What is Chrome Plating?

Malcolm Tatum

Chrome plating is a process that involves the electroplating of a thin veneer of chromium onto an underlying metal. Sometimes used for decorating purposes, chrome plating can also serve as a layer of protection as well. Often, chrome plating is applied to metal objects when there is an increased opportunity for corrosion to occur.

Chrome plating may be featured on microscopes.
Chrome plating may be featured on microscopes.

The actual process of chrome plating involves five basic stages. In the first stage, careful attention is paid to the metallic object that is to receive the plating treatment. Chemicals will be used to degrease the metal, helping to ensure that the surface is free of any components that could cause the plating to fail. Along with the degreasing process, a thorough cleaning of the surface will also help to remove any remaining residue, such as tiny particles of dirt.

Chrome plating may be used on telescopes.
Chrome plating may be used on telescopes.

For the third stage of the plating process, the underlying metal will undergo a series of treatments to smooth the surface. By making sure that the surface of the metal is as smooth as possible, the plating will maintain a higher degree of integrity over a longer period of time. After making sure the surface is smooth, the metal is placed into a vat that is filled with a pretreatment solution, and allowed to gradually warm to the ideal temperature to receive the plating of chrome.

In the fifth and final stage, the plating process begins. This essentially involves filling the vat with the chromium components and allowing the compounds to etch their way into the surface of the metal. The amount of time that the metal remains in the vat depends on the degree of thickness desired for the chrome plating.

When prepared according to prevailing industry standards, chrome plating can stand up to a great deal of exposure for many years. Metal bumpers on motor vehicles are an excellent example of plating that will hold up for decades, with nothing more than general maintenance. In like manner, faucets and other chrome fixtures will also maintain an attractive appearance for many years with only basic care required.

A chrome plated faucet.
A chrome plated faucet.

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