Brushed nickel has become a favorite finish for everything from the kitchen sink to door handles to bathroom fixtures. Brushed nickel is resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion, but under normal circumstances it will eventually rust.
Brushed Nickel Coating
Nickel, brushed nickel, bronze, antique and other finishes are applied to metals, often stainless steel, through one of two processes. In one process, an electric current is run through the vat containing the coating and the metal to be coated. In the other, the metal is submersed in a chemical bath that applies the coating to the metal. The coating will not rust, but the metal underneath it will. Any scratch in the coating provides an opportunity for water to reach the metal and for the oxidation process that causes rust to begin.
You have many ways to remove rust, starting with a mixture of vinegar and water applied to the rusty area, allowed to sit for a few minutes and rinsed away. Other strategies include using sandpaper or steel wool to remove the rust, or in cases where the rust is deep, filing it away. In any of these methods, you must take the rusted spot down to bare metal or it will just start again, and therein lies the problem. Once you have gotten down to bare metal, you have ruined the brushed nickel coating, which is what you paid a premium for in the first place. A much better strategy is to try to prevent the rust from forming in the first place.
A few strategies could keep your brushed nickel shower curtain rod from rusting. You need to prevent scratching. One way to do this is to use plastic, rather than metal, shower curtain hooks. The second is to wipe down the shower rod after every shower while at the same time clearing the room of humidity as soon a possible. Rust will not form where moisture is not present. The third is to protect the finish with a heavy coat of paste wax applied according to the manufacturer's instructions. The wax will help keep water away from the finish and will help protect the brushed nickel finish from scratches.
At least one manufacturer of shower curtain rods will guarantee the rods against rust whatever the finish. These rods are pricey compared with those available from other manufacturers, but if you never have to pay for another shower rod, the extra expensive could be worth it.