If you determine that the surface you are plating is stainless steel, you can achieve an excellent gold plated finish by following a few additional steps to ensure that the finish will have maximum adhesion.  This procedure is assuming you are brush plating a stainless steel item using a fully automatic plating system such as the Universal Plater, Universal Plater - Chrome Edition, Jewel Master Plating System or the Gold Star.  For other systems, you may need to consult the manufacturer for procedures such as electro-cleaning etc.  
  • Polish the surface using an abrasive metal polish (such as Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish).  Polish the entire surface to be plated. There will be a black residue on the rag or cloth you are using, part of which is the removed oxide layer. Be sure to continue polishing (if a high luster is desired) using clean towels until the finish has a high luster or the luster you want on the final finish.
    • NOTE:  If the surface can be totally de-greased without electro-cleaning then the following step can be skipped.  You will know if the surface is totally degreased and clean by looking for water breaks after rinsing or wetting out .  If the surface is totally clean, then the rinse water will sheet off evenly over the entire surface and won't bead up in isolated areas.
    • Wash or degrease the polished surface with a degreaser such as Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish, 409 Spray Cleaner, or Ivory Liquid Soap in hot water. Using a stiff brush is recommended to remove all polish residues from any cracks or depressions in the surface. 

    • Electro Clean - Ground the surface with the common and electro clean by wiping the sleeve across the item
    • Rinse thoroughly 
    • Wood's Nickel Strike - With the gold voltage set between 5 and 7 volts, use the nickel strike solution and the nickel wand to plate the entire surface. You generally won't see any visible change in the finish, just make sure you plate the entire surface by moving in slow circular motions.

    • Rinse thoroughly
    • Gold Plate without delay - After treating the surface with the Wood's Nickel Strike, the surface should be plated before it is allowed to dry out.  If the surface cannot be plated immediately, the surface can be re-activated using the nickel activator solution just as with a normal nickel surface.

      Note: On large pieces, complete the entire piece through step 4, then continue your work on sections of about 10 to 12 square inches. When you apply the gold plate, leave a buffer zone of a couple of inches between the end of your gold plating and the beginning of the next section waiting for the nickel strike.

      An alternative to treating the surface with Wood's Nickel Strike is to pre-plate with Gold Plating Services' TriVal 24K Gold Strike Solution.