Furniture-quality paste wax may be used on bare wood cabinets as well as over any shellac or varnish. The wax should barely fill in the minute roughness of the surface, not sit as a layer on top of the wood. For best results, use a hand-rubbed paste wax made for wood furniture (Briwax is one brand), applied sparingly. After application, buff the wax well with a soft, clean cloth. This should take as much effort as hand-waxing a car. If the wax begins looking dull or worn in places, simply reapply and buff.
Paint strippers or mineral spirits will quickly remove paint from hardware, but less toxic methods often work just as effectively. In every case, dry the hardware thoroughly once it’s clean to prevent rust. Lay the pieces in the sun for a few hours, or in an oven set to 150 to 200 degrees for about 20 minutes. Buff the clean, dry hardware to bring out the shine. For vintage brass hardware, apply tung oil with a soft cotton cloth. Let it sit for a few minutes, then buff off the excess with a soft dry cloth. Try one or more of these methods:
Immerse the hardware in hot boiling water with an ounce or two of vinegar. Allow it to sit for several hours or overnight. Rinse under hot tap water. Use an old toothbrush and/or a nut pick to scrape off clinging bits of paint.
Boil the hardware in a slow cooker on high for several hours. The heat and moisture will soften the paint, and often it will fall off as a single piece. This method may stain or contaminate the pot, so reserve one for non-cooking uses only.
Dissolve ¼ cup of washing soda (a detergent booster) in a plastic bucket or used coffee can, then add boiling water. Stir until the soda dissolves, then submerse the hardware. Let soak until the paint loosens.