How To Take Care of Chrome and Make It Shine

How To Take Care Of Chrome - Featured ImageYour ride is your pride. And part of your ride is those gnarly pieces of chrome metal which are shiny and visually appealing.

Chrome is easily stained, blotted, or tarnished, however. In some cases, chrome can even rust. These degradations of the metal make your ride a shadow of what it could be and remove that reflective “wow” factor which you’re looking for.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to take care of the chrome on your vehicle step by step so that you’ll be ready to keep your chrome shining brightly for years to come.

First, Find A Good Rag

For every chrome care tip that follows, you’ll need a rag that you can use on your chrome.

Don’t go out of your way to buy a special “rag” product, though. Make a rag from your household materials like:

  • Dishcloths
  • Old towels
  • Old t-shirts
  • Old swatches of upholstery

If you don’t have any of these rag options, purchase a dishcloth. If you’re feeling like splurging, purchasing a shammy intended for use on vehicles is an acceptable alternative.

You’ll be using this rag as the conduit for cleaning materials and also to provide a shine directly onto the chrome.

It’ll be subject to a lot of abuse between the different products and rubbing against the metal, so you should have a rag which is dedicated to vehicle touch-ups rather than share one which you use for cleaning dishes or something else.

Don’t Use Abrasive Products!

Once you have a good rag picked out, it’s time to start looking for polishing products. Some polishing products may promise to abrasively remove all traces of blemish from your chrome. You should avoid these products.

Abrasive products tend to remove superficial damage to your chrome but leave it in worse shape than before regarding the metal’s integrity. You could easily remove an unsightly spot from your bumper only to find that the entire area has rotted through later on as a result.

The most abrasive you should consider using is diluted vinegar. Realistically, if there is a tough stain which won’t come out later down the line, you’ll be better off scrubbing hard and for a long time in comparison to using an abrasive cleaning product.

Soap And Water

Your standby chrome shining product is soap and water. Soap and water are inexpensive and highly effective. Prepare some hot water in a bucket and get your rag or sponge ready. There are special soaps which are chrome friendly but most normal soaps are fine too.

Washing off the chrome with soap and water is the first step before any more serious chrome care because it will get the daily grime and dust off of your chrome.

This means that everything that has built up – like salt, sand, mud, and anything else – will come off before you seal in the shiny chrome underneath. But you have to do the legwork first.

You can take your car to a car wash instead of doing this step, but it won’t be as comprehensive of a clean unless you do it yourself. Spend some time getting the rag into every nook and cranny of the chrome and polishing it until it shines at a basic level.

Be sure to rinse your chrome off completely after washing it down.

Make a note of any stains or areas of rust which you find along the way. We’ll be getting to those shortly.

Removing Stains

Depending on the kind of stain or discoloration in your chrome you will want to use a different product.

Depending on how severe the stain is, your tactics should change. Some people advocate using a poultice of baking soda to remove caked on residues which may appear to stain the chrome. This trick works best on minor stains which aren’t very visible unless you look closely.

Be sure to rinse off the soda after you rub it into the chrome a few times with the rag.

For more serious stains, you’ll need some white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Depending on how old the chrome is, you may want to dilute the vinegar before applying them to the stain. For new chrome, an undiluted vinegar is acceptable.

If you’re willing to invest a bit of extra scrubbing in preserving your chrome a bit more, make a 1:1 dilution of vinegar and cool water. Scrub away, focusing directly on the stain. Wash it off when you’re done.

Removing Minor Rusting

You might suspect that rusting means your chrome is done for. Luckily, your chrome is durable and can recover from minor rusting if you give it a little bit of help.

Prepare a piece of aluminum – not tin — foil and crumple it up so that it’s the size of steel wool. Then, rub the ball of aluminum across the minor spots of rust like you’re trying to remove a tough bit of food caked onto a frying pan.

You should see the results instantly. As you will notice, there will likely also be a tiny amount of scraping visible on the surface, which should wash out with water and a little buffing very easily.

Use A Polishing Product

Once your chrome is washed up and has its stains and minor rusts removed, it’s time to lock in your hard work with a commercial polishing product.

If you’re hesitant to drop a lot of cash, check out some baby oil. That’s right – baby oil can give your chrome a beautiful temporary shine. It won’t exactly protect your chrome from future damage, however.

Many specialty chrome polishing products are on the market. You should pick up one of these intended for vehicle surfaces and apply it liberally with the help of your rag. Be sure to apply it outside so that you won’t be inhaling any of the fumes which these products emit.

Once you’ve applied a nice lock-in shine to your chrome, you’ll be ready to look good with your car for quite some time. Don’t be afraid to refresh the chrome protectant coat every month or so – your chrome will be looking good all year long if you do.

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.