How to Remove Chrome Plating from Metal and Plastic Parts?

In case you didn’t know already, chrome plating is meant to make an item shiny, but at the same time, it offers a lot in terms of durability and damage resistance.

Still, there are situations in which you might want to remove this extra coat of protection.

And this is the moment when you will find out how challenging it is to remove chrome plating.

How to Remove Chrome Plating

Anyhow, we are here to help you, which is why we’ve shared next our top tips and tricks on how to remove chrome plating with little to no hassle. 

First of all: What exactly is chrome plating?

Chrome plating represents the direct result of an electrical charge applied to a plating bath consisting of an electrolytic salt solution.

This makes the chromium metal detach from the solution and settle on distinct items, usually metallic.

Its primary purpose is to enhance durability and to extend the ability of an object to withstand shock and damage. 

Removing Chrome Plating — 3 Different Ways

Removing chrome plating from plastic and metal parts can be tricky.

However, if you know the right steps, you can get the job done right away without damaging the surface.

Below are a few best ways that can be utilized for stripping away the chrome plating…

Method 1 – Dealing with Light Chrome

Of course, there is no need to make use of the most expensive approaches available on the market to ideally remove chrome plating from metal and plastic objects.

In general, if you want to remove some light coating of chrome, you can enroll in some DIY projects with the following techniques.

1. Applying an Abrasive

If your surface only has a thin layer of chrome, you should know that you might be able to scrub it via an abrasive.

All you have to do is mix baking soda with water and achieve a paste of abrasive.

Rub the mixture on the chrome surface with the help of a clean cloth. Make sure you don’t scrub it for too long, as it might damage the material underneath.

2. Applying Oven Cleaner

Did you know that the standard oven cleaner can help you remove chrome plating?

Well, you can use it to deal with fake plastic types of chrome.

This product will de-grease the surface, and after only ten minutes, you will be able to wipe the chrome.

Remember that you shouldn’t allow the product to sit too much on the surface, as it might darken it.

Instead, use the oven cleaner foam several times in a row until you reach the desired results.

3. Applying Bleach

A bleach bath is another simple and efficient method to remove chrome plating.

Submerge the chrome metal in it and let it soak for 24 hours. Remember that you shouldn’t exceed this time frame, as it can harm the surface.

4. Applying Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is another item you might have around, and it can help you remove chrome plating.

The downside of this is that it might require some time until you altogether remove the plating. Use gloves and rub the fluid on the object. Let it sit for around ten minutes and rinse it.

Repeat this until the chrome plating is completely removed. Keep in mind that brake fluid can dissolve plastic items. 

Method 2 – Applying Chemical Substances

Using chemical substances is good for cleaning chrome from metal parts.

However, it’s good not to use them for plastic as it can damage them.

1. Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric Acid is one of the most potent and corrosive acids you will find on the market.

And it is an asset when it comes to dealing with high amounts of chrome plating applied to distinct metals.

Overall, if you want to adequately clean the surface and remove any trace of the chrome plating, you can use between 30 to 40 percent of concentration for the Hydrochloric Acid. 

Our advice is to mix three parts of hydrochloric acid with one part of the water to achieve a 30% potent solution.

Make sure you combine the ingredients in a sturdy bucket, as it can seriously damage the plastic. So, to remove the plating, you should submerge the object in the mixture.

As soon as the layer comes off, use gentle moves to clean the metal surface with the help of mild soap and water. Wash it thoroughly and leave it to dry. 

2. Sodium Hydroxide

If you have a surface made out of carbon steel or ferrous metals, it is best to apply sodium hydroxide instead of hydrochloric acid.

Sodium hydroxide is a corrosive chemical, great for removing several types of metal coating. 

All you have to do is mix between 8 to 12 ounces of sodium hydroxide with a gallon of water in a heavy-duty plastic bucket.

Soak the object in the mixture and let it in the bucket for a while.

Make sure all the chrome is removed before washing the item with water and mild soap. And, of course, rinse it thoroughly and allow it to dry. 

3. Reverse Electroplating

If you are looking for an attractive and compelling way to remove chrome plating, this solution is for you.

Reverse electroplating is, as the name suggests, a way in which electric current chrome is linked to metal items at a molecular level.

Simply put: it reverses the entire process an object goes through while doing chrome plating. 

Keep in mind that even though it appears to be a straightforward method, it is hazardous, and it is best to be performed by a professional.

The process is rather complicated, and it involves electrical currents and several toxic and carcinogenic compounds.

This means that you need to have in-depth knowledge about what you’re doing. 

Reverse electroplating can be done with a mix of chromic acid and sulfuric acid, which is added to water with a ratio of 100:1.

Of course, the quantities depend mostly on the object, its chrome plating, and the method used for applying the layer.

Anyhow, the solution should be stirred in an immersion tank to ensure each safety aspect.

Decorative objects with chrome plating require a temperature for the mixture between 85- and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, while hard chrome ranges between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The last step of this process, after reaching the desired temperature for the solution, is to expose the negative charge via a DC power source with the help of the cable.

It is a dangerous procedure, so you should be cautious. It is meant to pull positively charged external chrome metals from the object.

Afterward, rinse the item with water several times.

Method 3 – Using Professional Machines and Tools

The beauty of using professional machines, devices, and tools for removing chrome plating is it can be used for metal as well as plastic parts without any risk.

You can choose to go with the following two professional ways that suit you most.

1. Abrasive Blaster

The first thing you can do to remove chrome plating is to apply an abrasive blaster.

This is a professional tool used in auto body shops, and it can remarkably remove the plating beyond recognition.

The principle behind this is that the tool abrades the materials with the aid of tiny pellets or a spray of excellent grain substances.

Our recommendation is to apply standard 400-grit sandpaper so that you safely remove the chrome layer without damaging your object.

Keep in mind that you should always utilize protective gear. This process can lead to the release into the air of toxic dust and debris.

2. Ultrasonic Cleaner

This is even more professional, and it can thoroughly get rid of your chrome plating layer.

And the best part about it is that it makes use of sound waves, meaning that the chances of you damaging the surface are extremely low. 

So, if you are using an ultrasonic cleaner with a basket, you will have to submerge the surface to be cleaned in a cleaning solution.

If you want to remove more than one part at one time, choose rectangular baskets as they prevent the parts from pushing together while cleaning.

Also, ensure that you choose an ultrasonic cleaning unit that has the appropriate size and fits your parts that need chrome removal.

It should also be deep enough to do absolute submersion of the parts.

Some cleaning equipment also features a digital timer, which shows the time the unit runs for.

You may have to check and ensure the run-time of the timer, particularly if you want the cleaner to do tasks that will take a long time to remove chrome plating.

Anyhow, it is highly recommended to use the best cleaning solvents that are designed for ultrasonic cleaners.

Avoid using water as this approach is solely efficient for small objects like jewelry, ornaments, or old metal tools

On the other hand, if you are utilizing something similar to bleach, you will manage to boost the efficacy of the ultrasonic cleaner.

Is Sanding Off Chrome with Sander Machine Safe?

Although chrome is hard and shiny on the surface it has been plated at; it can be stripped and sanded using a high-speed sander machine if you are a professional.

However, if you are not skilled, you may damage the surface by using a sanding machine.

Hand sanding using sandpaper can be a better way in that case.

Can You Paint or Powder Coat Over Chrome Plated Plastic?

You can obviously paint or powder coat over chrome-plated plastic or metal parts.

This is usually done to hide the blemishes and scratches on the metal and plastic parts.

If you have your auto parts scratched, you can powder coat over chrome to prevent getting it further damaged (due to rust or corrosion) or to avoid looking ugly.

However, it’s good to strip off the chrome before you do that.

For scuffing the chrome, you can use a Scotch-Brite pad or sandpaper.

Then after chrome removal, you can add a couple of paint coats to look the surface nice.

Under normal conditions, this coated paint over the chrome should last over 2-3 years without any problem.

The bottom line

These are some of the best approaches to removing chrome plating from plastic as well as metal components.

No matter what you opt for, you should always wear protective gear and maneuver the substances with care.

These are harmful to your health and can pose serious health risks.