How to Sand and Polish Aluminum

Written by adele eliot
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How to Sand and Polish Aluminum
Sanding and polishing aluminium can help old metal look new again. (Aluminium Blech image by crossgolfing from Fotolia.com)

Whether you are working on your car, another vehicle or household goods, polishing aluminium objects can help them look as good as new. You can use this technique with most aluminium objects. If you want to purchase specialist tools to make the job easier you can but you can also purchase sanding paper and cloths from your local hardware store if you are working on a tighter budget. The process is simple although it might require some elbow grease if you are sanding and polishing by hand. However, your aluminium should be shining once again within a couple of hours.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • 200 grit sandpaper
  • 500 grit sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • All-purpose metal polish/cleaner (e.g. Brasso)
  • Metal file
  • Scotch-grinding tool
  • Drill
  • Protective face mask
  • Canvas buff
  • Abrasive compound (e.g. Tripoli)
  • Calico cotton mop

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Put on the protective face mask. Aluminium dust is dangerous if you inhale it so it is a good idea to wear protective clothing at all times during the sanding and polishing process.

  2. 2

    Clean the aluminium using the Brasso. Ensure there is no dirt left on the aluminium before you start sanding.

  3. 3

    Use the metal file to remove any casting marks or uneven blemishes on the metal's surface. The file might make the surface look more scratched temporarily, but it will even the aluminium surface ready for sanding.

  4. 4

    Take the 200 grit sandpaper and start sanding the aluminium in a circular motion. You want to remove any damaged coating and even out any pitting caused by corrosion. You can also achieve this by putting the scotch grinding tool on top of the drill and using that to even out the aluminium's surface.

  5. 5

    Sand the aluminium with the 500 grit sandpaper to remove any remaining pit marks or blemishes. This type of sandpaper contains finer granules and provides a smoother finish than 200 grit sandpaper. When you have finished sanding, the surface will be scratched but even.

  1. 1

    Add a little metal polish to the steel wool. Using a circular motion, work your way over the aluminium. The steel wool will help even out the scratches left by the sanding.

  2. 2

    Add the abrasive compound to the canvas buff and polish the aluminium. Make sure you clean all the abrasive compound off the aluminium after you have polished each section and make sure you don't leave any compound trails on the metal.

  3. 3

    Use a calico cotton polishing mop to polish the aluminium for the final time. Add a little metal polish to the mop if necessary. Work the polish into the aluminium using a circular motion and your aluminium should now be polished to a shine.

Tips and warnings

  • To hand polish parts of the aluminium that might be hard to reach, try wrapping a toothbrush in cotton and applying some polish to that. Use even strokes and don't let the bristles come into contact with the aluminium, otherwise they could scratch it.
  • Do not use metal polish containing ammonia, anhydrous chemicals or any acids. These will corrode the metal over time and cause oxidisation. You should also avoid polishes containing more than 20 per cent magnesium content. Magnesium is useful for cleaning metal but it will not buff to a shine.

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