How to Polish Aluminum to Look Like Chrome

Written by tommy charles
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How to Polish Aluminum to Look Like Chrome
Anodised aluminium like this can not be polished without being treated first. (aluminium foil image by Andrey Zyk from

Aluminium parts give your items a nice metal finish when polished and clean. Yet, far too often, these parts become dirty, dull and dingy over time. Just cleaning them does not help much, and worse yet the problem will get worse over time. Fortunately, it is possible to polish that aluminium part to a chrome-like finish. All it takes is a few commonly available materials, a lot of care, and some elbow grease.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Latex gloves
  • Eye protection
  • 2 buckets
  • Dish soap
  • 2 sponges
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Oven cleaner
  • Paint tray
  • 2 paint brushes, 2-inch
  • Paint thinner
  • 320 grit waxed paper
  • 600 grit waxed paper
  • 800 grit waxed paper
  • 1600 grit waxed paper
  • 2000 grit waxed paper
  • Buffing pad

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  1. 1

    Put the latex gloves and the eye protection on. Fill a bucket about half way with warm water. Squirt a small amount of dish soap into the water.

  2. 2

    Move the bucket beside the aluminium to be polished, being careful not to spill its contents. Insert a sponge into the water and squeeze. Remove the sponge and squeeze again, until water no longer drips from it.

  3. 3

    Wipe the aluminium with the sponge, taking care to wipe the entire surface.

  4. 4

    Fill the second bucket with warm water and set it beside the first bucket. Insert the second sponge into it and squeeze. Remove the sponge from the water and squeeze again, until water no longer drips from it.

  5. 5

    Wipe the entire surface of the aluminium with this second sponge. Pull a few squares of paper towels off of the roll and wipe the aluminium until dry.

  6. 6

    Pour a small amount of oven cleaner into the paint tray and dip a paint brush into it. Ensure that the paint brush has a generous amount of cleaner on it. Coat the entire surface of the aluminium with oven cleaner by making long, smooth strokes with the paint brush. Once finished, let stand for five minutes.

  7. 7

    Pour the warm water from the bucket that contains no dish soap onto the aluminium. Make sure to get all of the oven cleaner off. Use paper towels to dry the part.

  8. 8

    Pour the pain thinner onto the aluminium piece, using the second paint brush to distribute it evenly over the part. Let it stand for one minute. Refill the second bucket with warm water and pour it over the piece.

  1. 1

    Wet the 320 grit waxed paper and sand the entire piece by moving the sand paper over the aluminium in a smooth, circular motion.

  2. 2

    Repeat step 1, moving up in grit until you reach the 2000 grit sand paper.

  3. 3

    Buff the aluminium with the buffing pad by moving it over the entire surface in a smooth, circular motion.

Tips and warnings

  • The oven cleaner is used to remove anodising from the aluminium. If you skip this step it will be impossible to polish most aluminium parts.
  • Similarly, the paint thinner is necessary to prepare the surface of the aluminium for sanding.
  • Don't panic when you finish with the oven cleaner. The aluminium will look dull; this is normal.
  • Polishing aluminium should be performed outside as some oven cleaners and paint thinners give off toxic fumes.
  • Remember to wear the latex gloves throughout.
  • When using the sand paper, do not push down with excessive force. The grit in the paper is enough to sand the metal.

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