Introduction: Chrome Polishing, Mythbusters Style

Picture of Chrome Polishing, Mythbusters Style

OK, I know that the Mythbusters didn't invent this idea, but that's where I heard about it.

Step 1: Have Some Rusty Chrome.

Picture of Have Some Rusty Chrome.

I'm sad to say that I've been a bad daddy to my little bike. These pipes were new a few years ago. The originals were completely rotted out, so I got these replacements on e-bay. Par for the course with aftermarkets the chrome ain't that thick.

It doesn't help that I haven't so much as pulled the cover off for weeks at a time.

Step 2: Supplies!

Picture of Supplies!

You will need:

"Cola" - I used Wal-Mart diet cola. I'd heard that diet is less sticky. 54 cents for 2L.
Aluminum foil
warm water
paper towels

Step 3: Pour 'n Scrub

Picture of Pour 'n Scrub

Pour the Diet Coke on your rusty chrome (is there any better use for this stuff, lacking Mentos?) Crumple up some foil and use it to scrub the nasty rust away.

Rinse with warm water and wipe dry.

Step 4: Gawp at the Results.

Picture of Gawp at the Results.

I was really blown away. In some of the pictures the flash makes it look more scratchy than it really is. I don't think I'd use this on a top dollar bike, but I hope a top dollar bike would have better chrome (and better care).


Leona3000 (author)2016-08-28

Well, I own 6 motorcycles. Every one of them was an anchor when I got it. I restore old motorcycles for fun.

Get three empty gallon plastic milk jugs. Go to Tractor Supply. Get yourself a gallon of "Milk Stone Remover." osts about 5 bucks. Dump it into a wide plastic bin, with three gallons of water. place your rusty item into the diluted acid. If you leave it in the solution for 6-8 hours, the rust is gone. Your part is clean, derusted, and rust resistant. I swear, you can take your fingertip, and wipe off the oxidation. When you're done, put it back in the jugs for next time. I have acid that is 10 years old. Still works. After several uses, it forms crystals which you can skim off and throw away.

One thing, Do not use Muratic Acid. It also works well, but you will instantly flash rust. There is a good chemical reason for this, but I won't get into it. Incidentally, the chemical in the Diet Coke is an EXTREMELY diluted phosphoric acid. That's why you have to scrub. Aluminum foil WILL lightly scratch light chrome. Period.

Leona3000 (author)Leona30002016-08-28

PS When you're done, rinse the part with water. You get zero flash rust.

xchef95x (author)2009-03-29

so just scrub with Dt. Pepsi and Aluminum foil? That sounds to easy, whats the catch?

t.rohner (author)xchef95x2009-10-23

The catch is that i will rust immediately when it comes in contact with water.
Those spots that rust, are pinholes in the chrome coat. By this or other polishing methods you remove the rust and then you you have the bare steel on the surface. You'd need to clear coat it, but there are not too many clear coats, that can handle high temps on exhaust pipes.

Leona3000 (author)t.rohner2016-08-28

There has been, for years, products that would take a rusty surface and convert the rust. The common chemical is phosphoric acid. It is also what makes this coke trick work, too, because it has a little phosphoric acid in it...makes it tangy. It is just so diluted that it has limited action in converting rust. The product, "Milk Stone Remover" is actually pure phosphoric acid. It's called that because it is used to clean the calcification in milk processing equipment. It is also dandy for rust.

Leona3000 (author)t.rohner2011-07-31

When you remove rust with phosphoric acid, you are converting it to a compound with a single oxygen atom. It's black, and inhibits rust. Unless the pits are severe, it won't rrust easily

Like I said in the Instructable, the chrome wasn't great from the start. Of course the rust is coming from microscopic holes in the chrome. It's not very helpful to say to clear coat it, but then say clear coat won't hold up (it won't).

As with any polished metal, the answer is to simply keep after it. This method works well, quickly and cheaply.

There are other chrome plated parts that don't get hot... it may be helpful for that.

Phoghat (author)t.rohner2009-10-23

Hi Temp engine paint is available in colors, shines nicely, and gives a custom touch (black for eggsample)

Captain Pedantic (author)Phoghat2009-10-23

But then it wouldn't be... chrome.

Phoghat (author)Captain Pedantic2009-10-24

Why no, it wouldn't be. But, given the choice between shiny slightly scratched chrome and a color which looked custom, I think I'll take the color.

Rich99 (author)xchef95x2009-10-24

that's how we did it up az\t the gm plant in tarrytown, ny., to the hundreds of cars sitting in inventory. (in the 60's) 

Leona3000 (author)2016-08-28

Brasso is for soft, unitary metals, like Silver, Brass, copper, etc. Not chromed metal.

Leona3000 (author)2016-08-28

Brasso is great for one time use. It is mildly abrasive, however, like Soft Scrub. If you use it once a month, you can get rid of all of your chrome by the end of the summer!

All you have to do to take care of chrome is to un-rust it with a good non-abrasive cleaner, like Nevr-Dull wadding. You get it at Auto Zone. Then a good chrome polish (maybe Meguilars?) every now and then. It prevents oxidation (rust.) Only use cotton to clean or polish, like old tee shirts, or my favorite - old towels.

Leona3000 (author)2016-08-28

You can also use electrolysis, which doesn't cost a dime, requires no scrubbing, and delivers a beautiful result. It does flash rust, however. And make sure that you have the polarity correct, or you will remove the chrome!

Maybe I should do an Instructable.

RH11 (author)2016-02-08

Most of search because we want to find ways we havent thought of and hopefully that someone has actually practiced what they are saying. That gives us a better platform to make a decision on than just opinion alone. Because opinions are like noses - pick one. :-)

RH11 (author)2016-02-08

Thank you Captain Pedantic. Yours is a helpful and inexpensive method and you mention the caution for new chrome. Which hopefully, wont be in that pcondition anyway. The rest of you guys are no doubt brilliant and OCB, perfectionists but if you dont have something good to say - dont say anything at all. Captain - keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.

mrlunna13 (author)2011-07-08

I have a 1975 Honda Goldwing GL1000 with a LOT of chrome, and the very best thing I have ever used is a product called "Brasso". It is a liquid, but also comes in a paste. It works on EVERY kind of metal.

iwilcox (author)mrlunna132011-09-11

Always used a combination of Brasso, Autosol and Elbow grease... and worked well on all the Wing's from 76 thru to present... in fact, brasso is smooth enough (not that abrasive) that it can be used to polish the frame etc!

However, i was introduced to a product recently (the name of which evades me at the moment - I'll check back when i remember!) which put all of those to shame. It was test proven to me on a REALLY rusty bin, literally a splash of this stuff and 3 minutes buffing with a bit of jean material and this thing shone... I mean, really shone, I never seen a bin shine quite like it. Tried it on my stained and pitted GSX400T casing and it came up SHINY, for the first time since I've owned it, and it only took about 10 minutes to do the hole case!

recrafter (author)iwilcox2011-10-21

what is name of that last product you mentioned?

mrlunna13 (author)recrafter2011-10-21

I think he was talking about a product called "BLUE JOB" chrome polish/cleaner.
it is a powder, you can add water to make a paste, and polish with a piece of jean material. It is very expensive in my opinion.

abadfart (author)2011-04-22

fast orange works well to

sunofgod (author)2011-03-13

To protect the restored shiny chrome carefully spray with your favorite lubricating oil spray and then polish with an old cloth. This leaves a protective film on the metal which repels water. This is good for cleaning, polishing and protecting
and only takes a few moments effort every time you clean the motorcycle
to keep it looking good.

akagoldminer (author)2008-09-29

OK I have tried this before with just soap and water and aluminum foil. I didn't use the cola. the foil rubs off the rust and polishes the chrome or rather the foil particles fill in the rust spots and polishes to a sheen. after doing this it is a good idea to either clear coat or wax to protect the new finish.

both clear coat or wax wouldn't last the heat of the exhaust pipe, unless there's some high temp clear coat i haven't heard of...

abadfart (author)2010-09-20

i have been riding an orange cb 350 but im moving up to a cb 750 with a windjammer

Iw-Munt (author)2010-04-26

Great Im gonna try this on my Monkey bike.

andrew_roark (author)2010-03-24

I own a pristine 1972 Honda 350.. Great work on your Instructable

erikals (author)2009-12-20

i did this with my dad's bike before he (my dad) sold it and the buyer was really impressed (he left $100 more) and now with the money we may just buy ourselves an iMac - know the best model to buy?

Great Instructable

ironlizard (author)2007-01-06

Odd thing about cola, it contains phosphoric acid. Other sodas don't. FYI: much stronger phosphoric acid can be purchased at the auto parts store for about as much as a three liter coke. It also works wonders on non chromed rusty metals.

I've used Ospho (a phosphoric acid surface prep) for other purposes, but I'd say it's hard to beat two liters for 54 cents!

PH down for hydroponics is also phosphoric acid and a much more concentrated solution as well. Its possible to mix it with polymers to create a gel that sticks to things.

ronmaggi (author)2009-10-20

The phosphoric acid in the cola is what does the trick. I have used regular cola without the foil on engine parts. The sugar helps hold the phosphoric acid onto the parts while soaking. After seeing what cola can do to rust you may want to try

ac7ss (author)ronmaggi2009-10-29

Diet cola has no sugar... :)

and it would be the Carbonic acid you are referring to.

ronmaggi (author)ac7ss2009-11-07

 I was referring to what I was taught, that the sugar in regular cola helps hold the phosphoric acid to the parts your cleaning. Carbonic acid does nothing to rust. We sell dedicated rust removers that are phosphoric acid. If you read the ingredient list on most commercial colas, Phosphoric acid is right there. 

psychotron (author)ac7ss2009-10-29

You might want to read the ingredients on cola some time...
Carbonic is a very weak acid, the phosphoric acid makes the cola "tart".
Pepsi has citric acid as an added ingredient...

Linksep (author)2009-10-22

As a former professional detailer I can tell you the best method I've ever seen is "0" or "00" steel wool and glass cleaner. Cola has nothing to do with it. When I saw that episode I was (once again) disappointed in the Mythbusters for totally botching the results of something they tested.

Linksep (author)Linksep2009-10-22

I forgot to add... With "0" or "00" steel wool you will never scratch REAL chrome, but if it's simply polished metal (or god forbid) chrome painted plastic, you will scratch the heck out of it!

Phoghat (author)Linksep2009-10-23

I"ve alwys heard NOT to use steel wool, as it embeds itself in the chrome. Totally anecdotal

criggie (author)2009-10-22

Save your elbow grease - take the pipes off and spin them in a lathe (watch out for protrusions)  while holding polishing thing of choice against it.

Captain Pedantic (author)criggie2009-10-23

That sounds impractical and terrifying (and I have a lathe).

old n grumpy (author)2009-10-22

Aside from a little elbow grease what makes this method better than chrome polish ?

I tried them chrome polish, this worked better (and is cheaper).

The polish wasn't very effective on the rust spots. It seemed to be intended to shine up solid chrome.

abqjohn (author)2009-10-22

This came up recently on one of my motorcycle lists I subscribe to.  It's the foil, not the coke.  Try it without the coke, and you'll see.  My mom recently gave me my grandfather's F-150, and I tried it with just water for lubrication, and got the same results.

Maybe the coke enhances the process, I don't know.  Just that water & foil worked pretty much like magic for me.

paulm (author)abqjohn2009-10-22

 there is a good chance that cola acts as a catalyst in this situation

Lynn Marie (author)2009-10-22

I have heard of this method but think there are much better ways to clean rust from all metal.  There is a product called PRISM POLISH ( check it out -  Use it on all metal, fiberglass and plastic (like headlight lenses and wind screens).

I found it works better than anything else I tried.

bigbadchevy (author)2008-01-14

I have a question. I have a custom truck with some polishing of the wheels in need. My question is in regards to the last few photos (after). Were those hairline scratches already in the finish or is that to be blamed on the foil?? I know the cola will work but i dont want to scratch up the chrome

BodhiWalter (author)bigbadchevy2009-10-22

To avoid scratches, I would recommend you experiment with these:  Bon Ami cleanser, toothpaste,  windshield polish.  If these aren't aggressive enough, try car polishing compound.  If that isn't aggressive enough, move up to rubbing compound. 

Bon Ami is much easier on finishes than other cleansers.  It uses feldspar and calcite (I'm looking at a can of it now).  The others, such as Comet, use fine particles of sand.

There are different grades of buffing compound which can also be used, some of which will be more aggressive than anything mentioned in the previous paragraph.  They are discussed on as well as different buffing wheels.  You can get a wheel arbor to attach the buffing wheels to an electric drill.

To get into nonflat surfaces, you can use a toothbrush or fingernail brush or for larger areas, a floor scrub brush.  A natural bristle scrub brush will be softer than a plastic bristle one.  A buffing wheel made out of string or rope will get into crevices also.  Both are shown on

Naval jelly will remove heavier amounts of rust than cola.  It uses the same ingredient to remove the rust (phosphoric acid) and comes in a jelly to adhere to the surface without running off.  Hardware stores will have it.  It won't harm the chrome unless you leave it on forever.

felixkrull (author)bigbadchevy2008-02-15

Just buy some buffing wheels. You will scratch the chrome. And usually when you scratch chrome you have removed it and are dealing with nickel underlay. And nickel can rust. Chrome does not rust. Chrome is like a clear coat...buffing is fun anyway!?

captaincrash80 (author)2009-10-22

*edit* Should have said CB750 K2. :P Just woke up about 2 min ago.

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