aluminium polishing guide

Architecture, construction and metalwork as a whole are all as equally concerned about aesthetic value as they are about practicality and structural stability. It's why painting San Francisco's golden gate bridge is a constant maintenance job and why cast iron cookware should be regularly seasoned; it prevents the metal from rust and corrosion, whilst also maintaining its visual appeal.

Whilst aluminium is thankfully rust-proof, polishing is still a highly rewarding activity. By keeping the surfaces of your aluminium angles, bars, tubes etc. in good order (either before or after construction) you can keep it stronger and looking like new. In this beginner's guide to polishing aluminium, we'll go over the basic 'must-knows' and hidden tips that are guaranteed to give any piece of aluminium that mirror shine, chrome-style finish.

First Up: Clean Your Aluminium

Whether you're dealing with a single aluminium angle or a vintage rolls royce, getting the desired reflective shine is a highly methodical process that requires a lot of patience. Cleaning the metal is definitely not a step to be skipped, as doing so removes any debris, which makes the polishing easier and more effective.

Whilst dish soap and water is fine for removing dirt, food or waste products that have gotten stuck onto its surface, a solution that's better suited for your particular alloy will deliver even better results. There are a variety of homely concoctions for cleaning aluminium thoroughly, and we definitely recommend giving some of them a try. Just remember to test out any homemade cleaning products on a small area (ideally an inner, non-visible part) first to check their suitability, and make sure your aluminium is thoroughly dried before you polish.

Next: Remove Anodising If Need Be

Some aluminium products are anodised in order to give them that brushed look. It's important to remove this from the surface before polishing, else you won't be able to polish it very well. Whilst the actual process of anodizing requires acid baths and electrical currents, removing it isn't so...hazardous.

All you need is the right chemical, sodium hydroxide, which just happens to be available in most hardware and cleaning shops. There are plenty of great guides that take you through the process of de-anodizing aluminium, just remember that if the metal comes out looking horribly scratched and worse looking than before, that's normal!

how to polish aluminium

Penultimately: Sand Your Aluminium

Sanding aluminium might well be the most important part of the entire process; it's certainly the area where applying the most time and effort can yield the best results in terms of getting a truly noteworthy shine. Most aluminium surfaces short of a truck tank will require anything more than 320 grit sand paper, but depending on the severity of the aluminium's condition or the age of the surface you may want to first use a lower grade (possibly 180) first and then follow it with higher grades. You can always ask a professional if you're unsure what would work best, just make sure to take your time and ensure the entire surface is sanded.

Finally: The Polishing

There's no shortage in aluminium polishing products out there to try out; our best advice is to seek the advice from those who've tried and tested at least a few of them.

Whichever you use, one of the more preferred polishing techniques is to using a microfiber cloth to apply it to select areas, before using circular motions to work it in. Another way is to use a buffing pad, buffer brush or a mechanical buffer to reach a professional level shine. Many hardware stores sell full polishing kits that contain all these products, plus a few awesome little extras, but once you've mastered the art you can even start to put together and recommend your own home-brewed kits.

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