Squeaking doors and squeaky door hinges are common problems that everyone has experienced in a house or apartment at one time or another. We generally have two ways of dealing with these annoying squeaks: we either learn to ignore them or we squirt some sort of grease or lubricant on the hinges and hope for the squeak to go away. Though it seems like a simple home repair, there are actually some right things to do fix a squeaky door and some wrong things to do. Following the advice below should help you fix just about any squeaking door or hinge you come across.
Why Do Door Hinges Squeak
It’s a simple question with an almost equally simple answer: friction.
When you first install a new door or hinges you are probably impressed with how smoothly and quietly the door closes. If you installed the hinges yourself or happened to run your finger along them you’ll probably end up with a fine film of grease or oil on it. Hinges are nothing more than two barrel sleeve of metal held together with a metal pin in the center. The pin and metal barrels of the hinge have to fit tightly and rub against each other for the door to open. Metal isn’t a particularly slippery surface on its own, so hinges are lubricated to help them open and close and spin around the pin with ease.
Over time the weight of the door on the hinges and constant opening and closing will begin to break down the lubricant between the metal pieces. Dust and dirt particles get into the hinge and over time corrosion can form. When those two pieces of metal begin rubbing against the pin or tiny bits of dirt without any lubricant to make them easily slide you end up creating tiny vibrations which produce a squeak. The same is true of skidding tires or even chalk on a chalkboard: two rough, dry surfaces rubbing together are going to produce a louse squeak or skidding sound.
Quick Fixes For A Squeaky Door Hinge
If you have company coming over or you’re just too tired to do much more than the minimum, then you can often silence a squeaky door with a quick squirt of lubricant into the offending hinge. But a quick squirt of what? Not all lubricants are created equally and some could actually make the problem worse over time. Here are some of the lubricants you can use to quickly fix a squeaky door, generally arranged from least effective to most effective:
Petroleum Jelly: Some people advocate smearing petroleum jelly around the hinge and just opening and closing it a few times. I’ve had limited success with this simply because petroleum jelly is so thick that it doesn’t easily work itself into barrel area if it’s a tight hinge or has any corrosion or dirt in it.
Candle Wax or Beeswax: One of the oldest lubricating options is simple candle way or beeswax. For hundreds of years this was the lubricant of choice for metal hinges and furniture dresser drawers. Wax has many of the same problems as petroleum jelly: it’s thick and sticky (attracts dirt and debris) and it may not last as long as you’d think it would.
WD-40: Sure, you can spray in some WD-40, though it isn’t technically a lubricant. The WD of the name actually stands for “water displacement” which is required to fulfill the original purpose of the chemical – to prevent corrosion. WD-40 does have some lubricant properties and it can help fix a squeak in the short term. But spraying WD-40 at a hinge can get messy and not everyone loves the smell. If you’re going to use the WD-40 spray then you can control the mess and dripping by having a spare paper towels or an old rag handy. I’ve also had good luck using the WD-40 Lubricant Pen which can simply be dabbed onto the hinge with no spray.
Spray On Wood Surface Cleaner: Lots of different cleaners actually have some lubricant properties and can be used in a pinch. Most are safe to use for squeaky hinges, but you probably want to make sure they won’t damage paint if there’s over spray and it certainly won’t keep your hinges squeak-free for very long.
Cooking Oil: Again, another good idea for a quick fix, but cooking oil tends to break down relatively quickly and can actually get a little “gooey” after a while. This could gum up the hinge and allow more dust and dirt to get stuck in the hinge, which will bring back your squeak relatively quickly.
Bike Chain Oil: I’ve heard of people lubricating their squeaky hinges with motorcycle chain oil or bicycle chain oil and it seems to work well. Chain oils are formulated for long-term use on metal (and dirty environments) and would probably work pretty well with metal hinges as well.
Silicone Lubricating Spray: This is my personal choice for hinge lubricant because it lasts a long time and works well. Silicone spray lubricants often won’t harm rubber or wood or anything else the spray may hit accidentally. They generally aren’t very messy and won’t leave an oily feel or greasy residue.
Those are most of the lubricants I’ve heard of being used on squeaky hinges, though I’m sure there are people who have smeared all sorts of stuff on their door hinges in hopes of silencing an annoying squeak. I could see people using butter, soap, shampoo, motor oil or even hair gel. It would probably be best to avoid anything that contains water (like soap and shampoo) because the constant exposure to moisture can actually make the hinge squeak more by causing corrosion.
Again, these are mostly quick fixes and they will last a while. If you have old corroded or dirty hinges on your door then you may need to go a little further to fix that squeak. You’ll want to take apart your hinges, clean them, lubricate them and then put them back together.
Permanently Fixing A Squeaky Door Hinge
Okay, so you’ve tried squirting lubricants into your hinges and the squeak only lasts for a little while. To really fix a squeak you’ll probably want to clean out the hinge and pin properly. To do that you’re going to need to take the hinges apart and that starts with taking out the hinge pin. If your door is really heavy or old or if you’re not sure how to do this you may need an assistant to make sure the door doesn’t fall at an inopportune time.
Removing the Hinge Pin: First, we’re only going to remove the pin of one hinge at a time. You’ll want to be careful moving or twisting your door too much when you do this because too much weight applied to the remaining hinges can damage or bend the remaining hinges or door jamb.
Most door hinges found in the home are easily removed because they are similar in design to a carpenter’s nail: they have a flat head at the top, but no head at the bottom. This means they will easily slide up and out of a hinge. Before trying to remove a pin from a squeaky hinge be sure the pin itself is free of paint and other debris. Paint and hinges don’t mix and you’ll need to score a line around the pin and make sure that paint isn’t holding it in place. You can use a flat-head screwdriver or a utility blade to do this, but be careful.
To remove a door hinge in most homes you can try the simplest method first: Place a small Phillips screwdriver at the bottom of the pin and tap it up into the bottom hinge barrel which should begin to push the pin upwards. Just lightly tap it. You don’t want to damage your screwdriver or smash the hinge. You should never use a hammer for this.
Not all hinges are made this way, though. Maybe hinges have a bottom plate or finial at the end of the pin as well, which makes it impossible to just tap the pin upwards. In those cases you’ll usually need to If it’s not budging or you don’t have much room to tap your screwdriver upwards then you need to try another method. You can almost always pry the pin out from the top, but this takes some patience.
Place a small flat screwdriver or a blade right at the point where the pin head stops and the barrel of the hinge begins. It’s probably a pretty tight fit. You want to gently tap your edge into that joint, slowly wedging the pin upwards. Once you get a small gap between the hinge pin and the hinge barrel you can start start wiggling your tool to widen the gap even more. At this point I usually grab a pair of pliers and try yanking the pin upwards and out of the pin. If things are still sticking you may want to use WD-40 or some other agent to help get the pin loosened and out. Remember: friction between metal pieces is what’s causing the squeak, so you can expect things to be fairly tight in a hinge.
Cleaning the Hinge: Now that you have the pin out of the hinge you can clean both the pin and the hinge barrels. Here’s where you can definitely use WD-40 and a few cotton swabs or Q-tips to clean everything thoroughly. Hinge pins are typically pretty easy to clean: just drop it on some old newspaper, spray it down with WD-40 or other degreaser and then wipe it clean with a cotton rag. For the hinge and barrels you’ll want to dip or spray those cotton swabs and then dab and wipe everything you can.
While you’re cleaning you will also want to watch out for other problems with your hinges. If you have a lot of corrosion or rust on your hinges and hinge pins you may want to consider replacing your hinge because there’s only so much metal lubricant can do. If the rust isn’t too bad you can try removing your hinges and then soaking them in white vinegar to loosen the corrosion.
Also watch for bent pins or misaligned hinge barrels. Either of those are signs that you may need to replace rather than just clean your hinges. If you do choose to replace your hinges then be sure to pick a hinge that’s able to hold your door well. Solid wood doors are heavy and could cause light weight or cheaper hinges to squeaky more due to the added weight and friction. Spending a little more on more sturdy hinges will help prevent squeaks from occurring in the first place.
That’s about all you can do to fix a squeaky door hinge. Again, it works best if you only remove one pin at a time and replace each pin before you take out the next one. While you may only have one squeaky door hinge on a single door, you might as well clean and lubricant each hinge because if one hinge is squeaking now then another may start making noise soon.