The ‘Best Chrome Polish’ is a bit of a misnomer to be honest – perhaps the better way to phrase it would be the best metal polish, because most products sold as chrome polish will work just as well on brass, copper, aluminum, precious metals … pretty much most untreated metal.
The idea behind this type of polish isn’t to remove imperfections (although if you used it enough, you’d eventually get there), but rather to give your metal components a bright finish … in cases like aluminum, it’ll give you a mirror finish when done correctly.
It’s worth noting that any type of quality chrome polish takes some elbow grease – this isn’t just a question of wipe on / wipe off, or at least it isn’t if you want the best results, but the effort is worth the result.
Table of Contents
- Chrome Polish – Why You Need It
- Best Chrome Polish for Auto Detailing 2018
- Machine Polishing
- Wax On, Wax Off
Chrome Polish – Why You Need It
There was a time that nearly every car manufactured had some sort of chromium plating fitted – be that the fender trim, wheels, bumpers, rocker panel trims … the manufacturers saw it as shiny gold and covered everything that they could, this of course was before the days of integrated, soft pedestrian-friendly plastic bumpers – basically, any metal surface that didn’t need painting, was chromed.
In today’s world, chrome plating isn’t quite so prolific, although a good number of motorcycles still use it, especially on custom or cruiser bikes, but car manufacturers tend to shy away from it, mainly because the fashion today is color-coded paintwork, and even if you find a new car with chrome trim, it’s an entirely different setup – almost like paintwork that has been applied to plastic – it’s not what we’d call chrome, more like chrome effect.
Of course, if you search for ‘best chrome polish’, you’ll get hundreds, if not thousands of results, but before getting that far, you need to think about the exact use that you’re looking to satisfy – some of these polishes are intended just for chrome polishing and won’t work that well on other surfaces, while other polishes could offer a greater degree of flexibility – working great with chrome but also on other metals.
If you’re unsure, or want that flexibility, you need a great all-round chrome polish, or metal polish. It’s worth noting that many of these great chrome polishes or metal polishes use the ‘non-abrasive’ tag, and while that’s sort of true, the fact is that they are all abrasive to a degree.
I’ve tried to pick a range of quality chrome polishes – something for everyone if you will, and within this selection, you’re bound to find what you need. In no particular order …
Best Chrome Polish for Auto Detailing 2018
1. Blue Magic 400 Metal Polish Cream
This metal polishing cream comes in a tub, with 7oz of cream, and the first thing you’ll notice (aside from that it is indeed blue) is the smell – definitely worth using this metal polishing cream in a well ventilated area.
Labeled as non-abrasive, this metal polish is suitable for just about every type of metal you can think of, from precious metals through to brass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum … pretty much any unfinished metal surface will benefit from a bit of TLC with Blue Magic.
And a little goes a long way – just the tiniest of dabs of cream will be sufficient to polish a pretty large surface area – 102” shouldn’t be a problem with a chocolate chip sized dab of cream. And once polished, the Blue Magic leaves a layer of silicone that should help to reduce future tarnishing (and therefore, future polishing) – use this once and the results will last … not forever, but long enough that you won’t be bored of doing it again!
The Blue Magic Mtl Polish Cream is perhaps the best all-round chrome polish.
2. 3M 39527 Chrome and Metal Polish
3M have been in this business for a long time, they know the market and what they need to do to make it theirs, the 3M 39527 seems to work like magic. This chrome polish is a paste (not quite a cream) and it comes in a 10oz tub – plenty of mileage in it.
Similar to a great many of the other polishes, 3M say that it will work on pretty much any metal surface, and should help to remove small pitting while giving the ultimate in shine. In fact, they recommend giving the item a full polish with a microfiber towel once the polish has been removed, this should give an almost glass-like shine and finish.
Designed to be used either by hand or with some sort of polishing machine (due to it being a paste), I’d say that given the way that it deals with pitting, it must be slightly more abrasive than other chrome polishes, which would make it the perfect heavy-duty chrome polish for removing stains, rust, tarnishing and oxidation.
3. Turtle Wax T-280RA Chrome Polish & Rust Remover
This is a chrome polish and rust remover, but let’s just clarify … when a product tells you that it removes rust, it’s talking about the surface rust that you occasionally get, there is no magic chrome polish that will remove proper rust – the type of rust that damages the metal.
With that in mind, it does seem pretty spectacular at what it can actually remove – even some of the heaviest surface rusting didn’t seem to offer much of a fight once the Turtle Wax has been applied and worked through it. And with 12oz to use up, you’ll be hunting around your home to find other bits and pieces to polish – it really is that good.
Once polished and cleaned off, the Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover leaves a protective film which should help ensure that the dreaded rust doesn’t come back any time soon, and gives any chrome plated components looking shiny, giving them a new luster.
This is definitely my choice for a rust-removing chrome polish, but being a liquid chrome polish, it’s not ideally suited to machine polishing.
4. Surf City Garage 139 Killer Chrome Perfect Polish
Available in either 8oz or 16oz, ‘Killer Chrome’ gives you exactly that – that chrome finish that looks just like it has come from the plating shop. Not only does this remove stubborn surface rust spots, tarnish, oxidation, but once it’s done that, it leaves a super bright, almost glass-like finish at the end of it.
Surf City Garage say that it works equally as well on stainless steel and aluminum, and to a degree, it does. Although if you’re looking for a general metal polish, you may be better off with something like the Blue Magic cream polish – use this on your chrome and you’ll never regret it.
It uses a special blend of ingredients to polish chrome and remove rust in around half the time of the other pastes, although it still does need some working in on the more stubborn spots of rust, but time is irrelevant really – if you’ve got a classic showcar with lots of chrome plate, it doesn’t matter if it takes ten minutes or twenty minutes, so long as the result is worth it, and it is.
This product can be used for hand or machine polishing, but it gets back to the consistency – unless you have a professional polishing machine, which runs at a slow rpm, you may just find it a little too loose for machine polishing.
5. Star brite Chrome & Stainless Steel Cleaner
This 8oz bottle of Star brite is more like the kind of polish you’d apply to your vehicles paintwork – wipe it on all over, let it dry and wipe it off. Star brite say that no buffing is needed, but in my experience, you do need to apply a bit of pressure – going for the ‘simply wipe it off’ approach leaves a residue that’s noticeable.
A residue can be a good thing though – it means that there is a protective film left which should help to prevent further tarnishing or salt deposits (or what have you), and this will remove all of them – salt deposits, staining, rust spots, discoloration … pretty much anything that affects the appearance of your brightwork.
It doesn’t give quite the lustrous shine that some of the other quality chrome polishes do, but if you use this as a pre-treatment to a full wax polish, it will give great results.
Need a no-nonsense chrome polish? This is the one for you.
It’s true that all of these polishes require a bit of legwork, and depending on what you’re trying to achieve (cleaning up a surface or high-finish for example), or even just how big the surface area is, you may want to try a hand polishing machine or buffer. Again, this is where you need to try and understand what it is you want to achieve before ordering – some metal polishes are suitable for machines, some state that hand-polishing is best for results.
Let’s be honest, it’s doubtful that you’d do any damage by using a machine, although if it’s an abrasive chrome polish, you could find that you’re removing more than just surface tarnishing, and the more liquid the polish, it will just get flung off a polishing machine – you need something firmer, what we’d call a polishing ‘soap’.
Wax On, Wax Off
Getting back to my original point, you really need to decide what it is that you want from a product like this before purchasing – some give greater shine, others work better with rust, and the rest just works without being too fussy or messy.
Despite most of the high-end chrome polishes being abrasive free, it may still be possible to damage any chrome or polished surfaces through using the wrong applicator – it’s worth checking a small, inconspicuous spot of your brightwork before jumping straight in to attacking the components with gusto – especially something like a headlamp surround or bumper … the bits that people always notice first.
Whether you choose to use a separate wax after treatment is up to you, my thoughts are that you’ve got it in your hand (as you’re doing the rest of the bodywork), so what harm would it do?