Beautiful, shiny chrome looks great on a car. Any metallic items that shine are often described as chrome, but those that are legitimately chrome plated have undergone an electroplating process. When compared to another item that has simply been buffed, there is a noticeable difference. This type of quality does not come easily, and there is a lot of preparation that must be done to the item before it can be chrome plated.
Clean the item by hand thoroughly with soap and water, removing all surface dirt, dust and debris.
Take proper safety precautions by wearing goggles, long sleeve shirt, and gloves. Then prepare a bath of caustic soda. This can be drain cleaner or a degreasing agent. Submerse the item in the caustic soda bath and proceed to clean it. The item must be cleaned down to the bare metal, so this may take a while in the soda bath. Remove the item from the soda bath carefully to avoid splashes or spills, and rinse it with water while holding it above the bath (you may need some help). The item is rinsed in this way so that all of the solution and rinse water is kept within the bath. Then dispose of the bath solution according to your local hazardous material or chemical disposal laws.
Buff the item and remove all scratches and any other surface mars. Begin with a coarse buffing wheel and proceed through a series of wheel surfaces to a fine surface wheel.
Clean the part thoroughly once again with soap and water to remove any traces of the dust left over from the buffing you have just done. Your item is now ready for chrome plating.
The process of chrome plating is so labour intensive (and thus expensive) that you may want to compare the cost of buying a brand new chrome plated part.
Handle the caustic soda solution with great care and wear plenty of protective gear. It can burn your eyes, nose, and skin.