How to remove aluminum & steel corrosion

Written by sal marco
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How to remove aluminum & steel corrosion
Remove corrosion to restore surfaces. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The corrosion found on aluminium is the way aluminium protects itself from corrosion in the future. This corrosion, known as aluminum oxide, is typically the same colour as aluminium. Corrosion on steel is usually rust. While the corrosion on aluminium protects the aluminium from degrading further, rust eats away at steel and threatens its structural integrity. Although the types of corrosion are different, the removal methods are the same.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Belt sander
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Rag
  • Paintbrush
  • Wire brush bit
  • Power drill
  • Hand held wire brush
  • Tarp
  • Newspaper
  • Chemical stripper
  • Mild detergent
  • Sandblaster
  • Blaster media

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Instructions

    Sanding

  1. 1

    Equip a belt sander with fine-grit sandpaper or attach fine-grit sandpaper to a sanding block.

  2. 2

    Move back and forth along the corroded area to remove the corrosion. If the aluminium or steel is a thin sheet, only sand by hand, because you can sand right through the metal and create a hole.

  3. 3

    Brush away corrosion with a rag or paint brush. Continue sanding until you remove all corrosion.

    Wire Brushing

  1. 1

    Install a wire brush bit into a power drill or use a hand held wire brush. Wire brushes are better able to get into recesses than sanders.

  2. 2

    Brush the wire brush back and forth vigorously along the corrosion or hold the power drill and move it gently back and forth. Use a hand held wire brush on thin metal to avoid creating holes.

  3. 3

    Clean away corrosion debris with a brush or rag and continue brushing until you remove all corrosion. Use this method carefully with aluminium surface because aluminium is a softer metal and deep scratches can occur from overzealous brushing.

    Chemical Corrosion Strippers

  1. 1

    Lay a tarp or thick layer of newspaper under the aluminium or steel to catch chemical stripper drips.

  2. 2

    Apply a coating of a chemical rust stripper to steel surfaces with a paintbrush or rag. Choose an aluminum oxide stripper for aluminium surfaces. Gel strippers are less messy than thin consistency strippers and are generally easier to apply.

  3. 3

    Allow the chemical stripper to remain on the surface as directed by the manufacturer's instructions. Typically, chemical strippers remain on the surface for 15 to 60 minutes depending on the degree of oxidation.

  4. 4

    Wipe away the stripper and oxidation with a clean dry rag. Wash the surface with a mild detergent and soap to remove chemical residue. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely.

    Blasting

  1. 1

    Fill a sandblaster with blaster media. Choose from a low abrasive, such as walnut shells, pumice, acrylic or corncob, for aluminium. Choose a higher abrasive media, such as sand, glass beads or steel shot, for steel.

  2. 2

    Wear a face shield or safety goggles, respirator and gloves.

  3. 3

    Aim the blaster nozzle at the surface while keeping it in constant motion to clean away corrosion. Do not concentrate on one area because blaster medium can cut through a metal surface. Begin at the lowest pressure setting and stand back far enough from the surface so the media just reaches the corroded metal. Move in closer and adjust pressure settings as necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Soaking metal in white vinegar overnight will remove corrosion. This is best for smaller pieces that are easily submersible in a container or bucket.
  • Wear eye protective, dust mask or respirator and gloves when removing corrosion.

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