Muriatic acid is a diluted form of hydrochloric acid, which can be found in the stomach. Muriatic acid is adept at removing chrome, but it does have some limitations. If you want to use muriatic acid to remove chrome, there are some specific procedures that you should follow to ensure that you will not damage the underlying material or your body. Once this is done, the object from which you removed the chrome can be replated.
Many chrome-plated metals are composed of chrome, nickel and zinc or copper. The zinc or copper is at the heart of the metal, with the nickel surrounding that. The chrome is typically a thin layer surrounding the nickel to add extra shine and rust resistance to the object. Muriatic acid can eat into chrome and zinc, but it does not have a lot of effect on nickel. In some cases, when the chrome is removed from the nickel, it is almost impossible to tell that anything was removed. Removing the chrome may also cause a quick-set rust in some metals such as steel, which can be damaging to the item if not treated right away.
Before starting the chrome-removal process, make sure that your purposes for removing the chrome will not be spoiled by exposed nickel. If you plan to paint the object, you may want to choose a different course of action. You should also ensure that your base material is not something that can be eaten by muriatic acid, such as plastic, rubber or zinc.
Remove the chrome-plated objects from any larger objects that may become damaged by the acid. Move the chrome pieces to a well-ventilated area, or outdoors. Do not allow acid to get on plants, animals or people.
In most cases, you can use a concentration of 100 percent muriatic acid. However, you may first want to dilute the acid with water to 1/2 strength, or even 1/3 strength, for safety. Diluting the acid will cause it to be less effective, but it may still be strong enough to remove all of the chrome. Make sure to wear chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and a respirator when working with muriatic acid. Rinse the object with water to remove the acid.
If the object is small, you can drop it into the acid. Wait until the object stops bubbling then pull it out. The chrome should be removed. If your object is too large for this method, then keep rubbing the acid over the surface of the object until it no longer bubbles. To prevent rust, follow this stripping immediately with paint or other metal plating. Dispose of muriatic acid in a hazardous waste disposal facility.