cleaning aluminum

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by fiep, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. fiep

    fiep Long timer

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    yes, I know,
    but

    I would like to clean aluminum surfaces without polishing them
    want to retain the matte, whitish aluminum sheen
    and not end up with a chromy-shiny surface

    how do I achieve that?
    thanks
    fiep
    #1
  2. SgtDuster

    SgtDuster Long timer

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    Aluminium oxyde is a tuff guy.

    There're 2 ways to remove it; chemical or physical.

    Forget the physical way if you don't want to polish it.


    So it leaves you with chemical. (phosphoric) Acid based cleaner like DX-533 would do it.

    You can try with vinegar, Borax or oven cleaner (lye) too.
    #2
  3. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    Had some good results with KrudKutter. The one that says "a must for rust",prediluted in the spray bottle does have phosphoric acid in it but also the grease/dirt cutting agents. The "Original" KrudKutter doesn't have the phosphoric acid in it.

    You can also buy Krudkutter "must for rust" on its own, that's phosphoric acid but no degreaser/cleaners and I haven't tried it yet. I was thinking of mixing it with the "Original" to approximate the other one but understand that any phosphoric acids at higher concentrations may stain/blacken the aluminium in some blotchy way you may not like.

    Impossible to find in Canada anyway all of them KrudKutter products.

    Lets see what you have to deal with, I might just tell you to buy Rub'n'Buff Silver Leaf, the cheap and very easy way to apply a wax/pigment coating to even out aluminium. Works well and as it is a wax product will prevent further oxidations.
    #3
  4. Stan_R80/7

    Stan_R80/7 Beastly Gnarly

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    Try a scotch-brite pad with WD-40.
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  5. gsweave

    gsweave Yinz, blinkers are on, since 05

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    +1

    Kerosene works as well as wd40.


    Harsh chems like acids/oven cleaner, may work but many will etch and or eat thru alum if left on too long....

    Do a test area before commiting
    #5
  6. BK

    BK Electron herder

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    I used to fly model airplanes and the heads would get varnished due to the two-stroke oil.

    I cleaned them by letting them soak for a day or two in a crock-pot full of antifreeze. I don't remember the temp setting, but they don't get that hot anyway. Did a great job of getting all the dirt, etc. out of the crevices.
    #6
  7. Vankaye

    Vankaye n00b on the move

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    Dunno how dull you are willing to go but I have made some beat-up neglected aluminium parts look pretty new with an HarborFreight Soda Blaster. It's not chome/polished but it's not pitted like other blast media.

    Blast and rinse. Couldn't be easier.

    Warning. DO NOT BLAST INSIDE YOUR GARAGE (or outside with the garage door open) You will want to hose off everything within 20-30ft of your blast zone.

    This is not me but it is an inmate here: (actually, I didn't take a picture of my garage when I did it right in front of the open door... but when I turned around after a good hour of blasting a table full of parts this is pretty much what I saw!)
    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. HapHazard

    HapHazard Waiting for Gudenov

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    I use red Scotchbrite to give a nice "brushed" finish (or as a step toward a polished surface).
    But if you just want to clean the aluminum oxide off, I've used a product called "Coil-Brite-A", which is designed to clean the coils in A/C units. http://www.supercoproducts.com/Products-HVAC.htm
    Here's B4:
    [​IMG]

    I sprayed it on lightly, then scrubbed with a nylon brush, then wiped it off with a damp rag.
    Then after:
    [​IMG]

    I just did the fins on the head.

    Another thing to try is one of the citrus-based cleaners - I've used them, but the coil cleaner worked better for me on aluminum oxide.

    What izzit your trying to clean? (We like pictures here:D).
    #8
  9. rodsbrick

    rodsbrick Adventurer

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    I'm with the acid guys. Autobody metal prep (phosphoric acid in H2O solution) is formulated to remove oxidation without eating the base material. I have cleaned and restored many old and seized SU carb sets using a metal prep bath. Degrease first then soak the surface to be cleaned - time works best to get all the oxidation off but you could substitute some brushing with a nylon brush for a dunking if the parts are too big. Wear safety goggles and watch the clothes. It will eat denim and burn skin.
    A hot water rinse works best. Works well even on old airhead engine cases!
    #9
  10. fiep

    fiep Long timer

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    just an example

    [​IMG]
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  11. HapHazard

    HapHazard Waiting for Gudenov

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    I think the Scotchbrite would be the way to go - give you a nice clean brushed finish.
    #11
  12. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    Get a buffer and a can of medium polishing compound. You may want to wetsand first at 800-1000x.

    Just did a little of that today with my friend's polishing wheel, old Triumph parts....shiny shiny!:wink:
    #12
  13. Pike Bishop

    Pike Bishop Pull Down the Ponzi.

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    Aluminum oxide re-forms on exposed aluminum almost as fast as you remove it.

    What are you trying to do?
    #13
  14. fiep

    fiep Long timer

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    no, please
    NOT shiny

    as nice matte a surface as is now,
    just not dirty anymore
    any scotch brite, steel wool ... will polish and make it shine
    don't want shine
    #14
  15. bomber60015

    bomber60015 Anatomically Correct

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    nuther vote for soda blasting . . . . . damn near any other mechanical process will remove material in a linear manner, leaving either a wseries of scratches, or, the horror, a polished surface ;-}
    #15
  16. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    Looks like your parts have been anodized. You'll have to remove that first. Good lye solution should do it. Easy Off will. Achieving the finish, shiny or not is just the right combo of compounds/sanding/lube/scrubbies in whatever combination you choose. You can even polish that with Old Dutch or Ajax or whatever. Just practice somewhere on a scrap piece.

    Keeping it in good shape once done and no anodizing left you'll be cleaning poolishing a lot more, shiny or not. They don't anodize them soft alloys just for looks.Soft alloys they have to seal the pores otherwise crud/salt gets in there and you won't get rid of it easily. I am not into the shiny looks but it sure is easier to maintain, crud & salts don't get in the pores so much and it depends a lot also on the type of alloys used.

    Lets say that I have polished way too much Aluminium kitchen equipment and motorcycle parts in 30+ years to care much about doing that anymore. Mostly done with stuff from under the kitchen sink or when I am at sea.....cleaning locker.:wink:

    Powdercoating? I just bought the 1200 degree powder in "Brushed Aluminium" color, haven't tried it yet. Will be doing some tests this week maybe.:1drink
    #16
  17. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I'm wondering what this stuff will do to the painted engine parts on an engine? In my case I have a project bike that I've already painted the side cases & have not cleaned the engine.Sort of cart before the horse deal. I read the product sheets on the coil cleaner & it seems to be mostly phosphoric acid which I already have in the 3M btl used for AB work. Dont know about the concentration though-coil cleaner is ~25%.
    #17
  18. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    ^^^ Wood deck brighteners are mostly that Phosphoric Acid and so are some of the rust treatments. Never seen then attack paints. Not a bad cleaner for aluminium but sure has to be neutralized well lest your parts turn a little black later on. May take a few days/weeks for the ambiant moisture in the air re-activating the residues in the pores and do that. Took a couple weeks on some of my parts.:eek1

    KrudKutter????Had good results with that, the one that says "must for rust" does have a small concentration of Phosphoric in it. Sure cleans the rusty frame parts very well. Safe for Aluminium.:wink:
    #18
  19. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    I think the wood deck stuff is oxalic acid
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  20. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

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    Some but not all, they do make a difference between the Cleaners and Brighteners. Cheap supply sometimes when you need either Oxalic or Phosphoric at the local hardware store. Oxalic may not brighten your deck, could bleach it way more than you'd want,all again depending on the concentration.:eek1

    Kind of getting at me all them miracle solutions...New New New, well nothing new on rebranding common products, fancy labels then a fancy price.:evil

    Sure glad for MSDSs sometimes.:DThey are changing that soon as a worldwide standard,we may get even more info.:clap The British ones sure show a lot more than the North Americans.:wink:
    #20