You wake up in the middle of the night jonesing for a midnight snack, only to hear a terrible sound when you turn the doorknob. Suddenly, your whole family is awake, your dogs are on your tail, children are crying, there are police sirens in the distance… Alright, maybe it’s not all so dramatic, but hearing things go bump in the night might disturb your housemates’ sleep. If you want to avoid that, you should probably learn how to fix a squeaky door handle.
As I keep stressing, the doors are the most vulnerable areas in any room when it comes to letting noise in and out. That’s why we should take the time to soundproof them first, before dealing with anything else. But what if the door itself is the problem? Before we talk about how you can fix the squeak, let’s see what’s the underlying cause of the noise.
Why Do Door Handles Squeak?
If we want to figure out exactly what’s causing the noise when we go to turn the knob or push the door handle, we have to look at the mechanism inside it. To begin with, we should acknowledge the material most door handles are made of. Between the faceplates, handles, screws, and internal components, almost the whole thing is made of metal.
As I have explained in my guide to quieting squeaky metal beds, the problem with these kinds of contraptions is usually quite simple. They don’t tend to age gracefully. Every time you use the door handle, it loses some of the lubrication it originally had.
When it disappears entirely, the moving metal parts end up moving against each other — which causes friction. That movement chips away at the outermost layers of the metal, making it oxidize faster. In short, the most likely reason why your door handle is squeaking every time you press it is plain old rust. The lack of lubrication usually only exacerbates the issue.
With that in mind, it stands to reason that restoring the grease should prevent the moving parts from becoming noisy. Now that we’ve established that, let’s see how we can fix your problem.
Guide to Fixing a Squeaky Door Handle
I find that most household tasks are easier when I break them up into actionable steps. So that’s what I’ll do with this one! Before you start disassembling door handles, let’s talk about the tools you might need.
Get Your Tools
Depending on how far you have to take this project, your list of supplies may vary. It might include just a lubricant of your choice or it may call for a screwdriver and several other tools and cleaning supplies.
Generally, most commercial lubricants you might use, such as WD-40, are also cleaners. So you won’t need any cleaning fluid other than that. In fact, using water-based cleaners would make matters much worse. In addition to the lubricant, however, you may need to get steel wool — for more stubborn rust.
Furthermore, some Q-tips may also come in handy, if you find yourself having to clean inside the lock. And to keep everything pristine, grab some paper towels to cover your work station with. Those are the basic tools that will hopefully completely remove the squeak from your door handle.
Find Out If the Squeaking Is Really Coming From the Handle
So you’ve noticed that your door is noisy. But how can you be sure the sound is coming from the handle? What if it’s coming from the floor or the door hinges, instead?
If you can’t hear the exact place the sound is coming from, you would do well to run some basic diagnostics. For example, if you hear noises before moving the door, you can blame the floorboards. On the other hand, you might find that the door is the source of the noise after all.
If the sound is still there when you move the door without touching the handle, it’s probably coming from the hinges. However, if you specifically hear the sound only when you’re turning the knob or handle, you’ll probably have to pay special attention to it.
Tighten the Knob
One of the most annoying sounds a door can make is the rattling sound that comes from having a loose knob. To fix this, you’ll just need to get a flathead screwdriver and tighten the screws around the knob. If you notice that one of them is missing, you should find a replacement as soon as possible.
You can measure the hole where the missing screw used to be or even take out one of the other screws. That will allow you to bring it to your local hardware store to get a matching one. Once you have it, just pop it in, and forget about the handle rattling.
Lubricate the Inside of the Keyhole
This step is usually my last-ditch effort to get my door handles to behave before I take them off. You’ll need to get a lubricant of your choice — I’ve reviewed several if you’re interested in my recommendations. When in doubt, I tend to stick with (or is it slide with?) the WD-40 spray.
As you’re probably already aware, WD-40 is a multi-use lubricant. In addition to smoothing things over inside the door handle, it will also loosen and remove rust and grime. Furthermore, the product is famous for its long, thin straw, which allows you to direct the spray precisely where you want it to go.
In this case, you’ll want to aim for the inside of the keyhole. After you apply the lubricant, turn the key a few times to spread it around inside, then let it sit. Ten minutes later, you should be able to turn the key completely silently. If something is still making noise, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the culprit.
Unscrew the Faceplates
If following the steps above doesn’t manage to quiet the squeak, you’ll have to completely remove the door handle. Unscrewing the faceplates and taking out as many parts as you can will reveal the underlying issue.
If you’re unsure as to what kind of mechanism you’ll be dealing with once you take the thing apart, I recommend researching the anatomy of your door handle. Whether it’s a knob handle or a regular one, many of the moving parts, such as the latch bolt and the spindle, will be the same.
As you loosen all of the screws, put them in a Ziploc bag so they don’t mysteriously disappear. During this part of the process, you also want to take note of any missing parts and order replacements. Focus on taking out the parts of the handle that are inside the door itself. There’s no need to remove the strike plate from the jamb.
You should also try to remember where all the parts came from. When I clean my door handles, I think of them as complex puzzles. However, if your memory isn’t what it used to be, you can record yourself while you take the parts off. Alternately, you can simply find a YouTube video of someone else doing it.
Clean and Lubricate the Inside of the Handle
When most of the handle parts are off, you’ll be able to go in and thoroughly clean them. Here’s where you’ll need most of the materials I’ve mentioned above.
First, if you’re planning on cleaning the handle on a table, you should put down paper towels or newspapers. After you do, you can lay down the parts and examine what you’re working with. Hopefully, you’ll repeat this whole process every few years regardless of squeaking. That should prevent rust and grime buildup.
With that in mind, there are varying levels of dirt you might have to deal with. It may be enough to spray the internal parts with WD-40, let it settle for a few minutes, then polish the surface with paper towels or Q-tips. However, if the rust is really caked on, you can use steel wool or more precise steel brushes.
In any case, once you’ve dislodged the dirt, you should be left with a squeaky clean, well-lubricated door handle that’s just about ready to be reinstalled. Hopefully, you remember how all the parts are supposed to come together!
Enjoy the Silence
After you’ve put the door handle back how you found it, you should be able to open the door quietly again. However, if it continues squeaking, I’d recommend getting a completely new door handle, latch bolt and all. That should put a definite end to the squeaking. From that point on, you’ll be able to have all of the midnight snacks your heart desires without rousing the whole neighborhood.