i want a clean front door!!

morgan88September 29, 2005

our front door is a fright. the actual door and sidelights are this beautiful leaded glass. the edges are beveled so the sunlight that comes in is lovely. the surround is in oak that was shellaced. i don't think a single thing has been done to this door since it was placed there in 1907. it still has the original screen door and old elaborate key. my problem is that the outside is covered in spiders and eggs and webs. we haven't really used the door since we moved in a year ago because of all the spiders and general nastiness.

do i just go after it w/ a brush and some murphy's oil soap? what would be the best way to clean the outside of this door without harming it? and i would also like to redo the shellac eventually or would something else do a better job of protection.

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I'd skip the Murphy's Oil Soap which can interfere with certain kinds of refinishes. When I want to wash woodwork I just use a mild powdered detergent, rather a liquid which can leave behind a film. At the moment the product I'm using for that is one of those "natural" laundry detergents. (Ecover???) I got it (by request) to wash a guest's clothes and was unimpressed with its laundry-cleaning effect, so I'm using it up washing walls, etc. which it does just fine, and rinses very well. (It is one without enzymes, optical brighteners, fragrances, softeners, etc.) Otherwise I'd use Spic 'n span or something like that.

Of course, I'd test it first on a concealed place (along hinge edge, for instance) to see how much, if any, dissolving it does on the shellac/ or varnish.

Since you have "leaded" windows, I'd also test along the lead cames, as well. And when washing be very gentle with them, too.

On an ordinary wooden door, I'd use warm-to-hot water, and stiff-ish brush to get dried-on grunge off, followed a good rinsing with clear water with a cloth or sponge and immediate drying with old towels. I'd do this on a breezy, warm day when I could leave the door open for fastest drying of all the edges and surfaces. I'd put down extra towels and a drop cloth to soak up any drips.

If you want to remove loose dried matter, first, use a vacuum or shop vac with a brush.

Once your door is clean, you can determine what kind of finish is on it and renew or replace it, as you like.

Be very careful to avoid water getting down behind the lead cames. Use a very soft lint-free, snag-free cloth when polishing the lights to avoid damage to the leading.

If you have a doorknob that needs polishing (not all do), slightly loosen the screws that hold the plate to the door so you can slide a piece of protective cardboard under the plate while you polish.

While you're at it, clean and oil the locks and hinges. Check the door sweep/weatherstripping to make sure it sits tightly on the saddle.

And, if you're in a really energetic mood, consider replacing any side and top weatherstrippng with bronze spring-type strips. This is an easy DIY job, and best of all, it's a permanent thing that yields energy savings immediately.

Then treat yourself to a pretty fall-foliage wreath or swag to celebrate a job well done!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 4:12PM
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mild powdered detergent-would those detergents for baby clothes be mild enough. i can't remember the name of the one in the pinkish box.

wash the windows w/ the same gentle detergent?

the doorknob does need polishing now that i look at it again.

fall wreath is right. it is such a beautiful element of the house and it is completely underused. now that the weather is so nice (no more humidity or horseflies) i have the will to clean it up. thank you for the advice. i would have either messed it all up w/ murphy's and windex or have googled myself into inaction.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 5:43PM
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I think the pink-boxed baby detergent is Dreft, but I may be wrong. Sounds fine to me, but I wouldn't buy it specially just for this job. If you need to buy something, I'd buy Spic 'n Span, which has other household/wall and trim cleaning uses.

For the windows I'd use a window cleaner, Windex, etc. or plain old ammonia in water, spritzed on and carefully wiped off. Just don't overdo the liquid part if you have true leaded glass.

Be sure your doorknob is supposed to be polished. Many turn of the prior century ones were intended to have an oxidized (tarnished) finish. It's hard to tell, but often the more ornate in design, the less likely it was to be one of those smooth highly polished ones. Anyway, it might be bronze, not brass, too.

Good luck! A tidy and handsome front door is a small gift to yourself, every time you catch a peek. It says I am proud of my house and take great pains with it.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 10:49PM
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i kept thinking it was "Drift" and i knew that wasn't right!

any good way to tell the difference between brass and bronze?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 9:18AM
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Get out your vacuum... now get out that round hairy ended attachement so you don't scratch it and then sweep all of thos webs and eggs away.. then you might try some Cabinet Magic.. seems to work real well on wood finish items.. then see how it looks.. this is easy stuff and you will be amaazed how much just a little bit of love to your front door will pay you back!


    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 8:51PM
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Also I'd personally consider removing the screen door entirely. We took ours off and put it in the basement. It made such a difference (and it doesn't give spiders a nice cozy area to spin webs). It looks so much more inviting now.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 9:05AM
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Darn it, I want to live in place where it's warm enough to have pansies blooming when it's time to hang up Christmas wreaths! Very nice door Sage; love the beastie, too!


    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 1:18AM
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i never thought to remove the screen door. and that is exactly where most of these (really big) spiders live. well i have done the first step w/ the vacuum, but some of those webs and eggs (shudder) are really tough. i have to do this in stages. toddler. i have taken before pictures and when it's all done i hope to have great afters.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 9:16AM
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