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Stainless Steel, Bronze, Brass, or Aluminum: How to Choose Handle Materials



Door handles are a ubiquitous part of daily life, being used constantly in almost every space but rarely given thought by the passing user. Nevertheless, the chosen material of each handle can vary widely in terms of aesthetics, durability, and sustainability, with good choices going noticeably right and poor choices going noticeably wrong. For objects that are seen and used multiple times every day without fail, it’s imperative that designers get the choice right.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a naturally corrosion-resistant, hard-wearing, and low-maintenance material. No matter the force or frequency of use, it rarely reveals traces of dents or scratches, even after years of employment. As a result, mirror polished stainless door handles require very little, if not no, care at all. First patented in 1912 by Krupp in Essen, stainless steel was referred to as “V2a-steel” and “Nirosta” (never rust). Recognized for its easy-care and blemishless properties at the outset, the material has since been used in scenarios requiring continuous use and infrequent maintenance. As a material for door handles, stainless steel is thus best applied to heavily used doors, particularly those in public buildings such as the public authorities, hospitals, on ships in motorway service areas, in parks and sports facilities, and other locations with large user populations that will be in use for a long time.

While stainless steel does not rust, traces of dirt that collect over long periods of time can be quickly removed with a moist cloth. For stainless steel handles in chlorinated swimming pools, what appears to be surface rust is usually not from the material itself but is transported from outside to the fitting. These blemishes can be removed as well with vigorous rubbing.

Formed by an alloy of copper and zinc, brass has been used since time immemorial in the manufacture of decorative elements and accessories for doors and windows due to its unique golden tones. If not waxed or lacquered, brass will react naturally to environmental conditions, causing it to corrode and develop a brown to greenish-gray patina. This effect is valued by many designers and users for gracefully representing the passage of time. However, for those who wish to maintain the original golden tone, it is recommended to choose polished surfaces and avoid using the brass for frequently used doors or in spaces exposed to environmental conditions.

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