Chrome typically serves as a shine or protective coating for other metals, and the metal beneath the chrome is typically the source of the rust. Removing rust from household items is surprisingly easy with a little work, but more serious maintenance may be necessary if the rust is widespread and much of the chrome has flaked off.
Method 1 of 4: Remove the rust with aluminum foil
Step 1. Use aluminum foil for an easy and inexpensive method of removing chrome oxide
Aluminum reacts chemically with rust, producing a material that can be easily cleaned or scrubbed. Since aluminum is smoother than most metals, it will not scratch the surface of chrome or the metal underneath it.
Step 2. Clean the chrome
Before you try to remove rust from chrome, clean and remove metal residue with soapy water or car detergent if you are cleaning car parts. This will help you spot rusty areas more easily.
For very dirty or rusty surfaces, use vinegar or another of the mild acids that we will mention below, then clean them with aluminum foil
Step 3. Soak the aluminum foil in water
You can use any water, but the best is salt water, since its electrolytes and salts will help speed up the chemical process. Break aluminum strips of the size that suits you to clean the rusted areas.
Step 4. Scrub the aluminum foil over the rusted areas
Scrub the aluminum foil over the rusty areas. You don't have to apply too much pressure, although heavily rusted areas may need to be scrubbed harder and longer.
- Soak the aluminum foil in the water every time it dries.
- If you are cleaning a heavily chipped surface, then try rolling the aluminum foil into a ball. The edges of the ball will help even out the metal and will actually fill in the rusted and chipped areas.
Step 5. Stop from time to time to remove the oxide residue
When rust residue builds up a lot, stop and wipe the residue off with a scouring pad or cloth. This will allow you to see the remaining rust and continue scrubbing with the aluminum foil.
Step 6. Rinse the chrome surface
When all the rust has been removed, clean the surface with a scouring pad to reveal the shiny metal underneath.
Step 7. Dry the chrome completely
Water stains appear very easily on chrome surfaces and can further rust the metal underneath. Dry the surface with a paper towel or a hair dryer. If necessary, refer to the aftercare section to repair the damage and prevent further rust.
Make sure to apply a coat of wax to the clean chrome to prevent further rust formation
Method 2 of 4: Remove Rust With Mild Acid
Step 1. Use a cola, lemon juice, or other mild acid
Any cola or soda with phosphoric acid in its ingredients can be used to remove rust. Other options are lemon juice or vinegar. These mild acids can remove rust without putting the surrounding metal at considerable risk.
- Diet colas are sugar-free, so working with these will make the process less sticky. However, the sugar helps the acid stick to the rust.
- Avoid strong or concentrated acids, which can sink and weaken the underlying metal. If these household acids are ineffective, try phosphoric acid again, but put on a fan so the corrosive gases don't get in your face.
Step 2. Clean the chrome
Before trying to remove rust from chrome, it is best to make sure to remove all dirt and other impurities. This will help you see and get to the rust easier to remove. Use car detergent to clean painted car surfaces and regular soapy water for other chrome items.
Step 3. Soak or coat the chrome with the acid
Ideally, allow the item to soak in the acid for 15 minutes before removing it. If you can't leave the item soaking, just pour the mild acid over the surface.
Step 4. Scrub the rust to remove it
You may need an abrasive pad or a soft dish sponge to remove the dissolved rust. Special glassware sponges tend to scratch chrome much less. To remove a large amount of rust, gently scrub it with strips of aluminum foil or a green sponge.
Step 5. Remove residue with water and a safe detergent
If you're cleaning a car, use car detergent to remove rust and acid residue. Dishwashing liquid should not be used on painted car surfaces, otherwise it may strip paint. Uncleaned surfaces can be cleaned with plain soapy water.
Step 6. Dry and take care of your car
Blot any moisture with a paper towel to minimize the appearance of rust. If rust has caused apparent damage, go to the aftercare section.
Apply a coat of chrome wax over the chrome to prevent further rust from forming in the future
Method 3 of 4: Remove Rust with Chrome Oil or Wax
Step 1. Use chrome wax if you want to remove rust quickly, or oil to save
Chrome wax is the most expensive method of removing rust, but a quality product will remove it quickly and easily. You can also use a light air loosening oil, such as WD40, which is usually a cheaper option.
Step 2. Clean the chrome with soapy water
Before trying to remove rust from chrome, it is best to make sure to remove all dirt and other impurities. This will help you see and get to the rust more easily.
If you have a hard time removing dirt, you can also use vinegar to clean the chrome surface. Vinegar is a mild acid and will also help in the rust removal process
Step 3. Apply chrome oil or wax to the rusted area
Spread the cleaning product over the rusted area on the chrome and make sure to cover it completely to avoid scratching the surface.
Step 4. Apply chrome oil or wax to a fine brass wool or steel wool sponge
Soft brass wool sponges or brass wire brushes are best for this, as they are the least likely to leave large scratches. If you can't find brass wool, use the finest steel wool possible, preferably # 0000 grade. Covering the area with more chrome wax will also help prevent scratches.
Step 5. Scrub the wool sponge over the rusted area
Rub it in gently in a circular motion, making sure the surface is wet at all times. Do not apply pressure during scrubbing, otherwise you will damage the surface.
If the area becomes dry, add more oil or chrome wax. Scrubbing dry chrome with a metal wool pad will scratch and damage the surface
Step 6. Rinse the area with clean water
Remove metal wax and loose rust by rinsing the area with water.
Step 7. Check for more rust spots
If the chrome surface is not completely rust free, use more chrome wax to try to remove the rust spots using the same method.
Step 8. Dry the chrome completely
Water stains can appear very easily on chrome surfaces, so it is best to dry the chrome completely to make it shiny.
- Make sure to apply a coat of chrome wax so rust doesn't re-form.
- If more care is needed, read the next section.
Method 4 of 4: Repair and Protect Chrome After Removing Rust
Step 1. Polish and dry the surface
If rust is only a minor problem, wiping the surface dry after cleaning may be enough to keep the chrome looking good.
Step 2. Protect the metal with wax
Apply chrome wax to the chrome to protect it from further damage. Use a product only for its specific purpose, for example, use car wax only for chrome vehicles.
Normally, you have to apply wax, polish it and let it dry. Then you have to apply a second coat and polish it again
Step 3. Apply silver paint (or chrome paint)
This paint will leave the chrome with a good shine, but the level of protection from rust will depend on the brand of paint and its method of application. Choose an appropriate paint for the task (usually for cars) and apply it as evenly as possible to the areas affected by rust. Use a fine sandpaper (1200 grit) to sand them after they dry, being careful not to sand the unpainted areas.
Step 4. Bathe the chrome object again
This option is expensive and is typically only needed on cars that are badly damaged by rust. Find a mechanic who offers chrome service if you want to leave your car looking like new. If you dare, you can try to chrome some objects at home, especially if they are relatively small.
- Chrome plating is usually used to protect objects from rust. If they have rust, it is usually because the chrome has flaked in areas, leaving the underlying iron or steel vulnerable to rust damage. In severe cases, the rust can spread to the surrounding areas and leave bubbles under the chrome bath.
- Rust will reappear quickly if the surface gets wet, so be sure to dry the surface thoroughly if exposed to water. Apply a coat of chrome wax to the surface just after it dries. This will prevent new rust formation.
- Some cars have plastic or paint that mimics chrome, but it is not chrome. While these methods work on the rust itself, and not the chrome, they can produce unpredictable effects if your car is coated with an unidentified substance.
- Sandblasting and sanding are not recommended as they easily damage the underlying metal.