How to Dye Aluminum

Written by kim blakesley Google
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How to Dye Aluminum
(Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Dying aluminium uses a process that changes the aluminium from its normal colour to an anodised state. The anodising process not only colours the aluminium but increases the hardness of the aluminium surface and prevents corrosion. Coloured aluminium is used for various craft projects. Anodising the aluminium at home is cost effective but time consuming. Home-dyed aluminium uses fabric dye as the colouring agent. The fabric dye is available at many grocery, department, fabric and hobby stores.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Aluminium
  • Aluminium wire
  • Yardstick
  • Wire cutters
  • Aluminium foil
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Safety goggles or glasses
  • Two rubber tubs
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Fabric dye
  • Distilled water
  • Sulphuric acid
  • 12-volt battery charger
  • 24-inch to 36-inch piece of 1/2-inch dowel
  • Nitric acid
  • Ounce-marked measuring glass
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Measure and cut a piece of aluminium wire 18 inches long. Bend the wire into a paddle shape that is 6 to 8 inches wide. Cover the paddle shape with aluminium foil. Repeat the process for a second paddle.

  2. 2

    Cover the work area with plastic sheeting. Place one of the rubber containers on the plastic.

  3. 3

    Mix the fabric dye according to the directions on the package, substituting distilled water for tap water. Pour the correct amount of distilled water into the 5-gallon bucket. Add the fabric dye and stir. Note: Fabric dye requires a different amount of water according to the brand. Follow the directions on the package for the right concentration.

  4. 4

    Turn the aluminium foil-covered paddle so the wide looped end is pointing down. Hold the paddle along the inside edge of the rubber tub. Position the paddle so it is between 1 to 2 inches from the bottom of the container. Bend the two wire ends over the edge at a 90-degree angle, thus making a way to hold the paddle above the bottom of the container. Continue bending the wires until the paddle is self-supporting. Repeat the process with the second paddle on the opposite end of the tub.

  5. 5

    Put on the safety goggles/glasses and rubber gloves.

  6. 6

    Add two parts sulphuric acid to one part of the fabric dye mixture. Pour an adequate amount of the mixture in the rubber tub to cover the aluminium pieces by 1 to 2 inches. Warning: Add the sulphuric acid to the water, never the other way around. A chemical reaction occurs when the two liquids are mixed. An explosion may occur if done incorrectly.

  7. 7

    Attach the negative lead of the battery charger to one bent end on one of the aluminium foil-covered paddles.

  8. 8

    Pour 1 gallon of distilled water into the second rubber tub. Add 59.1ml of nitric acid. Note: Make enough of this mixture so the aluminium is covered by 1 to 2 inches.

  9. 9

    Dip the aluminium into the nitric acid solution for cleaning. The aluminium will bubble during the cleaning process. Watch for the bubbling to stop. Immediately remove the aluminium from the nitric acid solution and carefully submerge it into the fabric dye solution. Make sure the aluminium piece is not touching either of the aluminium foil-covered paddles to ensure even colouring of the aluminium.

  10. 10

    Attach the positive lead to the aluminium foil-covered paddle opposite the paddle connected to the negative feed. Turn on the battery charger. Watch the aluminium piece until fizzing occurs. Begin timing the dying process for 10 to 15 minutes.

  11. 11

    Turn off the battery charger. Remove the positive and negative leads from the aluminium foil-covered paddles. Rinse the anodised aluminium with cool water. Do not use warm or hot water when rinsing the newly dyed aluminium.

Tips and warnings

  • Work in a well-ventilated area as the gas produced from the water and sulphuric acid combination is flammable.
  • Do not immerse your hands into the sulphuric acid dye mixture while the battery charger is on. Do not store the sulphuric acid mixture in a glass container.

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