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Removing "chrome" from brass bathroom fittings

An ongoing discussion from 2003 through 2016 . . .


Q. 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 Acid [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] 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


A. The average layman doesn't know very much about chrome plating, Tom. There's no shame in that, of course, but it can 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 it.

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


Q. 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

How to Plate, Polish and Chrome


A. Hello Lee. You will be left with a reasonably functional nickel finish, and it may meet your taste or it may not. The fancy brushed nickel and satin nickel finishes that are popular today can involve more than just leaving the chrome off, but plain nickel is attractive too. It is very slightly 'yellowish' compared to the slight '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 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

January 2, 2016

Q. In an attempt to remove Chrome plating from a brass, antique fishing reel with undiluted, full strength Muriatic acid purchased from Wal-Mart, it has not fazed it after soaking it for over an hour.

Any suggestions?

Roy Andrews
- Brandon, Mississippi

adv.   Metalx nickel stripper

January 2016

A. Hi Roy. If it's unfazed, it's not chrome. It takes less than a minute for strong muriatic acid to dissolve chrome.

The issue probably is that what you are calling "chrome" is in fact nickel plating. You can't chemically remove nickel plating with muriatic acid, or anything a consumer can get easy access to and work safely with. A plating shop can remove the nickel plating with a cyanide-based or proprietary nickel stripper, but time is money and a plating shop probably can't charge you less for their time than your mechanic or plumber -- so you might find it prohibitive.

It is probably possible to sandblast the nickel off, but whether you can do this without severely harming the brass is something to discuss with a blasting shop. Good luck.


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

January 5, 2016

? Simple question: Why do you want to strip the chrome (nickel) off of the reel?

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Jim Treglio
American Plating & PVD

Vista, California

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