Polishing Scratched Aluminum

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Polished aluminum has a luster and beauty all its own. Polished aluminum can be so reflective as to be almost mirror-like. Of course, with time and usage almost any aluminum, from car rims to household appliances becomes scratched and dulled. Scratches have a tendency to deepen with time so it is a good idea to keep your aluminum items looking their best at regular intervals. This takes elbow grease and a little time, but the results can be an aluminum item that looks as bright and as shiny as it was when it was brand new.

Things You'll Need

  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • 600-grit sandpaper
  • 1,000-grit sandpaper
  • 0000-grade steel wool
  • Aluminum polishing compound
  • Electric drill with polishing wheel
  • Rags
  • Dish soap
  • Spray lacquer
  • Bucket of water
  • Wet sand the aluminum item starting with a 400-grit sandpaper. Wash the paper frequently in a bucket of clean water for best results. Sand in circular motions. The length of time you'll need to sand depends on the depth of the scratches you are trying to remove.

  • Continue wet sanding using a 600-grit sandpaper. Again, sand using circular motions. Sand until scratches can no longer be felt when scraping your fingernail across them.

  • Wet sand using 1,000-grit paper. Sand in only one direction (not using circular motions). Sand small areas at a time. Sand only until a sheen begins to appear on the aluminum.

  • Wet sand using the 0000-grade steel wool. Sand in just one direction. Use care not to sand with too much force. Use your steel wool to bring out the shine in your aluminum.

  • Wash the item in warm water and dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a soft clean cloth.

  • Apply aluminum polishing compound to the item. Using your electric drill and a polishing attachment carefully polish the item using very light pressure. Polish until a shine appears.

  • Wash the item once again in warm water and dish soap. Pat it dry with cotton cloth.

  • Apply more aluminum polishing compound and rub it gently by hand using a clean cotton cloth. Rub in only one direction and rub very lightly. Rub areas that the electric polisher missed.

  • Wash one last time with warm water and dish soap and pat dry.

  • Spray with clear lacquer. Allow to dry. Wipe gently with 0000-grade steel wool. Spray on a second coat of lacquer and allow to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a breathing mask and eye protection when spraying lacquer.
  • Wear eye protection when using electric drill and polishing attachment.
  • Use a light sanding and polishing touch when using the 1000-grit sandpaper and beyond.
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