How to Clean Tarnished Chrome Faucets

Chrome is a popular finishing material for bathroom fixtures because it looks great and is easy to maintain. The problem is that soft metal like chrome or silver will oxidize over time, turning a once lustrous finish into a dingy, discolored mess.

Unlike rust, tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that doesn’t penetrate the surface. This means that you can still save the chrome (or nickel) and restore your faucet to its former glory with a deep cleaning. All it takes is the right cleaner and a little elbow grease.

What Is The Best Cleaner For Chrome?

You can find an inexpensive cleaner online or at the store for a few bucks, but it isn’t necessary. With a few common household items, you can make a homemade chrome cleaner bust up rust and give your faucet a gleaming shine!

You may ask yourself, will vinegar damage chrome fixtures? The answer is no. In fact, quite the opposite is true. White vinegar is one of the most gentle abrasives for tarnish removal. Here is a recipe for a simple homemade solution to get clean chrome:

  • Mix 1:1 parts white vinegar and water 
  • Baking soda to help scrub

How Do You Remove Oxidation From Chrome?

A chemical reaction between the chrome and nonmetal compounds (air and moisture) leaves behind metal oxide, also known as the metal sulfide. This is a product of oxidation. If your finger has ever turned black or green from a ring, tarnish is the culprit.

An abrasive is needed to bring back the luster of a tarnished faucet. Our cleaning method uses vinegar and baking soda to get the job done, but many different agents are used to remove tarnish.

Below are a few popular alternatives:

  • Lemon – the citric acid from a lemon acts as a strong abrasive.
  • Windex – good for removing light tarnish stains and minor blemishes.
  • WD-40 – build for industrial use on automobiles, it has the power to remove tough rust stains.
  • Chemical cleaners – chemical cleaners used oxalic or phosphoric acid to get rid of the toughest stains. These cleaners are toxic and should be used as a last resort.

*Avoid using bleach at all costs; the chlorine in bleach can really mess up metal.

How Do I Make My Faucet Shine Again?

The method you choose to use depends on how badly your faucet is tarnished. Light tarnishing just takes some wiping and perhaps the help of a non-toxic cleaner. Follow the directions below to remove chrome discoloration from your faucet.

Supplies:

  • Warm water
  • Soft cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Bristle brush (toothbrush etc.)
  • Silver polish

Directions:

  1. Do an initial cleaning – use warm water and soap to clean the faucet thoroughly.
  2. Make the Vinegar solution – make a 1:1 parts solution of water and vinegar.
  3. Add baking soda – sprinkle baking soda lightly on the chrome.
  4. Let it soak – spray the solution on the faucet and let it soak for no less than 15 minutes.
  5. Loosen the grime – scrub away to get into all the nooks and crannies of the faucet.
  6. Rinse and Buff – use water to rinse down the faucet and buff it with chrome polish. Viola!

For Stubborn Stains That Won’t Go Away

If you are dealing with a heavily tarnished bathroom faucet, you might have to bring in the big guns (harsh abrasives and toxic chemicals). Here are some tips to help you take on the most stubborn stains.

Get more abrasive – a stronger abrasive will penetrate deeper into the chrome.

Here are some ways to get more cleaning power:

  • Use a stronger, more acidic solution. Try using a 3:1 ratio of vinegar to water. You can also add more acid with lemon.
  • Let the solution soak for longer. Saturate a soft cloth with the solution and lay it on the faucet. 
  • Use a green scouring pad to scrub the faucet.
  • Add more baking soda or salt for a heavier paste.

Use a chemical cleaner – if all else fails, you can use a chemical rust remover. Be sure to take all the necessary precautions and carefully read the instructions. These products are expensive and need to sit on the chrome for several hours before scrubbing them off.