Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive
(Hard Chrome Plating)
by Randy Taylor, Advanced Tooling Corporation
Light Scratches on Chrome
Q. Is it possible to remove light scratches from chrome?
I have an old nut machine that I am restoring and the chrome has some light scratches, like as if it were cleaned with a Scotch Brite pad. When you look at the machine head on, you don't see the scratches, but if you look at it from an angle you can see multiple scratches.
I've read suggestions on the internet from 0000 steel wool and a chrome cleaner to using red jewlers rouge, or white polish.
A. Generally decorative chrome is very thin, in the range of 0.000020 - 0.000030 (millionths) thick. You don't have much material to work with. If the scratches are very light and right on the top of the chrome layer, you may be able to hide them by buffing with rouge but I would opt for a soft cloth or soft backed wheel. Steel wool (0000) might be too aggressive and make more scratches.
Chromium coatings, especially the older decorative hexavalent variety, are super thin, very hard, and do not polish up easily. When polishing by hand, dull blotchy areas can be exposed. If you do decide to make a go at it, be aware that it's easy to polish thru the chrome and expose the metal underneath. (i.e., nickel, copper or base metal)
An alternative restoration method is to chemically remove the thin hard chrome layer to expose the softer metal underneath. If there is nickel under the chrome, it's easily buffed to a bright luster. If the nickel coating is not damaged or broken thru, it will be easier to polish out scratches and defects then have the part re-chrome plated.
A decent decorative plating house will know these and other restoration methods. You may be better off taking the part to a local plater for a second opinion.
Best of luck, Randy