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How To Polish Aluminum

Posted by Flitz International on 18th Jan 2015

How To Polish Aluminum

How to polish aluminum is as much about sequence as it is about process. It’s important to do things in the proper order to achieve the best results, so we’ll be stepping you through our recommendations for the best way to polish aluminum and get the results you’re looking for. Please bear in mind that these suggestions, while essentially universal, are not intended for industrial projects at scale. They are suggestions primarily for DIY’ers, hobbyists and maintenance personnel.

1.Assess the piece and decide what you what the final result to be.

From battered door thresholds, to car wheels, to cookware to 25-foot pontoons, your first consideration should be “what do I want this to look like when I’m done?” Not everything needs or should have a mirror finish. What you want the end result to be will determine how far you take certain steps in the process.

2.Clean the piece you’re going to be working on. (Gloves and goggles please!)

Depending on condition, a simple wash and dry with mild detergent may suffice. For items with a lot of corrosion or other buildup, something stronger may be required. Whether you’re using soap or something stronger, especially if it’s an acid-based product, we always recommend gloves and goggles just to be safe.

The fastest way we know of to remove corrosion and buildup is Flitz Metal Pre-Clean. Our non-acid formula works instantly and because it’s based on organic salts, it is far more friendly to the environment and to you! Even so, gloves and goggles are always a good idea. Simply spray the surface with the Metal Pre-Clean, let it work for a minute and then rinse off with water to neutralize the organic salts. For stubborn build-up you may want to apply the  Metal Pre-Clean again and agitate the area with a stiff brush or ultra-fine steel wool.

3.To sand or not to sand?

Not every piece requires sanding before polishing. Again, it depends upon where you want the piece to end up. Now that it’s clean, take a good look at your aluminum piece to see how smooth the surface is. For things like cookware, boat or car trim, even care wheels, sanding may not be necessary.

If however, you determine the surface needs it, just remember that once you start, you’re committed. Whether you’re sanding by hand or with an electric sander, the process is roughly the same; start with lower grit numbered paper (150 – 250) and move up in grit to get to the smoothness you’re looking for (1000 – 1500). There’s no “one-size-fits-all” for what grit to start with and where to end up, and results can vary, so make sure your piece really needs sanding before you begin.

4.It’s Polishin’ Time!

The condition of your aluminum piece, and how you want it to look when you’re done, will determine how much polishing you’ve got in store. There’s no shortage of polishes and polishing compounds and if your surface is clean and fairly smooth you shouldn’t need a polish that contains an abrasive. In fact, unless you determine you really, really need it, we suggest avoiding abrasive polishes altogether. Using an abrasive aluminum mag wheel polish to restore the shine to a piece of cookware is like taking a bazooka to a dart match. You can do it, but it’s not a good idea.

The actual polishing process is fairly straightforward. Apply the polish, rub it into the aluminum surface and then buff the piece to the get the luster you’re looking for. How you get from Point A to Point B will depend on the condition and size of the piece you’re working on. Always work on a small area to begin with. Unlike a wax, you don’t want the polish to dry on the piece. Rub the polish into the surface with a cloth or polishing pad. You should see black oxidation come off onto the cloth. Even though your piece was “cleaned” that’s completely normal, and even better, it means it’s working!

Depending on your aluminum piece, you may need multiple applications of polish and lot’s of rubbing and buffing to get where you want to go. A mirror-like finish on aluminum will require several applications, so don’t give up. To ease up on the required amount of elbow grease, and for the best overall results, we recommend using  Flitz Paste Polish with our patented microfibers and buff balls.

Flitz Paste Polish is non-toxic, non-abrasive and delivers a high-performance finish on aluminum and all metals. Our patented  Buff Balls and Microfibers will get you to your desired finish quickly without the danger of overheating or scorching the surface. Best of all, Flitz Polish leaves behind a thin film of wax to keep your aluminum protected and all your hard work looking great longer!