DIY Anodizing Aluminum

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Use aluminum foil to cover the aluminum wire paddle when anodizing at home.
Use aluminum foil to cover the aluminum wire paddle when anodizing at home. (Image: aluminum foil image by Andrey Zyk from Fotolia.com)

Anodizing aluminum is putting a colored coating on the aluminum with electricity and water. The process charges the molecules in the aluminum so they attract the color from the water. Rit fabric dye works the best for color concentration and deep coloring on the aluminum. A 6- or 12-volt battery charger is required. It is the most expensive item needed to anodizing aluminum at home. The process requires that the battery is grounded. This prevents electrical shock when anodizing.

Things You'll Need

  • Aluminum
  • Rit fabric dye
  • 6- or 12-volt battery charger
  • Nitric acid
  • Distilled water
  • Ounce measuring cup
  • Aluminum wire
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Rubber containers
  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic sheeting

Preparation

Make a negative ground by shaping an 18-inch piece of aluminum wire into a paddle. Make the paddle end 4 to 6 inches long. Wrap aluminum foil around the paddle shape.

Mix the fabric dye according the directions on the box to create colored water.

Put on rubber gloves and safety glasses. Place a plastic sheet on the table or ground where the anodizing will be completed. Place and do all work on the plastic sheet.

Add two parts sulfuric acid to one part colored water in the rubber container. Make enough of the solution to cover the aluminum to be anodized by 1 to 2 inches. Note: Always pour acid into the water. A chemical reaction is taking place and an explosion may occur.

Place the paddle in the rubber container or colored water. Lay the tail of the wire over the edge of the rubber container so the paddle hangs above the bottom by 1 to 2 inches. Place it along the edge of the container so the aluminum can be anodized. Note: The aluminum to be anodized should never touch the paddle.

Attach the negative lead to the battery's negative lead post.

Anodizing

Mix a solution of nitric acid and water in a rubber container. Pour 1 gallon of distilled water in a rubber container. Slowly add 2 oz. of nitric acid.

Dip the aluminum in distilled water and immediately into the nitric acid mixture.

Remove the aluminum from the nitric acid mixture and immediately attach the positive lead from the battery charger.

Immerse the aluminum in the sulfuric acid solution, making sure not to touch the aluminum paddle. Turn on the battery charger. Watch the aluminum object until it starts to fizz. Leave it in the solution for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the battery charger. Remove the aluminum from the sulfuric acid solution. Unhook the positive then the negative lead. Rinse the anodized aluminum under cold water. Never use warm or hot water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never mix and store the sulfuric acid in a glass container.
  • Never store the nitric or sulfuric acid in a bleach bottle. The combination of the acid and bleach make chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is poisonous.
  • The gas produced from the combination of acid and water is very flammable. Keep away from any type of ignition system.

References

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