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Thread: Acid Washing Aluminum, Steel or Fiberglass - 2 ways to clean oxidation

  1. #1

    Join Date

    Washington State

    1986 Mitsubishi Mighty Max


    Acid Washing Aluminum, Steel or Fiberglass - 2 ways to clean oxidation

    The reason Aluminum always seems to look bad after a couple quick months of being outside is because of oxidation. The scientific description goes like this...

    A reaction in which the atoms in an element lose electrons and the valence of the element is correspondingly increased.

    Now the laymen description...

    The combination of a substance with oxygen.

    We can bring it down another step and just say, Why does all my custom aluminum stuff on my truck look like crap?
    This is probably the universal way of describing oxidation if you purchased certain aftermarket pieces when they were all clean and shiny, then they turned dull and crusty.
    There are ways to bring back the cleanness of the aluminum and it is relatively easy. The shine will have to be buffed or hand rubbed to bring back. Anyway, the first way to remove oxidation is a home recipe that we all probably have the ingredients for in our kitchens.

    These ingredients are:
    Mild dish liquid
    Lemon juice or vinegar

    Additional Items:
    Latex gloves
    Eye protection
    Scratch-resistant scrub pad
    Soft cloth

    Removing Oxidation #1
    The steps to clean oxidation off smaller items is as follows:

    Remove dust and dirt from smaller items, such as pots, pans, utensils or decorations:
    Soak your aluminum item in a sink filled with hot water. Gently scrub the items with mild dish liquid, rinse and dry thoroughly.

    Prepare the acid wash:
    Fill a pot with 4 cups (.95 liters) of water and 2 tbsp. (30 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar.

    Bring the acid solution to a boil:
    Allow the solution to remain at a high boil for 15 minutes. While the solution is boiling, place all aluminum items in the pot.

    Drain the solution:
    Carefully remove the pot of boiling solution from the heat and drain it, along with the items, into the sink.

    Rinse the items thoroughly with warm water:
    Check the aluminum items, and repeat the process if the stains aren't removed.

    Removing Oxidation #2
    Now the way I like to clean the metal is a bit faster, easier, and requires a little more attention. This is by using acid wash. You probably have past by a truck yard or two and saw them using power washers on the trucks to clean them. Well, this is usually the last step to cleaning them. The first step is usually shooting a concentrated mixture of acid and then rinse away the oxidation and acid with power washers. There are different acids used in this process and here are they are.

    Phosphoric acid
    Sulfuric acid
    Hydrofluoric acid

    Depending on your materials, these can clean Aluminum and Stainless Steel, even fiberglass pretty darn good. Get anyone of them on your skin, even as a mist will cause discomfort rather quickly. I'm sure breathing them on a regular basis is not good for you either. There are economical mixtures and foaming mixtures, anti-streaking mixtures and even mixtures to clean off yellowing boats. Some can be applied in drive through archways and some are power sprayed. All depends on your application. The strong mixtures contain all 3 acids and also cleaning agents to do the job. There are also rumors that say that these chemicals will destroy metals when using them to clean with, but technology has helped to remove this problem almost completely. If you don't rinse the metal off thoroughly, of course you will get some amount of break down, but just use common sense and wash everything completely of the acids and you will be fine. These chemicals are available and some can be found right in your own hardware stores as cleaners. They are by far the best for cleaning oxidized metals effortlessly and are reasonably affordable.

    They usually carry the names ALUMINUM BRIGHT or ALUMINUM BRIGHTENER. Always check the back label for proper use and wear eye and skin protection when using any type of acid based chemicals.

  2. #2

    Join Date

    Sacramento, CA

    1979 Dodge D-50

    Chevy V6
    I use muriatic acid deluded in water. About 2 cups per gallon of watter. It washes concrete trucks real well.
    Members come and members go, But the board keeps track of them.
    Find me on FaceBook
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    Or look on YouTube Click Here.

  3. #3

    Join Date

    Pittsburgh, PA

    1980 Dodge D-50

    Beware of anything with Hydroflouric acid - this stuff will removed the calcium from your bones right through your skin - enough decalcification requires amputation of the affected parts. This problem was seen in the 90's with some car interiors that when burnt and then hit with water,would create the acid, unrealized by scrapyard workers, and they lost body parts from it. If you must use these chemicals, get the right PPEs for it - acid gloves, apron, goggles, and acid rated respirator and good ventilation. Don't think that this stuff is harmless - don't want to see someone injured from chemical exposure.
    The best Dodge that Dodge never made
    Living the D-50 lifestyle since 1980

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