Chrome parts can be some of the best-looking components on your vehicle and it’s also a strong and durable finish. Chrome plating on your wheels, your grille, trim, and mirrors give your vehicle a glow that can be seen from across the parking lot, while being extremely resistant to weather, road grime, dirt, and everything else that batters your vehicle every single day. Although the finish is strong, without proper maintenance it will start to look dull, pitted, faded, chalky, or even rusty. Fortunately, most of those issues are right on the surface and don’t get into the finish proper.
If you have any components on your vehicle finished in chrome, you’ll want to regularly maintain it to make sure it stays shiny for years to come. Like everything else on your car, proper maintenance contributes to resale value, and who doesn’t appreciate a car that looks brand new even years after it’s left the dealership lot?
Below, you’ll find our picks of the best chrome cleaners that can bring your tired looking metal back to being the brightwork that you can be proud of.
For more information on the best chrome cleaners, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Meguiar's Hot Rims Chrome Wheel Cleaner (G19124)
- 2. Renovator's Supply Simichrome Polish
- 3. Flitz Stainless Steel & Chrome Clean (SP 01506)
- 4. Borla Exhaust Cleaner and Polish (21461)
- 5. Quickway Quick-Glo Chrome Cleaner & Rust Remover
- Before You Clean, Make Sure it's Chrome
- How to Clean Chrome
1. Editor's Pick: Meguiar's Hot Rims Chrome Wheel Cleaner (G19124)
Meguiar’s Hot Rims is designed specifically for cleaning chrome wheels. Your wheels see some of the worst the roads have to throw at you, like tar, rocks, curbs, mud, and everything else you drive through, so it needs to be tough. Hot Rims uses an advanced chemistry that works to break down the grime, dirt, and brake dust with powerful cleaners, while it also has Meguiar’s special “Xtreme Cling” foam that helps it to stick on your vertical wheels while the cleaner works.
It turns red on contact with grime to help show you that it’s working and shouldn’t even need a brush except for the most stubborn grime on your chrome. Once your chrome wheels are properly clean, you can use a polish and protectant to help keep them that way until it’s time for the next cleaning. The container’s spray nozzle has a locking mechanism to help keep children safe from the acidic cleaner.
2. Renovator's Supply Simichrome Polish
Simichrome calls itself the finest all-metal polish in the world, and that’s quite a claim. It’s a high-end polish and that means a high price, but it does more than just clean your chrome, it also polishes and protects it. The polish is safe on loads of metals in addition to chrome like bronze, aluminum, and more. If it’s shiny uncoated metal, this can likely clean it.
This recommendation claims to have the finest micron particle size of any polish available along with special cleaning agents. The fine particles prevent scratches on your chrome. They also stop it from harming uncoated metals. Even better, this product won’t remove a layer as it cleans, which is essential for long life and why you can also use it on your jewelry and other silver- or gold-plated items. You’ll want to watch to make sure you’re not trying to polish plastic simulated chrome, as it can damage those surfaces.
3. Flitz Stainless Steel & Chrome Clean (SP 01506)
Flitz has been making cleaners, polishes, and protectants for more than 40 years, and if you haven’t heard the name that’s likely because they sell largely to businesses. Businesses that don’t have time to mess around when it comes to cleaning, because time is money. Flitz Stainless Steel and Chrome Clean contains powerful degreasers to help remove fingerprints, oil and grease, automotive fluids, even dirt, body oil, and lotions, from your chrome.
Spray on, wipe with the grain, and wipe off and you’re probably done. For even tougher grease and dirt, let it soak or use a nylon pad. Designed to keep industrial kitchen appliances and BBQs spotless, your underhood chrome parts, headlight surrounds, or the trim around the windows is no problem at all. It lets you then finish up the job using your choice of polish, including Flitz’s own polish and protectant. This product is non-toxic and made in the U.S. It’s also non-flammable for underhood use.
4. Borla Exhaust Cleaner and Polish (21461)
Your vehicle’s exhaust tubing sees some of the hardest treatment of any finished surface of your car. Heat, tar, rubber, more heat, salt, rain—it’s being pelted with contaminants nearly all the time as it runs underneath your vehicle. So cleaning those exhaust pipes is tough. Borla exhaust cleaner is designed to get the stainless steel and chrome of your exhaust system back to sparkling and clean. If you’ve never heard of the company, it’s one of the most well-known aftermarket manufacturers for exhaust components, so it knows a thing or two about keeping them clean.
This recommendation works to cut through the layers of oxides on metal surfaces, bringing back the original shine of your chrome parts. Although it’s made for your exhaust, Borla says it is safe to use on chrome, copper, brass, aluminum, and other metals, on cars, trucks, motorcycles, and boats. The company even shows it being used with bronze wool to really get aggressive on that oxidation under your vehicle, putting the polish to the test.
5. Quickway Quick-Glo Chrome Cleaner & Rust Remover
Quick-Glo is a chrome cleaner and rust remover that’s been on the market since 1957. The manufacturer says that it’s non-toxic and eco-friendly, so you don’t need to worry about fumes in a closed garage, and you don’t need to use gloves. It’s also water-based so it’s easy to use for a quick touch-up removal of those last-mile bugs and road grime once you’ve arrived at the car show; you don’t need to wash it off with soap and water, you can just wipe it off.
The polishing ingredient is pumice, while most use sand or other media. Pumice breaks down into smaller and smaller sizes which helps it gently polish as well as clean and remove oxidation from your chrome parts. It works on chrome, but it’s gentle enough to use on your glass to remove stubborn water stains and other contaminants, adding to the versatility of the product.
Before You Clean, Make Sure it's Chrome
Photo credit: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock.com
Many modern vehicles use a very thin coating applied to plastic parts that gives the look of chrome. It’s basically chrome paint. It looks like chrome, but it doesn’t behave like chrome, meaning that if you hit it with a chrome cleaner or polish you can easily ruin it instead of improving it. For those parts, use a traditional car wash and wax or polish, because they’re designed for those surfaces. Whatever you use, make sure it mentions the metal you’re cleaning on the label to prevent problems down the road.
How to Clean Chrome
Yes, these are chrome cleaners, but you should always start with soap and water. Or at least a water spray. That way you get the worst contaminants off of the surface quickly and with loads of lubrication from the soap and water. It ensures that you don’t end up scratching the surface even more by rubbing the dirt into the surface, it also ensures the chrome isn’t hot from baking in the sun because that can cook your cleaner into the surface.
Once it’s washed, move your chrome bits out of the sun. Then apply the cleaner per the directions on the label. More isn’t better, and if your chrome parts are that dirty you might just need to repeat the job again instead of drowning them in chemicals. For parts like bumpers, apply using a soft cloth or polishing pad and gently work it into the surface until you see the results you’re looking for. If you’re using a spray wheel cleaner, then spray it onto the wheels and let it sit for the amount of time listed on the label.
In both situations, you can use a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, to get into crevices you can’t reach with a cloth. Once you’re done, wipe with a clean cloth, push your vehicle back out into the sun, and make sure not to stare too closely at that shine. Though you might want to follow up with a metal polish or protectant first.
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