It isn't surprising that the moisture in the bathroom can turn your chrome shower rod -- as well as any other chrome fixtures -- rusty, but you might be surprised by the simplicity of the remedy. No, you don't have to sand off the rust, and no, you don't have to apply a rust-inhibiting jelly -- not unless the rust is extensive and has created a large hole. All you need to remove small rust spots, the type that are typical on a shower rod, is a sheet of aluminum foil that you've first dipped in water or vinegar. Science will take care of the rest.
Why It Works
The rust on your shower rods is iron oxide, a compound that forms as the iron atoms in the steel react with oxygen atoms in the air. When you rub the rust with aluminum foil and generate heat, the oxygen atoms essentially abandon the iron for the aluminum -- which has a higher affinity for them -- and form aluminum oxide. In geek-speak, aluminum has a higher reduction potential, which means that it has a greater tendency to be reduced from its original form by oxygen. In short, the net result is that the rust basically migrates from the chrome shower rod to the aluminum.
How to Do It
This procedure doesn't require taking the shower rod down, but you may want to so you can remove rust from the ends or the joint in the middle.
Things You'll Need
Remove surface scum and soap deposits by wiping the shower rod down with a damp rag.
Cut a sheet of aluminum foil into small squares and dip one of these squares in water. You can also dip it in vinegar, which accelerates the cleaning process by dissolving the rust as you rub.
Rub the aluminum foil lightly over the rusted area -- you don't need to press hard. You'll probably notice a difference immediately, but as you keep rubbing and you generate heat, the difference becomes more dramatic. Continue rubbing, and you'll feel the chrome become progressively smoother. This is a result of the formation of aluminum oxide, which is a natural lubricant.
Wipe off the rod with a clean rag after you've removed all the rust. Apply a thin coat of automobile wax; let it dry and buff it to a shiny finish. The wax covers the tiny pits left by the rust and prevents water from seeping in and causing the rust to re-form.
If the scraping sound of aluminum foil against metal bothers you, use 0000 steel wool as an alternative. It works using the same principle -- although not as quickly -- as well as by abrasive action. Dipping it in vinegar increases its rust-cutting ability.
Large Rust Spots
You can rub large rust spots with aluminum foil and it will make a difference, but the rust may not entirely disappear. In that case, sand off the rust, using 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper, and coat the spot with chrome paint from a spray can.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.