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Caring for Vintage Chrome
by Bob Brooke

 

The secret to successful chrome restoration lies in removing rust and dirt without scratching the shiny metal surface. The problem is, while chrome is a very durable metal and can last for years, it doesn’t take long for it to get dirty and dull looking. And because you will need to clean chrome frequently, it is important to know how to clean chrome properly.

Never neglect chrome. The best way to avoid damage to chrome objects is to not allow them to get dirty in the first place. The dirtier chrome gets before you deal with it, the more effort and force you’re going to have to use to clean chrome and the higher your risk of damaging it will become. The moment you start to notice a dulling of the chrome, wash it.

Cleaning Chrome

Sometimes, you just need to clean chrome—a soft rag or piece of cheesecloth and some good dish detergent will do the trick. If the chrome is really dirty, you may want to add some vinegar to the rag as a chrome cleaner. Because vinegar—either plain white or apple cider—is slightly acidic, it works well for taking tarnish and gunk off of chrome. To make sure you aren’t just moving the dirt around, use different parts of the rag as you go, so you always have a clean section. For a little extra cleaning power, sprinkle a little baking soda on the vinegar-dampened rag.

To clean rust off of chrome, nothing beats good old aluminum foil. Crumble up a bit of it, then dip it in vinegar and scrub. Scrub with medium force and re-dip your foil into the vinegar often. Afterwards, rinse the piece well in fresh water. For severe cases of rust, you may want to use 0000 steel wool. After cleaning and rinsing, make sure to dry the chrome thoroughly with a soft, clean, dry towel.

To keep chrome looking nicer for longer, you should wax it after cleaning. This will reduce the frequency of cleaning. Any carnauba car wax will do. And make sure you give it at least two coats. The first will fill in any pores, and the second will give it a good luster. Be sure to buff the chrome with a soft cloth between coats.

Replating Chrome
Chrome pieces more than 50 years old can develop severe rust, pitting and discoloration that you may find difficult to remove. To restore badly damaged tables and chairs, consider having the chrome replated using an electroplating technique. This process involves stripping, polishing and plating the chrome to give it a smooth, shiny finish. Electroplating involves dangerous chemicals and is strictly regulated, so this is a job best left to the pros.


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

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