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How to Clean Chrome Plated Metal

Featured image for "How to Clean Chrome Plated Metal" blog post. Chrome watch.

For many, chromium (or chrome for short) is the material of choice for metal plating. Industries such as automotive and home appliances are commonly seen utilizing the material for its corrosion resistance benefits for metals and distinct shine. Learning how to clean chrome plated metal safely and effectively will save you headaches, and money! Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind for keeping your chrome plated metal in tip-top shape:

How to Clean Chrome Plated Metal–Safely!

As with anything, safety comes first. When it comes to cleaning chrome plated metal, there are general habits that apply to any task, no matter how advanced. Regardless of the metal below the chrome’s layer, you don’t want to use harsh cleaners (we’ll get into that more soon) or cleaning agents not for use on chrome or metal. Although it protects, chrome can be damaged by some cleaning chemicals.

Speaking of chemicals, make sure you keep them contained! You don’t want to find your cleaning solution of choice making its way onto surfaces it doesn’t belong. Keeping it out of the way of pets, children, or any non-intended surface should be standard practice. Gloves are also very useful for protection from grime and rust that may come from surfaces. A simple, affordable material such as nitrile should do.

Polishing cloth here comes the shine!

Getting the Best Clean

The way you clean your chrome plated fixtures is dependent on the amount and kind of buildup. But before you go after rust, it may be of benefit to do an initial clean. If the surface also has a lot of dirt, gunk, or grime build-up, you want to be sure to get this off so that you know you are targeting the rust later on. The classic dish soap, water, and suds should work fine. A cloth or sponge will do, so long as it is not wool or otherwise very coarse.

Classic car.
For classic car enthusiasts, keeping the chrome on your car clean is a must!

For Heavily Rusted Surfaces

You will want to remove this tough surface buildup before you start to clean. Rust comes about as the result of ongoing oxidation of the metal from moisture and air exposure. These two factors are inevitable more often than not, and over time, create a real hassle as far as removal. Humidity speeds up this process. Items that get heavy exposure to the elements, such as your bumper or wheels, tend to be more corrosion-prone and require more attention.

Whichever of the following methods you prefer, there are some things that stay the same throughout. For one, after you’ve broken up the rust, make sure any loose bits of remnants are completely removed from the surface. This concluding habit should be as easy as a simple wipe or two, almost like dusting. Whatever cleaning solution you use should get the brunt of the job done, because no one wants to find themselves constantly going back over their own hard work!

Polishing cloth small cloth, huge results.

Foil Does the Trick?

Although it may seem crazy, many people swear by aluminum foil! The soft texture of this metal doesn’t scratch the chrome, yet it does a nice job of getting that stubborn rust off of the surface. People often favor this low-cost method for removing rust from chrome on bikes and other surfaces that are certain to get time outside and rough use. Simply crumble a piece, dab on some water, and gently rub those areas. Occasionally, replace your piece of foil with a fresh one.

Even though water will do in most cases, heavily rusted surfaces could call for a little bit of a stronger solution of acidity. Adding some vinegar should do the trick. Though it may be tempting, don’t risk experimenting with other materials that seem similar in properties to aluminum foil. It may remove the rust, but it may also add unneeded blemishes and scratches. Knowing how to clean chrome plated metal without needless damage is a must!

Chrome watch.
Do you have a tarnished chrome watch? Polish it up with a high-quality polishing cloth!

Other Ways of Fighting Rust

What if the aluminum method doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, yet you still need to know how to clean chrome plated metal with rust build up? An alternative form of rust removal is using the acidic solution in a different way. Taking a mild acid such as vinegar and simply applying it to the rust directly does a good job of breaking up the corrosion. Get a thorough coverage or soak if possible, both for around 10 minutes, depending on the amount of rust. Be sure to remove gently.

Another very effective method of rust removal is using a light oil. An example of this would be WD-40. They are usually used in a similar fashion to the acidic method, in that you get coverage for several minutes and follow up with a light removal.

With this in mind, a method to be wary of is commercial rust cleaning solutions. They may work, but these chemical blends also tend to be harsh. They require much more care when using as well since they can be a substantial health hazard when mishandled. These cleaners can also be a problem environmentally, especially when the cleaning of outside items is involved. Look to use vinegar or other mild acid, as they have the effectiveness, without the added risk.

Polishing cloth, clean, shine, protect.

How to Clean Chrome Plated Metal the Right Way

For uncorroded surfaces, you should also look to do regular cleaning. Making this a habit will help prolong chrome’s protection and that trademark luster! You may have picked up on the way to do a general clean based on some of the points about preparing to remove rust. But you still want to keep this habit, even in the absence of hard corrosion.

As mentioned, you want dish soap and water. No need to use the whole bottle, just a few healthy drops into your bucket or pail will go a long way. The trick is to add water in secondly, as you want also a good mix of suds in order to remove the dirt more effectively. Dish soap is also great in that it won’t create a potential contamination hazard when used on water and consumption related surfaces, such as kitchen or bathroom faucets.

When doing general cleaning, you won’t need much abrasiveness in a scrubber. One rule of thumb is: If it’s good for glass, it’s good for chrome. Glass is very sensitive in that it can be scratched and cracked even more easily. You want to treat the surface of your chrome similar to the way you treat your windows, as far as the material you use. This way, you ensure shine, without damage being done to your chrome. We’ll come back to this when we get to polishing.

Steer clear of scrubbers used for hard metals such as wool sponges or pads. Although it is a metal as well, a chrome finish is sometimes there to act as a decorative, shiny finish for the metal structure. It won’t hold up with abrasive-material friction. In fact, for basic cleanings, aim for an especially soft material such as a cloth or soft sponge. Practicing a plan of cleanliness also reduces the effort you eventually have to put in, in order to remove dirty buildup from a neglected finish.

Also, be mindful of those hard to reach nooks and crannies. A sponge or cloth may not reach certain crevices, and these spots tend to build up more dirt than the larger, easier to reach spots. For these spots, you may opt to use a toothbrush you don’t need. Make sure it is reasonably soft and in decent condition. If you use damaged material, you may not get much of a clean and could even create scratches. The same goes for rougher textured materials.

When your cleaning is done, it may be easy to forget to dry. No painter wants to present their work to the public, just for it to come off of the canvas along the way! Making sure to dry your chrome surface after cleaning prevents watermarks. For drying, look for a microfiber cloth. This material is not only soft, but it is also effective at absorbing moisture. Also, keep in mind to be gentle!

Motorcycle with chrome.
With the Champion Polishing Cloth, the chrome on your motorcycle will be sparkling in no time!

Don’t Forget to Polish

Along with regular cleaning, keeping your chrome finish polished combats dulling of the surface. It gives that added signature shine that many have come to know chrome by. Also, the added finish helps to prevent blemishes and irregularities from setting in. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you are polishing to get that classic, shiny chrome finish…

Polishing is a simple process. If your surface is clean, polishing goes much faster. If you use a polisher, be sure to get an even coating on the entire surface. However, there is no need to overdo it! This ensures consistent shine throughout, without the surface getting spotty with dull patches.

Again, this isn’t the big cleaning, but it is the finishing touch. You can apply the polish directly or indirectly. However, if you apply to the surface directly, be sure you get to every area evenly with your cloth. If you apply using the cloth, you may have to occasionally reapply the product so that it effectively reaches the entire surface. Generally, fold your cloth over to create some layering, and polish in gentle, circular motions.

Your polishing cloth should be very soft yet add a glimmering finish to your surface. You’ll want a versatile cloth that can be used on a variety of finished surfaces such as refrigerators, tools, and other smooth fixtures. Perhaps a wood surface needs a touch-up. Or, you may want to restore a valuable antique, silver décor, or brass instruments. For a frame of reference, take a look at this Polishing Cloth by Champion Supplies, which is very effective at a variety of polishing jobs!

The major benefit of the Champion Polishing Cloth is that it already has a powerful polishing soultion built in to the cloth! In fact, 1 cloth equals ONE ENTIRE GALLON of metal polish! Talk about mega money savings! Not only that, but this powerful polishing cloth is great at polishing ANYTHING!

Polishing Cloth perfectly polish anything.

Keeping It Clean

Now that you have the big points out of the way, you might want to consider a few small pointers that may very well save you extra time and money! Although these things may not seem like they’re dealbreakers, they could make a difference when put together and done correctly. Your knowing how to clean chrome plated metal properly will work well with a few extra complimentary tips.

After you clean, make sure to give your sponge a good rinse to remove any residue. You may even look to use a gentle soak. If you are using a microfiber cloth, give it a wash on a gentle cycle. Be sure to dry using a clean towel. By washing your cleaning gear, you avoid reintroducing dirt and grime to the surface you’ve worked so hard to clean.

When targeting smaller decorative items, you’ll most likely go through a lighter process of polishing. You want to treat these items with special care so that no damage is done. Before going through these items, be sure you are working with clean hands. You don’t want to get in your own way when working for a shiny finish. Although not necessary, it doesn’t hurt to wear gloves here. Using them prevents fingerprints that may track onto these surfaces.

Another important tip within knowing how to clean chrome plated metal is the use of quality products. Quality products could save you additional time. A poor brand of dish soap, for example, may not get the clean you want. You may even have to use higher amounts of it to compensate, which ends up costing more in the long run. You also want your scrubbing tool to be intact so that you don’t have to expend even more energy going back over your clean.

Shiny silverware.
Want to see yourself in your silverware? You need a high-quality polishing cloth!

To Sum It All Up…

Firstly, stay safe! Protect your skin and wear gloves. Be sure that you are working with a clean surface before you start to buff or polish. Use a mildly acidic mixture to remove rust. Polishing should be done carefully, using a high-quality polishing cloth such as the Champion Polishing Cloth. When doing general cleans, use a dish soap and water mixture. Be sure to dry with a clean, absorbent microfiber towel. Wash your cloth or sponge between uses. Finally, look to use affordable, products that will also get the job done.

And last but not least, good luck cleaning or polishing your surface in order to keep that signature shine! Now you know how to clean chrome plated metal!

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