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Removing "chrome" from brass bathroom fittings


I have been looking for a low-flow showerhead with a "navy button" in a brass finish with no luck at all. My wife will not accept anything else. A newly added third person in the household has caused a hot water shortage. The hot water heater appears to be in proper order. I've looked in many stores and wholesale catalogs with only "chrome" finish available. A recent attempt with a drill fitted with a wire brush proved too drastic a method. It is my understanding that one part of muriatic acidamazoninfo poured slowly into two parts cool water will safely remove the "chrome" finish. Can anyone tell me about how long I should expect this to take, or perhaps know of another method......also, will the acid damage the rubber fittings, and any insight into breaking the various products down completely without ruining them would be nice....thanks.

Tom Williams
- West Roxbury, Massachusetts


The average layman doesn't know very much about chrome plating, Tom. There's no shame in that, but it does lead to propagation of half truths and urban legend, and messy and perhaps dangerous procedures. (You are invited to see our Intro to Chrome Plating if interested)

While it is true that chromium can be stripped in muriatic acid, decorative "chrome plating" is not just chromium, it is a heavy layer of nickel plating followed by a thin flash of chromium. So even if you remove the chromium plating with hydrochloric acid, your shower head will still be covered with nickel plating which you will not be able to remove except with a specialty nickel stripper.

Most chrome plating shops can easily strip both the chrome and brass plate the underlying nickel for you though, or if necessary, strip the nickel and replate.

Ted Mooney   Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


In reference to Tom Williams question (letter 19891) pertaining to the removal of a chrome finish, you indicated the acid method might remove the "decorative chrome plating" and "leave the under lying nickel plating". I have a shower faucet, in place but never used, that is chrome plated and we are redoing the bath and want the "brushed nickel" look, without the mess of changing the shower mixing valve unit. The control handle and cover plate are the items in question and whether the acid technique would give a nickel look, similar to the faucets being marketed today.

Any suggestions appreciated.

Lee Brittain
- Dayton, Ohio


You will be left with a reasonably functional nickel finish, and it may meet your taste or it may not, Lee. The fancy brushed nickel and satin nickel finishes that are popular today involve more than just leaving the chrome off, but plain nickel is attractive. It is slightly 'yellowish' compared to the 'bluishness' of chrome, and it grows yellower over time because nickel tarnishes.

Tom implied that chrome can be "safely" removed with muriatic acid -- but muriatic acid is not really a "safe" chemical, it's a hazardous chemical. Further, the fumes from hydrochloric acid will rust anything in the house they can reach -- make sure they don't reach anything.

It's probably doable but it's far from a chip shot :-)

Good luck!

Ted Mooney,   Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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