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How To Restore Metals With Polish

Posted by Flitz International on 8th Apr 2015

How To Restore Metals With Polish

We all want our metals to shine - but as many of you know, a lot of effort goes into polishing something that is old and oxidized. In order to get the best results, it is important to understand your polishing project. In this post, we've highlighted a few factors you should take into account when starting a new polish project.

Determine the Metal You’re Going to Polish

First things first, try to determine what kind of metal it is that you are actually working on. There are many kinds of metals and metallic alloys, but for the sake of brevity and sanity we will only go over the most common metals used today.

The top 6 are:
  1. Aluminum
  2. Chrome
  3. Stainless Steel
  4. Brass
  5. Copper
  6. Silver

It can sometimes be a tricky to determine what metal you’re working with, especially if it is old and dirty. However you should be able to identify the metal by looking at a few factors. The guide below will help you determine the type of oxidized metal you are working on.

Aluminum is simple. If there is white oxidation present that makes your finger black while rubbing on it, then you are working with aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than other metals and will never be magnetic, so a magnet will not stick to it.

Chrome is a plating that is usually (but not always) over the top of steel. If there is rust on the surface and a magnet sticks to it, then you are most likely working with chrome. Usually chrome will smooth to a mirror finish.

True Stainless Steel (a.k.a. Austenitic) will not be magnetic, however there are some cheaper grades of Stainless Steel that will be magnetic. Stainless steel is most commonly found with a brushed finish like what you find with refrigerators and sinks. It will be cooler to the touch than aluminum, and will shine brighter after a clean.

For Brass, Copper and Silver it is easy to distinguish these by color. If it is yellow it is brass. If it is an orange brown shade like the color of a penny, then you know it’s copper. If it is a silver color with hints of black or brown tarnish and oxidation, then it’s silver.

Determine How To Remove The Oxidation

After you figure out what metal you’re polishing, the real work can begin! Now it’s time to pick the right metal polish and use it with the right process. Remember always follow manufacturers instructions for applying the polish. Below you'll find our recommendations and why they are the best choice for each metal.

Aluminum Recommendation - clean with Metal Pre-Clean, then polish with Flitz Metal Polish.
Because aluminum is a soft metal, it responds well to metal polish after an acid pre-clean. We recommend an acid pre-clean for projects with heavy oxidation. If your project isn’t oxidized as severly, a soap and water clean does the trick. Once it’s acid washed and cleaned you are ready to apply your polish.

Chrome Recommendation - clean and remove grease with Chrome Cleaner, then polish with Non-Abrasive Metal Polish.
For chrome, you only want to use a metal polish that is non-abrasive (ones that do not contain ingredients that physically abrade). If you don’t, you run the risk of scratching the chrome. Chrome is a very thin hard plating, once you scratch it, it becomes nearly impossible to remove the scratches.

Stainless Steel Recommendation - With stainless steel, you also want to use something that is non abrasive. Most abrasive metal polishes can scratch finely brushed surfaces and can change the design and appearance of the finish.

Brass and Copper, with the right metal polish is usually very easy to polish. People have used a product for years called Brasso. Brasso is an abrasive polish and takes a lot of effort to make it work. It’s much easier to use a non-abrasive metal polish with either a paper towel or terry cloth rag. If your brass and copper are green then you will need to strip the metal first using a product like our Brass & Copper Tarnish Remover. This will take the heavy corrosion off and prep the surface for polishing. Please note that our Tarnish Remover is a non-acid formula, but it the metal must be rinsed thoroughly with water to neutralize the organic salts in the formula. If the metal is not completely rinsed, you run the risk of some metal leeching from the piece you're working on. 

Silver, like Chrome is often plated, this means you wont want to use anything with acids or abrasives. With the right metal polish silver can be very quick and easy to polish.

Warning!

Once you remove the oxidation from the metal, you MUST now take action to polish and protect the metal. Removing oxidation exposes the bare metal to the elements, and without the layer of tarnish to protect it, it will re-tarnish faster than before. Polish and protect the metal as soon as possible after cleaning for the best possible results!

Applying Flitz Metal Polish

When using Flitz Metal Polish one of the first key things to remember is to use it sparingly. Flitz is highly concentrated and you don’t need to apply as much as other polish products. The next thing to remember is DO NOT let Flitz dry. The key to insuring that this doesn’t happen is to only polish small sections no more than 2′x2′ at one time. After you apply it rub briskly in a back and forth movement using either a paper towel or a microfiber polishing cloth. Lastly use a microfiber to remove any left over polish residue. With Flitz that’s it! It even leaves a protective coating when you are done.

Time Saving Tools

Depending on the size and shape, some projects are aided by power tools and buffers. For large flat areas the best tool can either be an orbital or a random orbital buffer. For tedious and difficult areas, like Alcoa wheels, I recommend the Flitz Buff Ball. This speeds up the job and keeps you from busting your knuckles. Also the Buff Ball is amazing on projects with rough surfaces like Diamond Plate. If you’re working on a surface with small areas or lots of detail, I recommend the Flitz Super Mini Buff Ball. Some projects, power tools can be overkill. For jobs that need a softer touch, like Silver, I recommend using a microfiber polishing cloth. For jobs that need a little more abrasion, a paper towel always works great.

Remember if you are unsure or afraid to polish something, always start in an inconspicuous area on the item to test it. The bottom line is, if you have the right procedure for the right application you will get the result you are looking for.

Happy Polishing!