How to Remove Rust From Chrome and Keep Chrome From Rusting

Chrome (which comes from the metal chromium) cannot rust. Rusting is a process that occurs with iron and alloys that contain iron. When oxygen and water react with iron, they remove the electrons from iron, which leads to the formation of rust. If you see rust on your chrome plating, then it is the iron underneath the chrome that is rusting, not the chrome itself.

If you need to remove rust from chrome (and keep chrome from rusting), you can use aluminum foil, apply homemade solutions like cola, vinegar, lemon, and lime, or apply store-bought products like Quick-Glo or Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner.

Before you begin any of the above steps, test the recommended products on your chrome and see if any tarnishing forms. If any discoloration or markings appear on the plating, discontinue using the product. In the end, I will include a short section on how to prevent rust stains from appearing on your chrome.

Use Aluminum Foil

Believe it or not, you can use aluminum foil to clean the rust from your chrome plating. The aluminum foil chemically reacts with the rust and lifts it off the chrome as it scrubs the plating. For this process, you will need aluminum foil, saltwater, a soft sponge, clean soapy water, and a towel. You can wear cleaning gloves if you want to.

Using aluminum foil to clean the rust from chrome plating.
  1. First, clean any dirt or residue off of the chrome plating with the sponge and some soapy water. The point of this is to clean off the dirt and dirt residue, which can affect how well the aluminum cleans off the rust. It will also make some of the hidden rust stains visible to the eye.
  1. Next, select the aluminum foil you plan to use. You can cut the foil into small square sheets, about four inches in width and length, or tear a large sheet off and crumple it into a large ball, big enough to fit inside your hand. Then, dip the foil into a bowl of saltwater.
    Although regular water works fine, saltwater is a better cleaning agent in tackling rust.
    Saltwater helps to draw the rust out of the chrome and makes it easier to scrub the rust off without too much effort.
  1. Afterward, take your foil and scrub at the rust on the plating, using a good bit of pressure to remove the rust. Use the shiny side of the foil to get the rust off easier. As you scrub the foil, you should see the rust come off of the chrome. It will stick to the aluminum foil’s surface or fall off in the water droplets that drip from the foil. If you are cleaning pitted chrome, you will need to scrub a little harder to get into the holes and clear the rust out.
  1. After you remove the rust, use water to wash the area. Pour water on the chrome to rinse it off and then dry it with a cloth. If you cannot pour water on the chrome, use a wet cloth to clean the area and then dry with a cloth. If you still see some rust on the chrome, repeat the foil scrubbing process and rinse with clean water once more.
  1. Once the chrome is dry, keep the chrome in an area with little moisture. You should apply a coating of chrome polish or wax to provide protection against moisture and give the chrome an additional shine. If your chrome has pits in it, try using wax designed for chrome plating, to fill in those pits. Doing this will prevent the rust from forming and restore the chrome’s surface.

Use Homemade Solutions

Common products inside your home can be used to keep your chrome clean and safe. There are several ingredients that you can commonly find inside your home that can clean your chrome plating easily. Cola, vinegar, lemon, and lime are some of these products. Keep in mind that these are a more natural solution than using chemical cleaners.

Chemical cleaners that contain bromine, chlorine, iodine, and other elements can harm chrome plating. Chrome plating can develop cracks or have spaces where the chrome was not applied well. These chemicals can get into these cracks and corrode the metals underneath the plating.

The chrome on the surface no longer has a strong foundation and will fall off, leaving behind pits in the plating’s surface. Unlike chemical cleaners, cola, vinegar, lemon, and lime are mild acid cleaners, making them great to use on chrome.

Mild acid cleaners are strong enough to remove rust stains but are not strong enough to corrode metals underneath the plating. These items are usually cheap and multi-purpose, so you save money. When using homemade solutions to clean chrome, you will need a mild acid cleaner (cola, vinegar, lemon or lime), sponge, clean water with soap mixed in, a cloth, and chrome polish.

  1. First, use a sponge and clean water with soap to clean off the dirt from the chrome. As I mentioned before, you do not want anything interfering with the cleaning process of the chrome. If you come across some tough stains, a few drops of vinegar or lime can help clear it off.
  1. Next, apply your choice of mild acid cleaner to the chrome plating. You can soak a cloth in your selected cleaner and drape the cloth over the chrome, or you can pour the cleaner directly on top of the entire chrome. Once you have applied your acid to the chrome, leave it be for about 15 minutes. This will give the acid enough time to start working on the rust.
    Also cola and lime are acids that work well in cleaning the chrome of cars. Regular cola has sugar in it, which helps the acid bind to and break the iron rust down, while lime juice works well to remove the rust in small spots of the chrome. After the 15 minutes are up, use a wet scrubby sponge or soft cloth to scrub the rust away. The acid has done most of the work, so the rust should come off easier.
  1. After you scrub the rust off, use soapy water and a sponge to wash the mild acid cleaner and rust residue off of your chrome. Use soaps and sponges designed for cleaning metal chrome or painted chrome, so you do not scratch the chrome plating.
  1. Finally, dry the chrome off with a towel, and make sure to remove any traces of water. Apply a coating of chrome polish to your chrome plating, but make sure it is the right polish for the type of chrome you are using. This will give the chrome a boosted shine.

Use Store-Bought Products

If you do not have the time to spend scrubbing down your chrome or just want to use something quick to clean up your chrome, you can use store-bought products to get the job done. There are products such as the Quick-Glo, which is a gel product that not only works on chrome but on glass, stainless steel, and brass.

With this product, you just apply it to the area of the chrome plating with rust. The gel will remove the rust, and you will not have to wash the surface with soap and water. Just wipe off the excess gel, and you will be good to go.

Not a fan of gel products? You can use spray products like the Mothers 05222 or the Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. The Mothers 05222 is a product used to clean the chrome on vehicles. The Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish cleans chrome appliances such as refrigerators, trashcans, ovens, and more. Spray these products onto the surface of the chrome and wipe away with a cloth.

Finally, there are wax products and oils like the Turtle Wax T-280RA and the Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant. Wax and oil cleaners are usually used on cars to clean the rims, bumpers, and other chrome-covered accessories. The Turtle Wax T-280RA restores dull-looking chrome to its shimmering gleaming state. The Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant cleans off rust stains and restores your chrome plating.

These products are great for people with little time to clean and who are looking for longer-lasting results. However, compared to the other steps, these items can be a bit pricey and may require more time to apply to chrome.

Cleaning Chrome on Your Car

Use the following steps only for automobile chrome. Take great care to avoid damaging the chrome. To clean chrome with wax/oil products you will need, a wax or oil product, soapy clean water, a sponge, brass wool or fine steel wool, dry cloth, gloves, and chrome polish.

Rusted chrome on a car.
  1. First, clean the chrome plating with a soft sponge and soapy water. This is to ensure that the wax can get to the rusted iron easily and remove it. It also prevents your chrome from looking grimy and dirty once you have applied the wax/oil product to it. If you do not want to wash your car by hand, take it to a car wash to get the job done.
  1. After you have cleaned up the chrome of your car, prepare the wax/oils that you plan on using. Take the precautions that are required and follow the instructions on the wax/oil cleaner. After preparing the wax/oil, apply it to the surface of the chrome plating, specifically where the rust is located. Use gloves if you need to, and make sure to coat the wax/oil evenly over the entire surface, and on the rest of the chrome.
  1. Next, select the wool you will be using for this process. Regular steel wool is not recommended for cleaning chrome because it can leave scratches on the surface of the chrome plating and expose the iron. Regular steel wool can also leave behind tiny particles of steel or carbon that attach to the chrome plating and begin to rust. This causes the metals underneath the plating to corrode with it.
    This is why it is very important that you choose light wool to use, such as brass wool or very fine steel wool with a grade of #0000, such as these 16 pads steel wools. While these wools are made of metal, they are less likely to leave deposits and should not leave any scratches on the chrome plating if used properly.
    Once you have selected the wool you plan to use, coat the wool in the same wax or oil that you coated the chrome with. This will prevent the steel wool from scratching the chrome as the wax serves as a barrier between them.
  1. Use the steel or brass wool to gently clean the rusted areas. Rub the wool in a circular motion around the rust stain and always make sure that both the chrome and steel wool have plenty of wax on them. Never apply too much pressure to the wool when cleaning the chrome because the wool can still scratch the plating. Wearing rubber gloves can help your fingers maintain a strong grip on the wool.
  1. Once you have rubbed and buffed the rust stains off the chrome, rinse the chrome off with clean water. After rinsing, check the chrome for any rust spots that may have been missed. If you find any, wax those spots with the wax/oil, carefully scrub the stains away with the steel wool and rinse with water once more.
  1. After all the rust spots have been removed, and the chrome has been rinsed off, carefully dry the chrome with a cloth or towel. It is very important to dry the chrome off after every rinse, especially if you used steel wool to clean it. Pre-existing scratches or holes in the chrome will cause exposed alloys under the chrome to react with the water and form rust.
  1. Once you have toweled off your chrome, you can apply a coating of chrome polish to help keep the chrome shiny and well protected from stains. You can use the Quick-Glo or another chrome polishing product.

Preventing Future Corrosions

Now that your chrome is all clean and free of rusted iron, you may be wondering what you can do to keep it that way. Chrome is a tough metal, and if taken care of properly, it can stay shiny for a long time.

After cleaning the chrome, you can do one or all of the following to ensure it stays protected. While these methods are not foolproof, they can help your chrome plating last longer and continue to look shiny.

  • Cleaning your chrome plating is one way to help the chrome last longer. Dirt and stains may not look like much to the eye, but they contain minute particles that will cause constant damage to the chrome-plated alloy. Keeping the chrome plating clean prevents this damage from occurring, and using polish also serves to protect the chrome plating’s appearance.
  • Repainting the chrome or sanding down the rough parts hides the dull colors and restores its color. For automobiles with chrome plating, use chrome paints designed for automobiles, and for objects that have chrome paint on them, use paints designed for these chrome-plated objects.
  • Finally, hiring a chrome plating specialist to give your chrome object a new chrome job is another way to restore the entire chrome layer. This is an expensive process, with prices ranging from $250 to $2000 depending on where you live. Unless your chrome has been corroded beyond repair, you may want to use this option as a last resort.

If you take these steps, you can easily keep the iron underlying your chrome from rusting for a long time to come.

Conclusion

If you ever see rust on your chrome, it is not the chrome that is rusting but the iron underneath it. However, it is easy to remove rust stains from chrome plating through simple measures.

  • Aluminum foil is a cheap method of removing rusted iron. It can be used to remove small patches of rust from your chrome in little time.
  • Using mild acids such as cola, lemon, lime, or vinegar can clear the rust in small crevices and large chrome surfaces.
  • Finally, waxes and oils can clean up the rust and give your chrome a polished look. Be very careful when using brass wool, or fine steel wool to clean the chrome plating.
  • Once you have removed the rust from your chrome, use the methods mentioned in the last section to ensure that your chrome does not rust in the future. Cleaning it periodically, repainting the chrome, waxing the chrome, or getting a new chrome job will extend and restore the chrome’s life.

Exposed iron within a chrome plating can rust, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do about it. By following these steps, you can return your chrome’s shine and keep the rust from coming back.

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