How to Clean Chrome

Chrome sink faucet cleaned with blue microfiber cloth next to bottle of tea tree hand wash

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

If you like the look of very shiny metal on vintage muscle cars or bathroom fixtures, the detailing you're ogling is most likely chrome. The method of coating a base metal with the element chromium was first developed in 1924 at Columbia University. Commercial chrome plating was then adapted to create decorative automotive trim, produce shiny household lighting and plumbing fixtures, and harden tools used for industrial purposes.

Chrome plating is durable, corrosion-resistant, and aesthetically pleasing. The thickness of the plating varies and is usually applied over nickel plating on base materials such as steel, aluminum, and even plastic.

How Often to Clean Chrome

The frequency of how often chrome should be cleaned varies greatly depending upon where it is used. Decorative items usually only need dusting. Bathroom and kitchen fixtures should be cleaned at least weekly but may need daily cleaning to maintain their high shine finish. Frequent cleaning makes it easier to remove streaks and spots from the minerals in water that leave a chrome finish looking dull. Luckily, chrome is easy to clean and maintain with just a few supplies from the pantry.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth(s)
  • Sink or bucket

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid or all-purpose surface cleaner
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled water (optional)
  • Aluminum foil (optional)
  • Automotive wax with carnauba oil (optional)

Instructions

Materials and tools to clean chrome fixtures

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Clean Chrome With Dishwashing Liquid

  1. Prepare a Cleaning Solution

    Add one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to a sink or bucket of warm water. Agitate the water to completely disperse the soap.

    Teaspoon of dishwashing liquid mixed with sink filled water to clean chrome faucet

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Wipe Down the Chrome

    Dip a nonabrasive sponge or soft cloth in the cleaning solution. Wring so it is not dripping. Slowly wipe down the chrome faucet, plumbing fixture, or towel bar with the damp sponge. Rinse the sponge in the cleaning solution frequently to get rid of dirt so you are not smearing it back on the chrome.

    To clean tight spaces and crevices, use an old soft toothbrush dipped in soapy water. For stuck-on grime like dried toothpaste or food, sprinkle a bit of dry baking soda on the sponge or toothbrush. The gentle abrasive action of baking soda will loosen the mess.

    Chrome faucet wiped down with nonabrasive cloth and cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. Rinse the Chrome and Buff Dry

    Use a clean sponge dipped in plain water to rinse away any soapy residue. Finally, use a lint-free microfiber cloth to buff the chrome to a high shine. Drying thoroughly will help eliminate any streaks or spots.

    Green lint-free microfiber cloth drying off chrome sink faucet

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Clean Chrome With Vinegar

  1. Make a Vinegar Solution

    Hard water can leave spots and streaks from the minerals it contains. Soapy water will not remove these stains easily, especially if the build-up is heavy. To remove the stains, mix a solution of 50 percent plain water and 50 percent distilled white vinegar. (For best results, use distilled water that contains no minerals.)

    Dip a sponge or toothbrush in the vinegar solution and wipe down the chrome. If the diluted solution does not remove the hard water spots, use pure distilled white vinegar. Rub gently and move slowly so the vinegar has time to break down the mineral deposits.

    Rinse well with plain water and buff the chrome dry with a microfiber cloth.

    Distilled white vinegar poured into metal bowl with water for cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Wipe Down the Chrome

    Dip a sponge or toothbrush in the vinegar solution and wipe down the chrome. If the diluted solution does not remove the hard water spots, use pure distilled white vinegar. Rub gently and move slowly so the vinegar has time to break down the mineral deposits.

    White toothbrush dipped in vinegar solution scrubbing base of chrome sink faucet

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. Rinse and Dry

    Rinse the surface well with plain water and buff the chrome dry with a microfiber cloth.

    Chrome sink faucet buffed with green microfiber cloth after rinsing

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Remove Rusty Spots from Chrome

  1. Use Aluminum Foil

    If rust appears on chrome, aluminum foil can help restore the shine. Crumple a square of aluminum foil into a loose ball. Dip the foil in a solution of warm, soapy water and gently rub it over the rusty chrome in small circles. Be sure to keep the foil and chrome very wet while you are cleaning. If the foil begins to discolor or tear, dispose of it and use a fresh square until the chrome is clean.

    After cleaning, rinse the chrome well with warm water and buff dry with a soft cloth.

  2. Bust Hard Water Spots

    If there are hard water spots as well as rust, dip the aluminum foil in vinegar for better results.

  3. Rinse and Dry the Surface

    After cleaning, rinse the chrome well with warm water and buff dry with a soft cloth.

How to Protect the Shine

Since chrome was once a huge feature on automobiles, the industry learned that waxing chrome helps protect the shine and also makes future cleanings easier. The wax causes water and grime to bead up and roll away quicker. If you'd like to preserve your chrome surface's shine, use an automotive wax that contains carnauba oil.

Chrome Cleaning Don'ts

Just as important as knowing how to clean chrome properly is knowing what you should never do. Because the layer of chrome is thin over other metals, once it is damaged it is almost impossible to restore the shine.

  • Never use an abrasive scouring pad on chrome.
  • Never use a stiff-bristled scrubbing brush on chrome.
  • Never use harsh scouring powders on chrome.
  • Before using any commercial cleaner, read the label to make sure it is approved for use on chrome.

Tips to Keep Chrome Shiny and Bright

  1. Clean chrome fixtures and utensils frequently to reduce the build-up of grime, soap scum, and hard water stains.
  2. Take a minute to dry chrome fixtures after a bath, shower, or washing hands.
  3. Add a water softening system to your home if you live in a hard water area.
  4. Use distilled water when cleaning chrome to prevent spots from the minerals in hard water areas.
  5. Avoid using harsh cleaning tools and abrasive cleaners.