Can You Sandblast Chrome Wheels? (Explained)

Out of the many ways how you can remove chrome from metal, sandblasting is the easiest. And it won’t just remove chrome but it will also remove rust spots.

It’s not a must for you to purchase sandblasting gear, you can easily rent from your nearest welding shops or auto stores. Car owners, especially those that appreciate aesthetics love chrome wheels.

When metal is plated with chrome, the layer of chromium that is added to the metal through electro-plating leaves behind a shiny finish that looks quite well on wheels.

Obviously, after a while, chrome wheels often lose their shine because of wear and tear. Or, you may decide to powder coat the wheels. These reasons call for the removal of chrome wheels and that’s where sandblasting comes in.

can you sandblast chrome wheels

How to Sandblast Chrome Wheels?

Now that we have seen one can sandblast chrome wheels, how do you go about it? The process is fairly easy and quick, especially if you own a sandblasting machine. Let’s get started;

  • Step 1

You will have to get your hands on a sandblasting machine. There are many types nowadays with some coming in small and portable sizes.

If you or your friends don’t own a sandblasting machine, visit your local equipment rental store. They should have one.

  • Step 2

Buy the blasting material. Sand is the main material that is used to de-chrome wheels. You will have to get that as well.

Please remember that different types of wheels may require varying materials. For instance, aluminum works best with glass beads because these won’t damage the surface of the wheels.

  • Step 3

Get started. With a sandblasting machine and material, you can now begin the process of sandblasting the chrome wheels.

The guys at the local equipment rental store will guide you on how to use the machine. But to be clear, here is how you should go about it.

For the sandblaster to work, it must be connected to an air compressor. You will then start the compressor and fill it with sandblasting material.

Wait until the air compressor reads the recommended pressure and then blast the sand or glass beads onto the chrome wheels.

The recommended pressure ranges from 80 psi to about 150 psi. The size of the sandblasting machine determines the ideal pressure, so you have to confirm that as well.

A sandblasting machine requires you to be very careful. This is why you should wear safety equipment. When using the device only point it towards the wheels and not anywhere else.

To ensure you don’t damage the metal underneath, opt for fine-grain sand. This should be both effective and harmless on the metal beneath your wheels.

And, you should wear a mask as the dust coming from the sandblaster can be harmful to your health.

Other than Sandblasting, Is There Another Way to De-Chrome Wheels?

The other most popular method of removing chrome from wheels is acid removal. It is also a fairly easy process. And whether to sandblast or use acid all narrows down to a matter of preference.

If you will consider using the acid removal process, muriatic acid does a commendable job at eating away the chromium layer. When handling muriatic acid, be very careful as it is very corrosive.

Using muriatic acid is easy. You just have to soak the rim in the muriatic acid and watch the acid bubble. When it stops bubbling, that’s when you will know the chrome layer is fully removed.

You can remove the wheels from the acid and rinse them off with water. The muriatic acid should be recycled or disposed of reasonably.

Can I Use Sodium Hydroxide Instead of Muriatic?

If you can’t find muriatic acid, you can always use sodium hydroxide. Also known as lye, sodium hydroxide is strong enough to dissolve chromium.

Even though it works, it may take longer and sodium hydroxide reacts vigorously when exposed to aluminum and water.

The likes of baking soda can only be used on thin chrome.

But for it to be effective, you will have to use an abrasive so that all the chrome can be fully removed. Oven cleaner has been known to also have the ability to de-chrome wheels.

But similar to the above, you will still need the help of an abrasive. Be very careful not to let oven spray sit for long on chrome wheels as it may darken the metal beneath.

Irrespective of whichever method you use, be very careful if you are using acids. Acids are very dangerous when they make contact with the skin or even other parts of the car.

Will Sandblasting Damage the Wheels?

It is okay to have some concerns regarding the impact of sandblasting on chrome wheels. However, provided you use the right material that is fine-grade sand or glass beads. Your wheels should be just fine. Don’t forget to stick to the recommended pressure.

If you are worried about sandblasting damaging your wheels, you can always go with a slightly more tiresome method but it’s very safe.

Did you know that you can sand chrome off wheels? Using 800-grit sandpaper and some elbow grease, you can sand chrome from wheels.

Wheel polish can ease this process so apply it first. After some minutes of sanding the chrome wheels using polish and sandpaper, you will begin seeing notable changes. Wipe the residue off with a clean cloth. And your wheels will be as good as new.

In most cases, a 600-grit sandpaper is never enough to remove chrome from wheels. That’s why you should sand the same wheels using another 1200-grit sandpaper.

After that, apply another coat of wheel polish and clean it off using a dry cloth. This method takes more time than sandblasting but it is safer. If there are some scratches, you can remove them using steel wool.

Do I have to Sandblast Wheels If I want to Powdercoat Them?

There is a popular misconception that revolves around powder-coating chrome wheels. Some car owners believe that there is no need to sandblast wheels if they are going to be powder coated.

This information is misleading. The powder coat can’t hold on to chrome. This is why you either sandblast or rough it up a bit so that the powder coat can settle easily.

Therefore, whether you want to powder coat or not, at the end of the day, you will have to sandblast the wheels. So there is no shortcut.

At the shop where you are powder coating your wheels, they can perform the sandblasting for you, at a fee of course. But, you can do it by yourself using the tips mentioned above.

Should I Hire a Local Plating Shop to Remove Chrome from My Wheels?

Does the idea of stripping chrome from wheels sound a bit extreme? Or, do you have aluminum wheels and you are afraid of the effects of sandblasting?

These are all reasons why you should hire a local plating shop to strip the chrome for you. Depending on the method or machinery they use, you can pay at least $10 per wheel.

This is a relatively small fee that you can be willing to part with and avoid the tedious job of using sandpaper or sandblasting machines.

Sand vs Bead Blasting

From the above, you have probably seen that there are two types of blasting materials. Sand is the most popular but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. There have been reports of sandblasting pitting metal.

And that is why glass beads exist. The latter are very ideal to use on aluminum or when you are concerned about the pressure from the blasting machine damaging the metal.

Glass beads leave a smoother finish and will only remove the chrome layer, not the metal beneath. Sand, if blasted at high pressure, can remove some metal along the way.

As you shop for the material to use on your blasting machine, we highly recommend beads over sand any day.

Should you prefer sand, opt for the fine grade as it won’t have a huge impact on the metal. It is advisable to keep a low air pressure, irrespective of the material you are using.

And when blasting, keep some distance between the machine and the wheels. This will reduce the impact at which the sand or beads hit the wheels.

Can I Sandblast Fake Chrome?

Whether it’s fake or real chrome, it is no match for sandblasting. When used correctly, a sandblasting machine can get rid of any chromium layer on your wheels.

This machine makes de-chroming wheels, easier, and faster and it doesn’t need a lot of effort as is the case with using sandpaper. The abrasives in sand or glass beads scratch against the wheels, thus removing chrome in the process.

When Removing Chrome on Aluminum – Should I Sandblast or Use Muriatic Acid?

We have already mentioned that aluminum is very delicate and if that is the material your wheels are made of, then you may find yourself confused about which method to use.

Sandblasting will be just fine as long as you use glass beads. On the other hand, muriatic acid can also do the trick. But it is very corrosive and should be diluted with water to prevent etching.