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How To Clean A Brushed Nickel Faucet July 13, 2007

Posted by FaucetMaster in Lavatory Faucets, Repair, Roman Tub Faucets, Shower Systems, Tub & Showers.
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Kohler Devonshire Brushed Nickel Faucet 

With EasyOff and Sandpaper!  Err.. No.  I know it’s tempting, especially with those hard-water deposits.  White gunk so calcified it might look like a excavated fossil, not your bathroom sink faucet.  Or just all splotchy with finger and smudge-marks…  Why does brushed nickel show that so much?  Yech.

What to use? 

#1 – Avoid anything that you would use on the floor or oven.  If you have to get decked like you are going to be conducting chemical warefare with rubber gloves and a face-mask, you’re sure to ruin the nice finish (not to mention the warranty).  Also, some basin/tub cleaners are caustic or acid/ammonia-based, and can harm brushed nickel (read the bottom of this post for more).

#2 – Try a simple soap (dish-soap), a clean rag (not from the work-shop please) and water.  These are usually soft enough to remove finger-smudge marks, which Brushed Nickel is most prone to.  Avoid using scented hand-soaps as these might leave additives or have things like scrubbing-grit.

#3 – The drain parts of a faucet (called the “pop-up” drain) that have matching trim also often need to be cleaned.  Since these usually has water deposits, softer cleaners like Bon-Ami, Barkeeper’s Friend, Zud or Soft Scrub might be good.  Again – beware of anything that is made for harder substances like tile or flooring.

#4 – Do not use scratch-pad sponges like Brillo or steel wool.  These can take almost anything off of steel, but can take the finish patina or protectants – even the nickel, off the faucet.  Soft cloth please!

Why be so careful?
I’m glad you asked!  Most often decent big-brand faucets (like Moen, Delta, Price Pfister, Kohler) have “Lifetime” warranties on the faucet’s finish and function.  They will cover if the finish suddenly starts peeling, but only if a corrosive substance isn’t involved (Ooops, I used Liquid Plumber on the pop-up drain – not covered).  Using those will void that, and admittedly, most DO have a pretty decent warranty department.  Delta Faucet was one I dealt with frequently and they had a fast response.

So, there is the warranty to consider, but also the finish itself.  Each brand has it’s own special finish that they tout will last for “all-time”.  Delta’s is called “Brilliance“, Kohler is “Vibrant“, Moen’s “LifeShine“, and Price Pfister’s “Pforever Pfinish” (they like “Pf’s” – sorry, I’d link that one too, but their site doesn’t have the info). 

What it comes down to, is most of these have a cool PVD finish, which is Physical Vapor Deposition.  This is technobabble for the finish was put on atom by atom (ya, thats a tight bond).  Chances are it won’t PEEL (or crack, chip, etc).  But it might tarnish, fade, etc.  Most of these have a simple seal on them to protect against all the abuse that comes about on a bathroom sink.  Those harsh chemicals can take off that off that protective layer.

http://www.faucetdirect.com/index.cfm/page/product:display/productId/3026/manufacturer/Herbeau/categoryId/64/finish/Weathered%20BrassFaucets that have a vintage or or old-world look or finish be warned – These might have a “living finish”.  They are supposed to tarnish, patina, mottle or fade due to air/moisture exposure.  So cleaning them may take them back to the original base metal, but that may be up to you and you’re preferences.

Lastly, be careful of the internal parts.  Soaking the faucet with rubber or plastic corrosive chemicals can break down pieces that keep the faucet from going BLOOEY.  This includes the crunchy bits like seats (o-rings), valves, or even some basic silicone that may have been used for lubricant for smooth movement (I can’t use a pun here that wouldn’t get me in trouble).

So, you need to clean your faucet.  What do you do?  WHAT DO YOU DO?  If you have the instruction manual (yeah, right), that almost always has a “Care and Maintainence” section.  Failing that, most manufacturers have websites that have the info posted.  What it comes down to is you can use simple soap and water, but if you use something harsher beware of not damaging the finish, warranty and/or internal parts.

Update (9/29/08)
With the recent comments, I am updating this post with more info on specific cleaners to avoid, and things you can look for to see if that cleaner is safe.  NOTE: As most cleansers can change their formula, it’s hard to say “just use this!” so I’ll try to stick to those things that don’t really change, like white vinegar.

Chemicals/Cleansers to avoid using on Brushed Nickel: Delta Faucet states in their FAQ to avoid abrasives and polishes, including bleach-based cleansers.  They specifically state to avoid Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol Basin Tub, Soft Scrub and Tile Cleaner (avoid on the brushed nickel – it probably works just fine on tile/tubs/sinks).  Beware product that say they “remove rust or tarnish” – those containing hydrofluoric, hydrochloric and/or phosphoric acids, anything with caustic agents (usually mentioned in the warning sections of the product). 

Kohler mentions to avoid anything with ammonia, bleach or acid.  Kohler also suggests considering Windex Original (has “Ammonia-D”?), Fantastic Antibacterial Heavy Duty (avoid the Bleach version!), Comet Bathroom Cleaner (Comet has citric acid – 6%). 

Moen doesn’t suggest anything specific other than 50/50 of white vinegar and water, and a soft cloth.

If I did not mention it before – never use a “Brillo” or other scratch-pad sponge.  It’ll get burnt stuff off the bottom of a pan and will remove any protectant if not the actual nickel off the faucet.

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Comments»

1. Marcia - December 1, 2007

Has anyone ever tried using just plain vinegar on brushed nickel faucets or bronzed faucets. We just put these in and I’m afraid to clean them. What to do????

2. FaucetMaster - December 3, 2007

Hi! Plain vinegar might be a bit strong (just use white vinegar) but it shouldn’t harm the protective coating or scratch (beware any scubby pad sponges). Delta Faucets actually recommends a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. It’s benign enough to not hurt metals or coatings, but will usually disolve most of the stuff AND finger oils. ALSO, soak showerheads in that to remove the gunk from those as well (after unscrewing them of course).

3. Barbara - March 25, 2008

How do I clean the tarnish off my brushed nickel tub faucet? It has that mottled, splotchy dark spots look and I want it to match the rest of the hardware in my bathroom. Please advise, thanks!

JOE HOBDY - June 27, 2012

I USED SIMPLE LIQUID CAR WAX IT TOOK OFF ALL THE TARNISHED AND DARK SPOTS AND KEPT THEM OFF

4. FaucetMaster - March 25, 2008

Hi Barbara! Sounds like it might just be fingerprint oils. Brushed nickels usually pick these up and then dirt clings to them, darkening the oils. Try a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water with a soft cloth like a washrag. This shouldn’t both 99.9% of faucets, but whenever testing a new cleaner, do it behind a handle or in the back of the spout, out of normal visual range, to make sure it’s doing the job. Water and vinegar won’t get it clean as quickly as EasyOff oven cleaner, but the protective coating should stay intact :).

5. Karen - August 25, 2008

How do I clean off the glue left behind from a sticky tag on a new brushed nickel wall sconce ? Would the white vinegar suit for this cleaning as well ? I am not sure if I should be cleaning a brushed nickel wall sconce the same way you would clean a brushed nickel faucet ? Please help!

BGsLady - June 27, 2013

Try lighter fluid (like for cigarette lighters) for removing any sticky tags – from nearly anything. It is like magic.

I have found Goo-gone just makes a sticky mess.

6. FaucetMaster - August 25, 2008

On a lighting wall-sconce – tricky… First make sure the fixture is off (or you go bzzzzt! And pop-goes-the-circuit-breaker, hopefully). My first thought is to try the “Goo-gone” which is what I’ve usually used on that sticky-annoying label gunk. Just clean the spot after with some water and a cotton cloth (washing off the Goo Gone chemical). Hard call, as I do not believe it will react with the brushed nickel – but try a not-seen part to make sure it doesn’t react (like spot-testing with carpet cleaner). Nice thing is you’re not going to be constantly touching or having water running on a wall-sconce, so probably just need to get the label off.

7. Andrea - August 27, 2008

I laid a vinegar-soaked cloth over our Eurostream brushed nickel faucet in the bathroom for a short period of time and it seems to have damaged the finish instead of cleaned it. Is there a way to get the faucet shiny again? We just moved into this house, and inherited the faucet in this dingy state. I’m afraid I may have ruined it!

Julie harris - July 12, 2011

i did the same thing! did you ever find a solution? Is it fixable?

8. FaucetMaster - August 27, 2008

Some faucets have a “feature” (*cough*) of a “living finish”, meaning it is meant to tarnish or patina. Problem with these is it gives the faucet an older look, but if you clean it – you take off the patina! In your case, it sounds like it ruined the finish? I haven’t heard of vinegar taking off a faucet finish, unless it was that patina instance – meaning the finish wasn’t sealed or the brushed nickel wasn’t really brushed nickel…? I did some inter-web hunting and I believe the “Eurostream” line was contracted under Globe Union Group as a private brand labeled faucet. I believe their phone is (888) 328-2383. I’m not really sure what to do to fix it, as if the finish (the actual nickel) has come off, then the plating process may have some issue. But, the manufacturer knows all, so I would refer you to them. Sorry to not have helped more!

9. Patti - August 31, 2008

…so, if you have to use a drain cleaner what do you suggest?

10. FaucetMaster - September 1, 2008

@Patti – Am assuming you mean the drain :)? I’d just suggest minimizing contact. As soon as it does drain , just clean the drain parts. Brushed nickel on drain parts sadly get the worst of it just for the reason they are exposed to every chemical in the bathroom. Worse comes to worse, you should be able to replace just the finished parts of the drain if they every get too bad (most manufacturer have those parts for sale).

11. Madeline Hunt - September 5, 2008

The nickel finish in the sink has been exposed to hydrogen peroxide and a medical sterile cleanser called Hebicleanse. I’m not sure which tortured the nickel finish to its sorry state, but I need to bring it back to passable inspection when for a coop sale, if possible. Can you help? Thanks.
Mady

12. Justin - September 22, 2008

have you heard of using Simply Green?

13. Nanette - September 27, 2008

We just remodeled our bathroom. We have all brushed nickel fixtures. I just cleaned it for the fist time. My brushed nicket fix shower fixtures look awful. I used scrubing bubbles. Did I just wreck everything with our fist cleaning?

14. FaucetMaster - September 29, 2008

Hm, I wish that Scrubbing Bubbles did some label advertising – especially with our prevelent their product is to brushed nickel finishes. You might have to try spot cleaning it with some non-abrasive, non-bleach, non-polish cleaners – start with white vinegar watered down and a soft cloth. Delta Faucet (a popular manufacturer) sadly specifically mentions to avoid Scrubbing Bubbles (http://deltafaucet.com/customersupport/faq/Cleaning+and+Care/index.html – “What cleaning products can cause damage to finishes?”)

15. Denny - January 4, 2009

Just finished cleaning our Kohler Forte faucet set after consulting this article and discussion. I had excellent results with Glass Plus (without ammonia or phosphates). I do want to pass on a caution regarding cleaners and polishes for stone counters. There’s a darker area in the finish at the bottom of our fixtures where they may have come into contact with a stone treatment. I love the look of brushed or satin nickel. My spousal unit loves creams and lotions and they get on the cabinet hardware and faucets.

16. Pam - January 18, 2009

Is there anyway i can polish the faucet i have???

17. janene - February 21, 2009

I’m cleaning a home that has beautiful nickel fixtures in the master shower…or at least they were. They are now covered in mineral buildup. Vinegar and water did not touch it…and lime away did not either. Is there a way to return these fixtures back to their original beautiful shine?

AnalyticsGuru - January 28, 2011

If it’s completely covered: I’d reach out to the manufacturer for a suggested solution (warranty or otherwise). If they are not available, then you might need to get more aggressive. Everyone’s water (and the mineral content) is different. Yes, you might risk the faucet finish, but then the alternative is still replacing the faucet. CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust) remover might be an alternative. Start off diluted, and on a discrete spot to test it to see if it can break down the buildup.

18. Rich - February 25, 2009

Any ideas for removing scratches put in the faucet by my lovely children? (Besides beating them.) The scratches are deep, from a sharp metal object.

FaucetMaster - August 25, 2009

Gah, tough one. Keep scratching it until you have a “brushed” finish? Sorry, that wasn’t funny :/. Deep ones are tough, as it’s hard to “fill” metal, like wood or plastic. I could suggest some tricks, but they may sound silly? Try silver pens or crayons (see, silly I told you). Try it on a section on the back to see if it helps mask the scratches, then use a clean cloth to buff the areas not in the scratch. If that doesn’t work – see my comment below about replacing just the trim pieces. Cheaper than a whole faucet, but metal is tricky to fix aesthetically.

19. Mary Jean Moreland - March 16, 2009

Some spray from my cleaning product got on my polished nickel faucet. Needless to say I am sick, as it seems to have taken the finish off and it looks all splotchy. Is there any product to “restore “polished nickel ? Help!! Would appreciate any assistance I can get. They are too exspensive to look so bad. Thank you MJ Moreland

FaucetMaster - August 25, 2009

Hm, if it’s just something added onto the metal (tarnish), then you should be able to clear it off. If it’s etched or embedded into the metal – I don’t think so. Sorry! One option might be to replace the trim – the finished portions that are affected. Some faucets have this option. Check the manufacturer to see if that model has replacement trim. **It needs to be the same manufacturer as the valving it sits upon.**

20. Barbara - April 19, 2009

use car wax, it worked great, spots came off right away, and the coating keeps them away…

Lynnette Feusner - January 11, 2014

What brand?

21. Diane Havenner - July 18, 2009

Assuming you can get the water spots off brushed nickel fixtures with white vinegar and water, is there a polish you can use so water beads up on them and helps protect them? My builder said Pledge works great on stainless steel, but I’m afraid to try it with my newish plumbing fixtures. I have Newport Brass.

FaucetMaster - August 24, 2009

Pledge is for wood furniture (but you knew that). And I believe has wax in it, which may be good, may be bad – it honestly depends on how it reacts with the metal and/or coating. Newport Brass usually will clean with a light hand-soap and water, unless it’s one of their “Uncoated” models. Then you might need to use an actual metal cleaner – because there’s no coating to take off!

22. Juli - August 24, 2009

Honey,
this is amazingJ

23. Becky - August 27, 2009

I’m looking at Barbara’s 4/19/09 comment that car wax works great on brushed nickel faucets. Has anyone else tried this?

deborah kinsley - October 14, 2012

yes i tried it along with the vinegar that was suggested. i am so dissappointed just 3 months and these new bathroom fixtures look like s***. car wax helped some on the water dial but the Kohler bathroom tub faucet has blotches on it that I spent 3 hours trying to get off …no good

JOE HOBDY - October 15, 2012

TRY WD-40 SPRAY LUB YOU’LL BE SUPRISED, TAKE AN OLD SOCK AND APPLY, MAKES IT LOOK LIKE NEW.

24. Gloria - August 29, 2009

I recently installed a Jacuzzi tub and purchased a brushed nickel drain assembly from Jacuzzi as well with it from Loews. I have not had it for more than a month and it is turning black around the rim. I just shower and use the bathtub with soft soap. I have no idea what is causing this. Has anyone seen this problem. Is this a cheap drain, or is there some cleaning technique that will return the brushed satin nickel color? I will try vinegar but I don’t have a sense this will fix anything because it does not look like calcification.

25. Laura Hedgecock - October 21, 2009

I bought faucets with a lifetime warranty. Unfortunately, just as we noticed the black corrosion spots, we found the company went out of business. (Barand) Oddly, it is on the sink and shower fixtures, but not the tub. How do I clean them? How do I protect them.

26. Laura Hedgecock - October 21, 2009

We bought faucets (2 sink, tub and shower) w a lifetime warranty, but about the time we noticed the black corrosion spots, we found out that the company (Barand) went out of business. How do I get them clean? How do I keep them clean?

27. Rachel - January 6, 2010

So is there a polish for my brushed nickle faucet? Mine has started to look spotty. Like a white film with some spots. Tried vinegar….no difference. It doesn’t shine like it used to. I have to use lime away to get some gunk off it occasionally, so maybe this as damaged it? Help!!!

28. lydia luna - February 14, 2010

How do I get rid of the calcification around my nickle finish faucets?
I do have black granite as my counter top vanity,

29. Marilee - September 2, 2010

I used a harsh chemical on my brushed nickel & brass finish faucet. Is there any hope to get it cleaned up now or is the finish ruined?

AnalyticsGuru - January 28, 2011

Hard to say. If the finish is intact: yes you can get it clean. If the protective coating is removed, it may just tarnish quickly again, which just means more cleaning.

30. Debbie - October 12, 2010

I read all of the above questions and answers and didn;t find the answer I was looking for.

A friend is heartbroken because unthinkingly she used a new scrubber sponge on one side of the trim of her brand new brushed nickel kitchen faucet.
Is there anything she can do or use to buff out the scratches?
If not what do you recommend to try to camouflage the scratches?

Thank you so very much for your help

Sarah - January 27, 2014

Try a tab of olive oil to hide splotches

31. Dave - October 17, 2010

I spray WD-40 on an old dish towel and wipe it on my brushed nickle fixtures after I clean the shower. It restores the finish and protects it. You can buy WD-40 at an automotive store or in the automotive section of a department store.

Rebecca - September 4, 2012

Dear Dave………..ohmygoodness thank you. I tried every single suggestion to no avail. Finally got out my WD-40 and it worked beautifully.

32. mariana - November 14, 2010

what is the best way to remove all the water spots on the fixtures…. i tried soap and water and cant remove the spots?

AnalyticsGuru - January 28, 2011

50/50 mix of white vinegar and water usually works well, depending on the mineral deposits. Most manufacturers recommend this, so it’s usually warranty safe.

33. Ezra - December 22, 2010

There is this glass cleaner that’s ammonia free called “Sparkle” works pretty well on brushed nickel. In WW2 they used this formula to clean the grime off the canopies of airplanes without degrading the strength of the glass. Works great on my kohler faucets. Haven’t had a problem so far.

34. Sherry - February 19, 2011

I used a Magic Eraser on my Delta bathroom faucet and it took the white stuff and fingerprints off. The faucet really shines like new now.

35. Genny - July 23, 2011

For water spots on brushed nickel faucet assemblies, “Stainless Steel Magic” works like, well, magic. I use it in tiny amounts. If you use it on surfaces that anyone will be eating or drinking off of (anyone like MY CAT, who always wants to drink out of the bathroom faucet), be sure to re-wash with mild soap and then buff dry.

Unlike many manufacturers of household cleaners, the Magic people actually post the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for their stuff online. If they actually keep those updated, that would be a good thing to check each time you buy their stuff. Moen says formulations of cleaners change so often that they won’t recommend anything specific. But …. if I find Stainless Steel Magic works under its current formulation, I *think* that I can be reasonably confident it will still work and not have any new issues if its revised MSDS is the same as the old MSDS.

Stainless Steel Magic leaves a waxy coating to reduce future spots, so I’m hoping that means I won’t have to use it too often on my lovely new brushed nickel faucet. I’d LOVE it if it would actually act as a water-shedding waxy finish so I don’t get any more water spots for the next year or two!

Dave - July 30, 2012

THANK YOU, Genny! I rent my home and have been fearful of using almost anything other than soap & water on the brushed nickel bathroom sink and shower faucets, but that doesn’t do anything for the calcification and mottling, of course. I tried vinegar & water with so-so results, so I tried Stainless Steel Magic, which I’d only been using on the oven hood up till now. WOW! It really, completely worked! It not only removed the calcification but it also got rid of all the mottling. Looks beautiful! Thanks again for the great tip!

Lisa - March 7, 2014

I just tried this on my satin nickel bath/shower fixtures and got good,but not terrific results.. Hopefully it will get better as I continue to use.. My next option will be the WD-40.. Thanks for the tip!!

36. Karen - July 24, 2011

Can ‘Bon Ami’ and a soft sponge be used to remove hard water buildup from brushed nickel faucets?

37. Kim - August 29, 2011

I have hammered brushed nickel sinks, and they started turning black. I called the company, Native Trails. They suggested swiss cleaner from Kuhn Rikon, to clean, which I found on Amazon. Then a car wax to protect. It’s amazing how well it worked. Now I use then both on all my brushed nickel faucets and shower heads.

38. Ed Wolowich - November 14, 2011

is there a way to fix a deep scratch on a brush nickel faucet?

39. Erin - November 25, 2011

Kim, we have the same farm style kitchen sink from Native Trails. When I called them they said to use any chrome cleaner and then car wax it. I feel like I have to do this every two days? We cook a lot…I was wondering if you think it works better than just regular chrome cleaner? I love the looks but hate the maintance!!
Thanks for your info!

40. Kelli - December 13, 2011

I am heartbroken…. I chose a Delta faucet from a supply company paid a plumber to install the rough in after I took the previous tile off and down to the studs, I did an excruciating job tiling and called the plumber back to trim the facet out…did I mention it is brushed nickel. I absolutely HATE the finish! It shows EVERYTHING! The manuel says to use water and a soft cloth,which quite honestly was a laughable solution. How can These manufacturers sell these products if there isn’t a real life solution for cleaning them. I am outraged at the time and money I have spent to have a product that is sub-standard in my home. I may consider using an abrasive cleanser on it because anything would look better than seeing the plumbers fingerprints all over it like a crime scene!

Barb Korpatnicki - July 31, 2013

Don’t use an abrasive, it will ruin them. Call Delta.

41. acmewriter - December 13, 2011

Brasso works and took all the stains off (black to shiny normal) and did not scratch. Get Brasso!

42. acmewriter - December 13, 2011

Brasso works … took off all black, left shiny, no scratches. Just Brasso! For lime scale … just lime away or vinegar, etc. But to get rid of discolor … Brasso!

jaleh - December 20, 2011

acmewriter:

Did you really use Brasso on brushed nickel? I have Newport brass which is driving me crazy! Keeping the water spots off of these things is impossible!

43. Joan - January 14, 2012

We have a brass and brushed nickel showerhead. Our water is very hard and now we can’t get the build up off. Tried vinegar and water but it’s not enough. Lime away is OK?

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45. Mary - April 5, 2012

I wish people would test what they build. Gee, did the manufacturers of brushed nickel fixtures ever think that they might ever need cleaning????? So annoying.

46. Barb - April 19, 2012

I have new brushed nickel faucets and I am convinced that BarKeepersFriend in small amounts will work to keep them spot free and clean. I am sure to rinse it off and dry with a soft cloth. Lots of extra care but they are beautiful.

kim todd - July 5, 2012

Did someone say Fantastic can be used to clean brushed nickel faucets in the bathroom???? I need a cleaner that can be used as a daily cleaner?? Any suggestions??? Kim

Barb Korpatnicki - July 31, 2013

Will it ruin the finish?? Call where you got your faucets to make sure. They have a list of “no’s”.

Barb Korpatnicki - July 31, 2013

I mean, call the manufacturer so they can check.

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48. GA - August 9, 2012

My cat urinated in the bathtub and now the drain (brushed nickel) is very corrroded. Any ideas on how to remove the corrosion?

49. Rick - August 13, 2012

My cleaners used bleach on the handles now I have black spots all over them can any product clean them or are they ruined

50. Blondie - August 24, 2012

I found FLITZ brand stainless steel and chrome CLEAN at Bed Bath and Beyond. Works like a charm!!!! It’s water based and streak free, fingerprint resistant. Great for many other uses, but my new Grohe faucets were already quite spotted and this stuff was wonderful!

51. Moi - September 7, 2012

We just spent big bucks on two bathroom remodels using Moen brushed nickle faucets and fixtures. We have a water softener, but all faucets were spotted like leopards after only a couple uses. I was floored. All that money and I’m left with THIS? So I tried my old standby, Dawn dish washing liquid. Spots are GONE. Now, if only I can find something that will keep them from showing up in the first place.

Judie - July 18, 2013

I use WD-40 and a soft cloth to remove water spots and keep my brushed nickel faucets looking like new.

52. Christine - November 4, 2012

No one has mentioned this yet. I have 3 Moen Brantford bathroom faucets in brushed nickel. One of the 3 have little bubbles on the top of the single-handle faucet. It seems to be getting worse. It is a 1/2 bath so it doesn’t have humidity. This sounds like a defect. I tried asking Moen online but it looks like you have to just call them. I’ll be doing that next. As these faucets don’t come cheap, this is a little disappointed. I won’t even get into the water spots that I have to deal with. Think I should have gone with chrome. I hope someone knows what I am talking about.

Krista - March 6, 2013

My brushed nickle has yellowed anyway to get it back to silver looking

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Can you use a product on the shower head of the brushed nickel called wenol metal polish

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