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Removing chrome plating

by

Niall McLoughlin

SAFETY FIRST - ALWAYS USE GOGGLES AND PROTECTIVE GLOVES. THE PROCESS DISCUSSED HERE INVOLVES HIGHLY CORROSIVE CHEMICALS AND EXPLOSIVE GASSES. ALWAYS DO THIS IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA, PREFERABLY OUTDOORS, AWAY FROM PETS/ANIMALS AND CHILDREN.

For TinTub I've purchased quite a few older vehicle parts. Lights, bezels, clocks etc. A lot of these items are chrome over brass where the chrome is heavily pitted and damaged.

chromed side light

I love polished brass. I initially tried cleaning up with fine sand paper and with the wire wheel, but I had limited success and a lot of the chrome remained. Chrome plating is very hard.

I put all the items (13 small bits in total) in a box and took it down to a local plating company to see if they could strip it. The minimum charge was £72...

So I thought I'd give it a go myself.... how hard can it be?

I set up a small plastic bucket and filled it with water. Added caustic soda (available from any hardware store, its used for cleaning drains) to it and stirred it in.

I used a scrap strip of 3mm mild steel for the anode and connected it to the negative of a car battery charger. Then hung the item to be stripped from a bit of wire and connected that to the positive, making sure they don't touch.

Use thick steel wire to hold the item in the container (a wire coat hanger is perfect) as the process just eats any thin or copper wire and drops the part in the bucket. I made this mistake and had to fish my parts out a few times.

The steel plate fizzes, indicating it's working....
The bath ready to go

The bath ready to go

After about 30mins you get something that looks like this

After about 30mins you get something that looks like this

After rinsing thoroughly

After rinsing thoroughly

And wiping with a scourer

And wiping with a scourer

bare brass items cleaned with wire wheel ready for polishing

And cleaning with a wire wheel, ready for polishing

Before making any adjustments to your set up or to check the item, always turn off the battery charger first. The gasses given off are highly flammable and you don't want to risk a spark igniting it.

I've made it sound scarier than it is, if you're careful then there's no problem. It doesn't take long to set up and uses normal household items. The bucket/plate/items may get warm, so just keep an eye on that too.

It's great fun and highly rewarding process.


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