Steel Wool Versus Brass Wool

You've heard the arguement! "Don't use steel wool, it'll leave little fibers in the pits to rust all over again!" I don't buy into that arguement. I also don't spend a lot of money and time looking for and purchasing brass wool. I'll tell you why. First, let's see what causes rust! Let's say you have a nice ( or what used to be nice ) Schwinn rim. Basically a steel hoop. The steel was either protected by paint or by chrome. Eventually both will rust. Why? Because the protective coating for the steel, the paint or chrome, is no longer doing its job of protecting the steel. The paint has either been scratched or has worn away. That leaves the paint primer to protect the steel. Well, early primers are porous and don't do much to stop moisture. The primary job of primer is to help adhesion of the color coats. Same with chrome. A nickle coat is placed on the steel to help protect it and provide "grip" for the chrome plate. But nickle would oxidize and wear too fast so a hard coating needs to be put over it. Usually chrome. Rust starts because chrome and nickle have gone away and left the steel unprotected. Whether in the size of a pit or larger.

So, how to polish your chrome. Well, the chrome surface has become dull or coated with grime. You'll need an abrasive to clean it. Any fine abrasive will work. Whether brass wool or steel or Scotchbrite or polish or whatever. The idea is to use an aggressive abrasive that won't leave larger scratches than you already have and to not leave any of your polishing agent behind. The idea behind polishing is to create a mirror like finish. The smoother, the shinier. You do that by using a finer and finer abrasive until the "scratches" are microscopic. A smoother surface will "reflect" more back at you than would a rough surface. Same principal behind prepping steel to chrome plate it. The polisher will sand and buff your piece until it looks like a mirror, then he will plate it. Have a look at an item that hasn't been polished before it is plated. Not very shiny!!

"What about leaving steel fibers in the pits that start rusting again?!?" Remove all the fibers you want, your rim will still rust. Why? The chrome has already been breached. Best you can do is give it a protective coating of wax. This will help prevent moisture from getting back into the pits. Keep the rim clean and waxed and you will have less of a chance of rust returning.

So, use what abrasive you feel most comfortable with. Just don't make it a harsh abrasive that will leave more scratches than it removes! Chrome is a hard metal. Removing scratches from it is extremely difficult so you certainly don't want to add any!! I prefer #0000 steel wool with polish or WD-40. Having a "fluid" to carry off the grime and waste helps greatly. If I need to get more aggressive with my polishing, I'll use #000 steel wool. Anything greater will leave more scratches than remove them. Then, to really get a shine, I'll use a polishing wax, followed by a "super shine" wax. I might even follow up by wiping down with a window cleaner. But that's just me!

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