There are many erroneous ideas about chrome-plated accessories and how to care for and clean them by many chemical brand's slick advertising campaigns.
Our years of experience in discussing corrosion problems with our customers (from Mr. Average Rider to the guys who love to show) led us to the following conclusions. Whether or not you agree with the following information is up to you but we hope you can benefit from it.
CHROME ACCESSORIES CARE
CLEANING CHROME-PLATED METAL ACCESSORIES
New chrome-plated accessories should always be cleaned with plain soap and water, a clear water rinse, and wiped only with a clean 100% cotton terry cloth towel not microfiber which appears to be soft but has synthetic fibers that scratch. You can then apply a coating of Mequiars polish, the only nonabrasive product that we know about that protects the surface.
If you have sticky or hard material to clean off the surface, the pros have told us Windex does the trick to clean up and does not attack the chrome.
For all chrome, plastic and painted surfaces, NEVER use paper towels, paper-based wipes, cellulose or plastic sponges, as well as fake chamois cloths as they are highly abrasive!
THE CHROME-PLATING PROCESS
The chrome plating process typically, but not in all cases, consists of three layers:
1. Copper underlay fills and smooths out the surface
2. Nickel adds the mirror color.
3. Hard chrome, a clear metal, gives the depth and luster.
The final chrome layer is microns thin but extremely hard. Deterioration takes place by acidic attack from exhaust fumes and industrial output from factories, chemical plants and oil refineries. The main agents of deterioration are nitric and sulfuric acid formations that attack the chrome layer, exposing the nickel, which corrodes quickly, and then on to the copper layer which reacts swiftly to pit and ruins the metal surface of the accessory.
The use of most commonly available chrome cleaners leads to permanent abrasions, scratching, clouding and discoloration of the surface of the part that gets worse with vigorous polishing that people like to do to attempt to restore the original shine! Rust rashes begin to appear especially around welds that people like to cleanup and brighten as these areas are never usually perfectly polished at the accessory maker.
Most cleaners available usually contain an abrasive grit - usually finely ground talc that is simply powdered rock - to give the effect of a quick cleanup. In other words, most cleaners then become a grinding compound and the innocent rider is simply slowly grinding the chrome layer off the nickel exposing it to the air where it quickly corrodes - tiny scratch by tiny scratch. In many cases, people rub down to the copper as a yellowish hue begins to appear leading the rider to think he got bad or thin chrome!
CLEANING CHROME-PLATED PLASTIC ACCESSORIES
Clean only with soap and water, clear water rinse and 100% cotton terry cloth wipe. Use only Mequiars plastic cleaners and polishes when you must. These are the only chemical products that are made specifically for the purpose intended. Mequiars products are dominant in the aircraft maintenance industry and can be readily seen at most maintenance hangars.
DO NOT use Windex, RainEx or any of the highly touted plastic cleaners or restorers. They will usually destroy your finish and blister the plastic as well as discolor the chrome.
For all chrome, plastic and painted surfaces, NEVER use paper towels, paper-based wipes, cellulose or plastic sponges as well as fake chamois cloths as they are highly abrasive!