Bright and appealing, chrome finishes adorn everything from bathroom faucets to car exhaust pipes. Chrome looks beautiful when polished to a shine, but it doesn't take long for the surface to dull and tarnish without ongoing care. It will even succumb to rust eventually. Fortunately, a little time and elbow grease are usually enough to restore chrome's beauty.
Soap and Water
When it comes to chrome care, the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is true. If you clean your chrome frequently, a little dish soap and some warm water work just as well as commercial chrome cleaners. Simply dip a soft rag into warm, soapy water and wipe the grime away.
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If you're having trouble getting into chromed nooks and crannies, use a soft toothbrush to get the job done. When your chrome is clean, simply rinse it in warm water to remove any soap residue. Always remember to dry your chrome thoroughly after a cleaning, as it's prone to develop water spots when air dried.
Vinegar and Soda
If soap and water aren't doing the trick, step up your chrome-cleaning game with some vinegar. Vinegar is acidic and cuts through dirt and grime that soap can't. To use it, simply dampen your rag with it and start polishing.
Like vinegar, soda is acidic and is often recommended for cleaning. Soda does work well, but it leaves behind a sticky residue. If you opt to clean your chrome with soda, you'll need to wash it again in warm, soapy water when you're done. This adds an extra step to the cleaning process, but many people find soda quite effective and well worth the extra effort.
The Aluminum Foil Trick
If your chrome is badly tarnished or rusty, try cleaning it with aluminum foil. Doing so is a simple matter of cutting a square of aluminum foil, crumpling it a bit and then dipping it in some warm water or vinegar. Use the wet foil like you would a scrub brush or rag, rubbing it over the chrome while applying light pressure.
Make sure you keep the foil wet as you work, dipping it into your chosen cleaning solution often. If the foil starts to tear or pick up large amounts of grime, just cut yourself a fresh piece. When you're done with your foil scrub, rinse the chrome using warm water and a soft rag. Cleaning with foil may seem weird, but it works.
Commercial Chrome Polish
If home cleaners aren't doing the trick, there are many commercially available chrome cleaners and chrome restorers. You'll find them easily at your local hardware store or automotive parts store. Whichever commercial product you choose, always follow the directions on the label carefully when using the product and disposing of any unused chemicals. Commercial cleaners aren't always as environmentally friendly as vinegar, soda and soap.
Waxing and Protecting Chrome
Once you've put the shine back on your chrome, take steps to protect it and make future cleanings easier. Wax the chrome with an automotive wax containing carnauba oil. Apply at least two coats, buffing the chrome in between. The first coat will fill in any dings or chips, and the second will add a lustrous layer of protection.
Chrome Cleaning Don'ts
Although it lasts a long time with proper care, chrome is quite soft and is easy to damage. This is why metal components get plated with a chrome finish rather than being entirely constructed of chrome. When cleaning chrome, never use abrasive cleansers or brushes with stiff bristles. Even a scouring pad can cause damage, so choose your chrome-cleaning tools carefully.