Aluminum is one of the softest and most versatile metals in the world. You can find them in different places such as cookware, different appliances, car wheels, and more.

Aluminum is a shiny and amazing metal. But, there is just one issue with it. This metal can corrode or rust over time. It’s shine can become dull, and it can also become discolored over time.

So, you need to give proper maintenance and cleaning to it. You should make sure to properly maintain your aluminum so that it doesn’t get dull with time.

But, if it has already gotten dulled, don’t worry. We are going to tell you how to polish aluminum so that you can have its shine back.

Let’s see how to polish aluminum in this article.

Materials You Need to Polish Aluminum

If you want to know how to polish aluminum, you should know the material used in this process. The material used in polishing aluminum can vary due to the size and type of project. But, mostly, these supplies used include:

  • Aluminum cleaner
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Stiff wire brush or fine steel wool
  • Sandpaper in different grits
  • Masking tape
  • Polishing compound
  • Orbital sander
  • Clean rags or paper towel

Grab these materials or buy them before doing any project. Now that you know what is needed, you need to learn how to polish aluminum.

How to Polish Aluminum

Worker polishing aluminum
Worker polishing aluminum

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There are certain steps on how to polish aluminum which you should follow:

1. Clean the Aluminum

You need to clean the surface of aluminum before polishing it. This will clean the dirt and grime from the surface and will prepare it for polishing.

To clean it, you need a mild detergent. You just need to wash the aluminum surface, clean all the debris, and dry it with a paper towel or a soft cloth.

There are some objects which can create a thick coat of grease on the aluminum surface. This grease can be difficult to clean off.

So, you will need a detergent with a de-greasing agent to clean the aluminum surface. You can also use a water and vinegar solution to get rid of the grease.

Now, if your surface is all cleaned up with this step, you can skip step 2. But, if it doesn’t come clean, then you need to apply step 2 to learn how to polish aluminum.

2. Get rid of Corrosion

Man cutting aluminum
Man cutting aluminum

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You have done the simple clean-up, now it is time to get rid of any corrosion there is on the aluminum surface.

For cleaning them, you need some different commercial aluminum pre-cleaning products. You can use WD-40 or any paint thinner for this purpose.

Apply it on the aluminum surface and let it settle there for a few minutes. This will loosen the corrosion. You can use steel wool or a stainless steel brush to clean the stubborn debris.

Then, wash the surface with warm water. If there is still corrosion, you need to repeat this process. You should keep doing this until you get rid of all the corrosion.

In the end, you just need to dry the surface with a paper towel.

3. Sanding

If your aluminum surface doesn’t have any scratches or discoloration, you don’t need to follow this step. But if it has, then you need to sand the surface before polishing it.

Sanding will even the surface, and you will get rid of any type of scratches and uneven surfaces. For doing this task, you need to use masking tape on those points where you don’t need to do sanding.

Then, wear the gloves and goggles and start your task. Take a lower grit sandpaper and gradually move to a finer grit.

You can start with 320-grit sandpaper as it is ideal for getting rid of deep scratches on the aluminum surface. In case, if you have deep gouges and scratches, you will need 180-grit sandpaper.

Start your task with this low level of grit sandpaper, and gradually move toward the finer grit sandpaper. You can up your level to 400-grit sandpaper, then 800, and even to 1500 for better results.

Gradually, up your sandpaper grit level when you start getting rid of scratches and gouges.

For smaller projects, you can do sanding by hand. You just need elbow grease and you are good to do the small projects.

But, for larger projects, we recommend you never do sanding by hand. Otherwise, it will take all of your energy and time.

For these projects, you will need a power tool. You can use an angle grinder with an aluminum grinding flap disc. Otherwise, you can also use an orbital sander with a pressure-sensitive adhesive sanding disc.

We recommend you spend a large amount of your time on sanding. Because, if the aluminum surface will not be refined and leveled, you will never get the desired shine.

Sometimes, there is any scratch or issue in the aluminum surface which can only be observed at a microscopic level. These scratches are not visible but they can blur the aluminum after polishing it.

This step is crucial in learning how to polishing aluminum.

Important: Never use Aluminum oxide or abrasive materials in sanding the aluminum surface.

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4. Polishing the Aluminum

This is the last step in learning how to polish aluminum. If you have done the sanding of aluminum in a better way, then polishing it will hardly take your time and effort.

As there are two types of projects, small and large, both need different types of techniques. We will discuss both of them at this point.

Small Projects

For small projects, you need some clean clothes and an aluminum polish. You can polish the aluminum with your hand.

Apply the aluminum polish on the surface with the help of a towel. Keep wiping it in the form of small and circular motions. Now, use the clean part of the cloth and wipe away all the polish.

When the polish is gone, take another clean cloth and start polishing the entire surface in the same circular motion.

But, if you are polishing anything that is used in the kitchen or has food in it, then you shouldn’t use aluminum polish on it. Because it can be harmful when you ingest it. It is as equally unhealthy as having roaches in the refrigerator’s motor.

You can use different homemade aluminum polishes for this purpose.

You can take an equal amount of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Sprinkle it on the surface and wipe it away. You can also use a fine-grain steel wool buffing pad to make the surface more shiny.

Moreover, you can also combine equal parts of water and cream of tartar. Apply it on the surface in a circular motion. But, before the polish has a chance to dry, wipe it away.

Large Projects

You will need a trusty power tool to do this task. Though there are a large number of tools, the most trustworthy one is an angle grinder with conventional muslin buffing wheels or airway buffing wheels.

You should apply the buffing compound bars or the coarsest abrasive compound to your stiffest buffing wheels. Now, polish the aluminum surface in sections.

When you are done with applying the residue, wipe it away. Then, change your buffing wheel.

You need to complete this step just like you completed the sanding project. It means that you need to start with the coarsest abrasive compound and gradually come down.

In the abrasive compound, start with the grey buffing compound bar. Then, gradually move toward the brown tripoli and white rogue compound.

Most of the time, these buffing compounds will be enough. But, if you need more, then you should go with the green rogue compound. This will give the best results.

In this method, you should use different buffing wheels for each compound. For example, you should apply a grey compound bar with one wheel and a white one with another.

In the future, you can reuse the buffing wheel in another project when you need to apply the same compound to it.

In the end, when you are done with applying polish on the aluminum surface, wipe it down. This is the end of how to polish aluminum.

Now, let’s have a brief introduction of each polishing compound you can use in a large project.

Introduction of Aluminum Polishing Compound

The list will go from the coarse abrasive grade to the finest abrasive grade.

Black Aluminum Compound

It is the most rough abrasive aluminum polishing compound. You can use it to prepare materials for polishing before starting the process.

This compound is mostly used on steel and aluminum. But, you can also use it on different sturdy metals such as nickel, brass, iron, etc. You shouldn’t use it on soft and non-metallic materials.

Brown Rouge

It is used for bringing out a high luster on non-ferrous metals. You shouldn’t use it on hard metals as they are ideal for soft ones.

It can be used on copper, brass, and aluminum. Moreover, it is also used on hard rubber.

Green Rouge

You shouldn’t use this compound on precious metals or plastics. It works well with only aluminum and stainless steel.

White Rouge

It is the fine and dry grade that is enough to bring shine to the surface. It can create the clear, bright, and mirror-like look of aluminum. But, it is still not as fine as red rouge.

In addition to aluminum, it can be used on other precious metals too. You can use it on gold, silver, stainless steel, carbon steel, chromium, and brass. However, it is not suitable for hard materials.


We have just provided you with a whole information guide on how to polish aluminum. We covered the process and told you what to use.  We hope this article has enhanced your information.

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