats to provide a uniform finish over large areas such as elevator doors. This would take a great deal of practice to achieve that technique, so maybe the way you're doing it now might be best. A lot of clearcoats contain additives that would "telegraph" the buff marks, almost magnifying them. Maybe a coating that didn't do that could help as well.

Good luck,

Jake Koch
G. J. Nikolas & Co., Inc.
supporting advertiser
Bellwood, Illinois
nikolas banner ad


A. Kenny, you must stay with the grain. G.J. Nikolas [a supporting advertiser] does make a good product. We do this type of metal refinishing on a regular basis. It takes a lot of practice and the right equipment.


Dennis B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Louisville, Kentucky

October 8, 2010

Q. Do you restore brass elevators? I have never done a brass elevator, only stainless steel. I just did a test spot on one today and it polishes the brass immediately. It appeared that there was some type of coating or patina that the manufacturer put on it. So far the manufacturer does not know what it is. Please help if you can. It is an OTIS elevator if that helps.

Tom Cigno
- Avon, Colorado

Elevators discolored by ammonia-based cleaning solution?

August 8, 2018

Q. Our building has elevators whose entryways are framed with a brushed-brass-finish metal which seems to have a clear finish on it. Over the last few years this metal has discolored, sometimes in the shape of droplets that have run down the vertical surfaces, others times a more general darkening. My question: what could have discolored the coating itself? It's not paint, and it's not just surface schmutz. Could an ammonia-based liquid cleaner have darkened the clearcoat?

David Ware
Mr. - Little Rock Arkansas, US

August 2018

A. Hi David. Although it would surprise me if ammonia discolored the clearcoat, it would not surprise me that the clearcoat has grown porous and ammonia is reacting with the underlying brass, causing the discoloration.

Although some clock repairers disagree, most feel it's generally not a good idea to use ammonia on brass because copper is soluble in ammonia, which creates a number of problems.

I also think no clearcoat is so perfect as to prevent brass from gradually discoloring over a period of years.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

November 9, 2018

A. Hello, brass surfaces will Tarnish when exposed to air and chemicals, therefore they must be coated with clear protective lacquer to prolong its beautiful rich 'gold' appearance. Improper cleaning products and abrasives will wear down the lacquer finishes applied by factory over time, thus exposing the raw metal to these elements. Once they are, they will turn dark brown to air and green tones to chemical metal cleaners. REMEDY: Strip entire surface of remaining lacquer using abrasive pads and water to remove tarnish and scratches. Spray apply new clear lacquer finishes to protect refreshed surfaces from chemicals and air.

You can always reach us at for more direction.

Barry Feinman

Barry Feinman
supporting advertiser
Carlsbad, California

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