Nothing is sadder than a bathroom with pitted chrome or bronze finishes gone from antique to merely elderly. Even if you can’t afford to completely renovate your bathroom, new plumbing fixtures update your style and give a fresh, clean look that bathrooms are all about. A few tips on maintaining your bathroom fixtures will keep them looking like new.
Chrome fixtures are not solid chrome, because is too soft to use except as a high luster coating over other metals. Residue buildup will cause it to pit, exposing the metal underneath. By then it is too late, so regular cleaning is the key to maintaining a mirror-like finish. A damp rag and some soapy water are all you need for regular maintenance. Never use ordinary household cleaners, because acids eat into chrome and abrasives scratch it. You can clean around faucet bases and drains with a soft toothbrush dipped into soap and water. About once a month, go over your chrome fixtures with a one-to-one mixture of warm water and vinegar. This will help remove tough lime scale. If your chrome is rusty, try rubbing it with aluminum foil and the vinegar-water solution. It works! Dry your chrome bathroom fixtures with a microfiber rag and then polish with a special chrome polish from your local auto store. Auto buffs use it to buff a metallic shine onto their expensive wheels. You can also use wheel cleaning clay, which will buff out most scratches.
While chrome is the most popular bathroom fixture finish, oil-rubbed bronze fixtures have a special elegance. These fixtures are more corrosion resistant than iron and brass, but they require upkeep or the patina will turn green and the finish will corrode. Use soap and water to wipe away toothpaste, hair gel and other products on a daily basis. Remove stubborn grime with a mixture of 1-tablespoon salt to 3 quarts of warm water, and then rinse clean. Once a month, clean your bronze fixtures with 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of white vinegar and enough white flour to make a gloppy paste. Coat the paste over the fixtures; let it dry for an hour, and then rinse with warm water and dry with a microfiber cloth. You should also wax your oil-rubbed bronze fixtures once every 3 or 4 months. Use liquid car wax. Ordinary cleaning solutions like glass cleaner will cause your bronze fixtures to corrode and turn green, so stick to soap, water, and salt.
Brushed and satin nickel fixtures are sophisticated, but they gunk up with hard-water deposits. Most bath and tub cleaners are acid or ammonia based and will ruin your fixtures. Soap and water will do the trick. For tough water deposits, use a soft cleaner like Bon-Ami or Barkeeper’s Friend, but no steel wool, please. Please avoid products that say they remove rust or tarnish, as they usually contain acids that remove the protective finish. When it gets bad, try 50/50 white vinegar and water with a soft cloth. Remove and soak the shower head. WD-40 will restore the finish on nickel fixtures; it too is available at the auto parts store. Some people swear by Stainless Steel Magic, which you may already use on your stainless kitchen appliances. Protect the finish with car wax. Stainless Steel Magic will also clean your stainless steel bathroom fixtures, but don’t wax them.
Be aware that some antique-looking fixtures have a “living finish” that is designed to develop a patina with age. Vinegar will remove that finish. And many fixture manufacturers warn you against using Scrubbing Bubbles on fixtures; it is meant for tile. Forego the use of plastic scrubby sponges; they can damage your fixtures beyond salvation. Brass and copper fixtures can be treated the same way; most metal cleaners will wear down plated finishes.