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How to Easily Clean Chrome on Your Vehicle

When you have a vehicle decked out in chrome, you want to make sure your chrome is always shiny. A clean shine to a chrome bumper adds flash and makes a statement. However, cleaning your chrome could be disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Chrome is a soft metal. It’s easy to damage the surface. That makes it crucial you know the proper way to clean and polish those areas of your vehicle.

Check out a few helpful DIY tips on proper care, and get stoked about looking fly on the road this summer. 

What Is Chrome?

Chrome comes from the element chromium. It’s when a thin layer of chromium is electroplated onto the surface of another metal. The chrome layer protects the underlying metal from rust and decay, but a scratch or wearing of the protective surface can allow for rust to develop. 

When formulating chrome, manufacturers use either hexavalent or trivalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium is extremely toxic, so you’ll want to opt for a trivalent mixture given the choice.

In Europe, hexavalent chromium is banned for use on automobiles. 

What Can I Use to Clean Chrome on My Car? 

Cleaning your chrome is important for reducing breakdown and maintaining the true shine of the accent. When cleaning chrome, you have to be cautious as chromium is a softer metal than most. 

You can easily scratch and damage the chrome plating on your vehicle by using harsh materials or chemicals during the cleaning process. A simple soap and water mixture will do just fine to clean the dirt off of your chrome. Using a soap formulated for vehicle exteriors is best. 

Pro Tip: Dead bugs clinging to your chrome? We uncovered How to Easily Get Bugs Off Your Vehicle.

Man polishing the chrome on his vintage vehicle
Avoid using harsh cleaners and chemicals when cleaning your chrome.

What Is the Best Thing to Clean Chrome?

If you’re dealing with some seriously dirty chrome, there are natural ways to manage the problem. Stay away from harsh cleaners and chemicals when you clean your chrome, as they can cause the plating to wear away faster. 

Stains and even minor rust spots can be quite the eyesore, but they’re no match for vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is the best way to clean up abused chrome and bring back its original shine.

A 50/50 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar (with no minerals), a soft cloth, and a toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas are all you need to bring your chrome back to life. 

What Household Items Can I Use to Polish Chrome?

There are a few things that might be lying around the house which help clean up and shine your chrome items. Steel wool and aluminum foil are two of the most useful materials you might find lying around the kitchen. 

The two are soft enough to effectively scrub the fragile layer of chromium without damaging the surface. Make sure to keep your steel wool wet as you scrub, though. It can cause damage if you’re using a dry steel wool pad to clean the chrome.  

Close up of vintage Chevrolet chrome.
Keep your chrome looking sparkling new with just a few common household products.

Does Vinegar Harm Chrome?

As with everything, moderation is key. Heavy usage of vinegar on your chrome will do damage over time. The vinegar tip is really only meant to be used to refurbish neglected chrome pieces. 

Using the vinegar and water method won’t hurt if you’re using it sparingly. If you maintain your chrome regularly, there should be no need to bring out the vinegar anytime soon. 

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How Do You Remove Heavy Rust From Chrome?

The most important thing to do before removing rust from chrome is to make sure you have genuine chrome. Some manufacturers cut costs by using a chrome paint finish over metal, and using rust removal techniques will only cause further damage. 

If you have real, quality chrome on your metal, you have options. Lime juice, cola, vinegar, aluminum foil, and steel or brass wool are all excellent tools to have in your box. 

How Do I Make My Car Chrome Shiny Again? 

You can only start to bring back the shine of your chrome once you have thoroughly cleaned and dried the surface. Drying is an important step you don’t want to skip, as water spots will occur, which are difficult to remove once they’ve made their home. 

After you’ve cleaned and refurbished your chrome, polishing is the icing on the shiny cake. A good polish will give you the finished look you seek. A quality car wax will work well to restore shine, but make sure you’re using the right method of application. 

Apply a thin layer of wax, rubbing in circles as you go. Let the wax sit for a few minutes, and then buff it off with a soft cloth, also moving in circles as you go. Think of Mr. Miyagi’s wax on, wax off method. Now take your newfound education, and go make your bumpers shine!

How do you clean the chrome on your vehicle? Tell us your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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