From cookware to car parts, there are a wide variety of uses for anodized aluminum. It’s an incredibly durable material valued for its resistance to corrosion, scratching, tarnishing, and weather damage. In this article, find out how to polish anodized aluminum to get it looking like new again.
In addition to improving its durability, anodizing aluminum results in an aesthetically pleasing finish. Numerous home appliances, light fixtures, and bathroom components get manufactured with anodized aluminum.
In addition, anodized aluminum trim is ideal for window frames, awnings, mailboxes, and other outdoor applications. With regular cleaning, anodized aluminum lasts for many years. However, it does eventually begin to show signs of scratching, fading, or pitting.
Read on to discover the best tips and tricks for polishing anodized aluminum using commonplace items that you probably have at home already.
Learn about a few polishing methods that you shouldn’t use on anodized aluminum to avoid damaging the aluminum surface.
- Best Way to Polish Anodized Aluminum
Best Way to Polish Anodized Aluminum
Although an anodized surface resists showing signs of wear and tear for a long time, it eventually starts to fade. The best way to polish anodized aluminum depends on what type of object you’re polishing, how severe the deterioration is, and what materials you have on hand.
To extend the working life of an anodized aluminum surface, regular cleaning and polishing are essential to keep grit and grime from scratching or staining the aluminium.
Always use a mild detergent when cleaning anodized aluminum parts, whether you need to clean old aluminum window frames or pots and pans. Harsh cleaners like bleach, Lysol, and even vinegar react with aluminum and cause damage over time.
If the metal surface has a few minor scratches or dents, it may be possible to eliminate them with light sanding and buffing. For more severe damage, you’ll have to de-anodize the aluminum piece to polish it back to its former shine.
Before we delve into all of the details about how to polish anodized aluminum at home, it’s vital to understand the mechanics of anodizing metal and its purpose.
What is Anodized Aluminum?
Aluminum is a naturally durable metal. The anodizing process forms a protective coating of aluminum oxide on the metal surface.
First, the aluminum piece is submerged in an acid-electrolyte bath. Electric currents travel through the aluminum and oxygen ions latch onto the aluminum atoms, resulting in aluminum oxide.
Since the aluminum oxide forms on the metal itself, the anodized coating doesn’t chip off or peel away. The anodizing process also leaves aluminum about three times stronger than before.
Because the anodized surface becomes more porous, it often appears to have a matte finish. It does not look the same as polished aluminum.
How to Polish Anodized Aluminum with Baking Soda
Baking soda is one of the ultimate DIY cleaning agents. It’s a powerful stain remover and only mildly abrasive. Adding lemon juice neutralizes the pH so it won’t damage the metal when you polish aluminum.
Wipe down the aluminum surface with a damp sponge or soft cloth to remove any dirt and to clean rust off aluminum if there is a small spot. Use this simple DIY anodized aluminum polish to gently clean and buff whatever aluminum parts need cleaning.
This solution is ideal for use just about anywhere. It also works well on stainless steel.
In a small lidded container, stir the ingredients until a thick paste forms. Use your fingers, a sponge, or a plastic scrub brush to spread the paste over the aluminum surface, covering it completely.
To clean anodized aluminum thoroughly, allow it to sit for around five to ten minutes to dissolve any residual buildup. For tough stains, leave it on for at least 30 minutes.
With a sponge or soft cloth, lightly rub the baking soda paste in a circular motion to buff out minor scratches and to deep clean aluminum pots and pans. Rinse with clean water and dry the object immediately with a microfiber towel to prevent water spots.
Polishing Anodized Aluminum Using a Pressure Washer
Using a pressure washer is a straightforward way to clean anodized aluminum for large outdoor items like a trailer or storm door. Alternatively, hit it with a strong blast from the spray nozzle on your garden hose.
Afterward, vigorously scrub the surface with soapy water and a mildly abrasive sponge. Spray it again to rinse before towel-drying.
How to Polish Anodized Aluminum by Sanding and Buffing
If the wear and tear on your anodized aluminum is a bit more severe, some extra elbow grease might be necessary. However, keep in mind that excessive sanding will remove the anodized finish from the piece.
Use 800-grit sandpaper to sand the aluminum surface firmly but carefully. For small areas, it’s best to sand it by hand or place a piece of sandpaper over the spot and gently tap it with a rubber mallet.
Attach a buffing wheel to your drill or use a hand-operated buffing machine. Work in small, circular motions over the entire aluminum piece. Afterward, wipe it clean with a soft cloth.
The final step is to apply a metal polish. If you removed the anodized coating, use a commercial aluminum polish. If not, be sure to purchase anodized aluminum polish. Beeswax is one of the best natural ways to polish anodized aluminum.
Use Drain Cleaner to Polish Anodized Aluminum
In some cases, anodized aluminum becomes dull and impossible to polish without removing the anodized coating. Thankfully, it’s possible to de-anodize aluminum using common household chemicals.
Sodium hydroxide is the primary active ingredient in most types of drain cleaner and oven cleaner. This powerful chemical dissolves the anodic coating, leaving behind bare aluminum.
Protect yourself with rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator mask when handling harsh chemicals. Work in an area with adequate ventilation, as the fumes are toxic.
Mix one tablespoon of drain cleaner per gallon of water in a shallow pan. Soak the aluminum piece in the solution for several minutes.
Move the object around frequently to expose all sides to the sodium hydroxide. Take the item out and rinse it off with clean water. Towel-dry and inspect it for any residual anodized spots.
If the object appears patchy after the first soak, repeat the procedure. Avoid leaving it in the chemical bath for more than ten minutes at a time to prevent accidental damage.
If your aluminum piece is too large to soak, saturate a sponge in the diluted drain cleaner and scrub vigorously until the anodized coating comes off.
Once it’s completely de-anodized, sand and buff your aluminum piece to a brilliant shine. Bare aluminum is vulnerable to oxidation damage and requires an extra protective coating. Apply a layer of wax or clear lacquer to guard against corrosion and staining.
Refurbishing Anodized Aluminum
If you prefer more natural ways to polish anodized aluminum, consider refurbishing it instead of using harsh chemicals. Painting over dull anodized aluminum gives it a fresh new look. This technique isn’t suitable for cookware, though.
Begin by meticulously cleaning the item. Scrub the clean aluminum with sandpaper or steel wool to create an abrasive surface that the paint adheres to. Wipe the entire area with a soft cloth to remove any dust particles.
Cover any borders or areas you don’t want to paint with masking tape. Prepare the aluminum surface using etching primer, which bonds with the metal to create a smooth surface for painting.
Give it several hours to fully dry before painting with semi-gloss or gloss paint. For added protection and a more even color, apply a second coat of paint after the first one is completely dry.
What Not to Use on Anodized Aluminum
Anodized aluminum must be cleaned and maintained carefully to avoid damaging it and compromising the protective coating. Avoid harsh cleaners, especially those containing chlorine, when polishing aluminum wheels and other items.
Similarly, abrasive sponges and steel wool damage the anodized surface, leaving the aluminum exposed and leading to corrosion and pitting. Unless you’re purposely de-anodizing aluminum, stick to a mild cleaner and polishing compound to clean corroded aluminum or just to get rid of dirt.
The best way to polish anodized aluminum varies based on the size and location of the object, whether it has extensive damage, and if you’d like to keep the anodized coating intact.
Routinely cleaning and polishing anodized aluminum helps to maintain its quality and makes it last longer. Always check the owner’s manual and manufacturer recommendations for specific care tips.
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