About Aluminum Brightening

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Aluminum can be almost as shiny as a mirror--but it can also be as dull as lead. The problem is that aluminum oxidizes relatively quickly. This causes it to look dull and drab. In addition, aluminum scratches easily and a combination of scratches plus oxidation can make any aluminum, from kitchen appliances to wheel rims, look old and tacky long before its time.Fortunately, restoring the shine to your aluminum items is not terribly difficult, although it can be somewhat time consuming.

Things You'll Need

  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • 800-grit sandpaper
  • 1,200-grit sandpaper
  • 0000-grade steel wool
  • 00000-grade steel wool
  • Aluminum polish
  • Spray lacquer (clear)
  • Dish soap
  • Cotton towels
  • Wash your aluminum item with warm water and dish soap. Rinse and pat dry with a 100 percent cotton towel.

  • Determine how extensive any scratches or pitting are. If you can feel scratches or pitting when rubbing your fingernail across them, then start by wet-sanding with 400-grit sandpaper. Sand using circular motions. Wet the paper frequently to keep it clean, and sand until most of the scratches and pitting have disappeared. Wipe with a wet cloth and then pat dry.

  • Sand with wet 800-grit paper. Sand lightly using a circular motion. Sand until most blemishes have disappeared. Rinse with clear water and pat dry.

  • Sand with wet 1,200-grit paper. Sand in just one direction (not with a circular motion). Sand lightly. You are now removing the microscopic scratches left by the 800-grit paper and trying to bring out the shine of the metal. Rinse and pat dry.

  • Buff lightly in one direction with the 0000-grade steelwool. Buff to bring out the shine. Rinse and pat dry.

  • Using a clean cotton towel, rub aluminum polish on your item in a circular motion. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

  • Spray on a coat of clear lacquer. Allow to dry thoroughly. Buff very lightly with 00000-grade steelwool. Wipe gently with a clean cotton towel.

  • Spray on a final coat of clear lacquer and allow to dry thoroughly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear eye and breathing protection when spraying lacquer.
  • Keep fingerprints off of your item from Step 5 on.
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