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As often as not, vintage lightweight bicycles come complete with their fair share of rust.  The oxidized residue can range anywhere from a patina of surface rust, to the deep pitting that can signal the demise of a component or, worse yet, the frame.

When first starting to clean contaminated chrome, I was less than happy with the need to wear rubber gloves to protect my hands from the chrome cleaning solutions which are readily available at most department and/or automotive stores.  If I was less that happy with this aspect of the chrome cleaning products, my wife was even more dissatisfied with the odor presented by the cleaners.

While complaining about this problem at work one day, a fellow worker suggested that I try using aluminum foil to clean the chrome.  Absurd!  How on earth could that work?  Always the skeptic, true, but I decided to give it a try, just the same.

Begin by degreasing the chrome area to be cleaned.  Also, do your best to remove any �grit� that might be contaminating the surface.  The goal here is to remove anything that might become embedded in the foil and scratch the chrome.  By the way, the aluminum foil is used to remove �rust� on chrome only.  The results are not nearly as dramatic on other materials.  Forget aluminum all together � it doesn�t work worth beans.

With the area to be cleaned decontaminated move on to step two.  Tear off a square of aluminum foil - a one foot by one foot square should do nicely.  Lightly crumple the foil into a manageable ball and you are ready to get started polishing the chrome.  It would be very wise to test the procedure on an area of the chrome that is least visible, and for good reason�

From time to time, manufacturers have coated the chrome with a clear top coat of paint.  Rubbing this clear coating will NOT result in approved appearance.  In fact, the opposite will happen.  The clear coat will be dulled.  If you are faced with this situation and still wish to proceed, use a paint stripper to first rid the chrome of its clear coat.  Please be careful about this.  Always test any new procedure or product on a small inconspicuous area of the surface to be cleaned.  Always!  Failure to do so might well result in the ultimate disappointment � a ruined component.

As you begin to lightly rub the chrome you will, quite likely, be amazed at how well the foil shines the chrome up.  The results are all but stunning!  I wish that I had taken before and after pictures of the forks on this yard sale purchased Canadian made Miele.  The forks were completely covered with a light patina of rust.  As soon as I got the bicycle home, I started cleaning it up just to see what I had blew ten bucks (CDN) on.  The results were so startling that I couldn�t stop myself until the bike was all tidied up.  For what it is worth, I almost passed on the Miele because of the apparent poor condition of the forks.  Am I ever glad that I didn�t.

Once you begin rubbing the chrome surface with the aluminum foil, remember to change the foils contact surface frequently.  Bits of grit, and who knows what else, can be picked up, becoming embedded in the foil.  These embedded particles could possibly cause tiny scratches in the chrome.  Ensure that you renew the foil�s contact surface frequently!

As you become more familiar with the procedure, you will be impressed at how easily the foil will shape itself to fit into grooves and other hard to clean/polish places.  Take some time and experiment with this aspect of the effort.  Once again, I am all but certain that you will be very impressed.

After you are satisfied that most, if not all, of the rust has been removed, clean the surface off with something like �Windex� and then polish the chrome�s surface with a soft cloth.  Unless there are braking surfaces involved (chrome wheel rims), spray the surface with �Pledge� furniture wax.

The �Pledge� furniture wax (or some similar product) will not build up on the chrome but it will serve to seal it against the elements, preserving the surface and reducing the chances of further oxidation.  I first started using the foil and �Pledge� idea about six months ago and, to date, I have noticed absolutely no further deterioration of any of the chrome surfaces that I have addressed.

I must admit that I am a bit worried.  It has been my experience that when something appears to be to good to be true, then it usually isn�t.  So far this has not been the case with using aluminum foil to clean rusted chrome.

There are a couple of added advantages to using foil, as opposed to commercial chrome cleaners, for chrome surface restoration.  There is no solvent odor to contend with and the foil can be handled with bare hands.  (Commercial cleaners often contain some form of solvent which is not skin friendly.)  There is, of course, at least one disadvantage when using foil to clean chrome.  The foil will flake off as you rub it on the rust covered and/or pitted surface.  It is possible that these flakes could be carcinogenic in nature.  With this in mind, one might want to wear a filter to ensure that you do not breathe in the flakes.  For what it is worth, I do not wear a filter but I am careful to avoid the flakes � I hope!

One of the visitors to this web site expressed concern over the stability of the results of cleaning chrome with aluminum foil.  I honestly cannot comment about this because I have only been at it for a few months.  As I mentioned earlier, there appears to be no instability problem but time will tell.  If you choose to give this a try and do notice any adverse situations occurring, please let me know and I will pass your findings and comments to others via these pages.  Every page contains an e-mail link to me so please feel free to make contact if you wish.

Since I started using this foil on chrome procedure a couple of questions have come to mind:   �What is happening?�  and  �Why does this work so well?�  Basically, the foil helps to remove any rust particles that lie above the surface by knocking the rust particles off of the surface.  That part is all but a no-brainer, however; I think that something else is going on.  It seems logical to me that particles of aluminum foil actually fill in the rust pits.  I am not sure about this.  Once again, should you choose to give it a try, you be the judge and decide for yourself.

Using foil to clean up chrome works, in my humble opinion, wonders but it does have its limits.  I have been repeatedly amazed at how good the results can be.  The procedure does have its limits but the results, I�m sure, will make you very happy.
The Miele forks pictured to the right were covered with a patina of rust.  The forks looked so bad that the bicycle was almost passed up at the yard sale where it was found.  Ten minutes with a crumpled up ball of aluminum foil and a light waxing produced the results seen here.  The opportunity missed?  Before and after pictures would have said it all!
The "Campy" pedals, pictured to the left, work great, spin smooth as silk and are not all bent out of shape.  Unfortunately, there are patches of rust that have formed where the chrome was damaged in days gone by.  At up to $100.00 Canadian for a used set on Ebay, I decided to try and clean this set up and thought now would be a good opportunity to show you before and after aluminun on chrome results.
The same pedal before(top) and after(bottom) rubbing with aluminum foil.  Even the badly rust damaged spots improved.  The critical eye of the camera makes the results look worse than in real life.  Cost to clean, about one cent.
The pedals will be mounted on a Bianchi "Rekord", a bike which will be ridden frequently.  The "Campy" pedals will clean up, more than, well enough to suit their intended purpose.  Nothing, short of rechroming, will fully restore the pedals but the use of aluminum foil and a little wax sealing will tide me over until a "simply can't resist it" deal comes along.  And that's what part of this Web Site is all about. 
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