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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


Turning Polished Chrome finish to a Satin Nickel

Q. I have read several of your letters regarding stripping chrome or chrome plating. I have a kitchen faucet which has a bright chrome finish. I image it is of the chrome plating technique. I would prefer the finish a less shiny nickel look. I have used muric acid to age copper for architectural projects. Would the technique be similar? My method was to pour some acid on the metal and allow it to sit for various amounts of time depending on the results I wanted. Would I proceed in the same direction with the chrome?


Richard Wiehe
architect - Tucson, Arizona, United States

A. It's not quite the same process. The muriatic acid will dissolve the chrome almost instantly; 30 seconds should be enough time. That will leave you with nickel. The nickel won't look radically different, just a little yellower and you might not even see the difference if you don't have an eye for it. But the nickel will get more tarnished, more yellow, within a day or so, and even darker over time. It will never get 'antique gray' but it may please the eye.

Please send us a before and after photo.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I've read several messages regarding the use of muriatic acid on polished chrome. They suggest that it will quickly dissolve the chrome, and leave nickel. However, my goal is not to eliminate the chrome--I just need to create a more matte finish, so that one of my overflow/waste covers will match the other brushed chrome fixtures. Would I still use muriatic acid? If so, would I just use it for a shorter period of time? Is muriatic acid [affil links] readily available to the public? Is any other method preferable?

THANKS for any and all help on this one.

Bret Hannifin
- Los Angeles, California

A. Hello Bret. You probably will not achieve the result that you want that way because it's not something that is done within the chrome layer, which is only a few millionths of an inch thick. Depending on the particular effect you are looking at, it was done either by brushing a pattern into the substrate before plating, or by using a finicky nickel plating solution that includes special ingredients to satinize it.

People are familiar with painting things, and then they see or hear of school science experiments in electroplating, and begin to think that this is something they can do at home, but realistically it isn't. I'm not here to discourage the very serious hobbyist who wants to try it after years of experience, but electroplating is mostly a high-production industrial science, and you probably won't be able to do what you want. A plating jobshop can do it for you (although getting an exact match is tough), but you may find it cheaper and more productive to hunt around for a new one that matches. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Blue-Job Chrome Polish

(affil links)

Many years ago I used a product called BlueAway to take the blueing discoloration off Harley exhaust pipes (before they were double-walled). It took the blue away but left a dull chrome. This may be what you're looking for.

Terry Spears
- Waverly Hall, Georgia
January 23, 2012

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