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How to Polishing Aluminum and What are the Polishing Techniques?

Aluminum is widely used in the manufacturing industry due to its lightweight, durable, and aesthetically pleasing properties. However, over time, the aluminum surface may lose its luster or develop scratches. So, how to restore the brilliant luster of aluminum products? The answer is polishing. In this article, Boyi will take you in depth to understand how to polish aluminum and the advantages and disadvantages of various polishing processes.

What is a polished aluminium?

What is a polished aluminium

Some folks just naturally love things that sparkle and shine. It might also be because parts get old and lose their luster. Whether it’s for sentimental reasons, aesthetics, or color coordination, polishing can breathe new life into your components, bringing back that gleam you desire.

Polished aluminum has strong hardness, high strength, can withstand large pressure and weight, and has good corrosion resistance and processing performance. Its surface smoothness is high, it is not easy to stain, oxidize, and rust, so it can maintain a long-term aesthetic appearance.

In the application of polished aluminum, it is widely used in home decoration, such as kitchen facilities, door and window materials, bathroom accessories, etc. In the field of electronic products, products such as mobile phones and tablets also extensively use polished aluminum materials. In addition, polished aluminum has also been widely used in automotive manufacturing, such as wheels, decorative strips, automotive fasteners, and body components.

How to polishing aluminum ?

Here are some common steps in the aluminum polishing process:

1. Clean the Aluminum Surface:

Before polishing, ensure the aluminum surface is thoroughly clean for optimal results. Take the following meticulous steps:

  • Choose a mild cleaner to wipe the surface with a damp cloth, removing dust, grease, and other impurities.
  • For stubborn grease or dirt, use an appropriate solvent such as acetone or vinegar and a soft brush for cleaning.

2. Sanding:

Aluminum surfaces may have various imperfections, including scratches or uneven areas. Sanding is essential to eliminate these flaws and prepare for polishing.

  • Use coarse sandpaper (180 to 240 grit) in circular or linear motions, focusing on noticeable imperfections.
  • Gradually transition to finer grits (320 to 400 grit) to achieve a smoother surface.
  • Clean the sanded surface using a damp cloth to remove any metal particles or debris.

3. Polishing Compound:

Polishing compounds with fine abrasive particles help remove surface imperfections and enhance gloss. Follow these careful steps when using a polishing compound:

  • Apply an appropriate amount of polishing compound evenly onto the aluminum surface using a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Employ circular motions with even pressure during the polishing process, ensuring every inch of the surface receives proper treatment.

4. Buffing:

Buffing, using mechanical tools like a polishing machine, is crucial for further improving surface quality and increasing gloss.

  • Install the polishing wheel on the polishing machine, immerse it in the polishing compound, and run it over the aluminum surface to ensure full coverage.
  • Adjust the speed and pressure of the polishing machine as needed to achieve the desired polishing effect.
  • Regularly check the progress of polishing to ensure a uniform increase in surface gloss.

5. Final Polishing:

The final polishing step is vital to achieving the desired highest gloss level.

  • Use a finer polishing compound (such as chromium oxide or metal polish) for the last polishing stage to remove any remaining fine scratches and achieve a smoother surface.
  • Before final polishing, thoroughly clean the surface with water and a clean, soft cloth to ensure proper adhesion of the polishing compound.

6. Cleaning and Protection:

After polishing, take appropriate cleaning and protective measures to maintain gloss and prevent oxidation of the aluminum surface.

  • Clean the polished aluminum surface with water and a clean, soft cloth to remove any residues from the polishing process.
  • Apply a transparent clear lacquer or wax suitable for metal surfaces to delay oxidation.

Throughout the process, be careful when using tools and chemicals, and follow safe operating procedures, including wearing appropriate protective equipment.

What are different ways to polish aluminum?

Polishing aluminum is actually a combination of art and technology, requiring intricate craftsmanship and patience. Depending on the specific requirements, there are various methods for treating the surface of aluminum profiles. Here are several of them:

polish aluminum

1.Mechanical polishing

The aluminum shell surface is processed using a polishing wheel coated with polishing wax. This helps reduce surface roughness, making it smooth with a glossy or mirror-like finish. It can effectively repair scratches and scrapes on the aluminum shell surface.

2.Electrolytic polishing

In electrolytic polishing, chemical reactions occur as aluminum is electrolytically polished as the anode, immersed in an electrolytic bath with a non-soluble metal as the cathode. This process dissolves the anodized aluminum, removing the oxidized layer from the aluminum profile and restoring its shine.

3.Chemical polishing

Chemical polishing serves as a pre-treatment process for protective decorative electroplating or chemical film formation, such as phosphating. Immersing the aluminum profile in a solution of rust-proofing and passivation water before painting can eliminate the aluminum oxide on the surface.

Even though aluminum alloy workpieces achieve a bright surface after mechanical polishing, directly subjecting them to anodizing only results in a smooth surface without obtaining a highly reflective coating. Therefore, after mechanical polishing, the workpieces must undergo chemical polishing or electro-polishing. This additional step is essential to remove the crystalline deformation layer formed during mechanical polishing, thus obtaining a bright and refined surface.

Chemical polishing is accomplished by utilizing polishing solutions, where the formation and dissolution rates of the film on the microscopically uneven surface of the workpiece differ. The chemical polishing of aluminum alloys can be categorized into acidic polishing and alkaline polishing.

4.Ultrasonic polishing

Ultrasonic polishing involves using the cross-section of a tool to create ultrasonic vibrations. This method utilizes abrasive suspension fluid to polish brittle and hard materials. Placing the workpiece in the abrasive suspension fluid within an ultrasonic field allows the abrasives to polish and grind the workpiece surface.

5.Surface polishing

Surface polishing is the simplest aluminum polishing method, allowing for a quick improvement in surface smoothness at a relatively low cost. Start by cleaning the material surface with a high-pressure water gun to remove stains and oil. Then, apply polishing paste evenly on the aluminum surface, massaging it gently with fingers for better penetration. Finally, wipe off the polishing paste with a polishing cloth and gently polish the surface.

Polishing aluminum requires attention to detail and the right technique, and each method serves specific purposes in enhancing the appearance and performance of aluminum profiles.

The best tools for polishing aluminum

Here are some commonly used polishing aluminum tools:

  1. Polishing machine
  2. Polishing wheel
  3. Sandpaper (various grits)
  4. Polishing compound
  5. Polishing cloth
  6. Electrolytic polishing equipment
  7. Chemical polishing agent
  8. Ultrasonic polishing equipment
  9. Fluid polishing equipment
  10. Magnetic abrasive polishing equipment

What are the advantages of polishing aluminum?

The advantages of polishing aluminum mainly include the following points:

Enhanced Aesthetic Appeal: Polishing aluminum creates a smooth and even surface, increasing its glossiness and enhancing overall aesthetic appeal, giving it a more refined look.

Improved Corrosion Resistance: The polishing process removes oxidation layers and other impurities, reducing aluminum’s susceptibility to corrosion and enhancing its corrosion resistance, particularly suitable for outdoor environments.

Enhanced Reflective Properties: The polished surface of aluminum exhibits improved reflective properties, making it more effective for optical and lighting applications, such as manufacturing reflective devices and mirrors.

Increased Thermal Conductivity: Polishing contributes to a smoother aluminum surface, improving its thermal conductivity. This is advantageous for applications requiring effective heat dissipation, such as electronic device heat sinks.

Easy Cleaning and Maintenance: The polished surface is easier to clean, and the addition of transparent varnish or wax during the final polishing stage facilitates maintenance, delaying oxidation.

However, polished aluminum also has some drawbacks:

High Time and Labor Costs: Polishing is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, especially for large or intricately shaped aluminum products, which may require a significant investment of time and manpower.

Surface Susceptible to Scratching: The polished surface is relatively soft and prone to scratches and abrasions. Careful handling is necessary to avoid damage during use and maintenance.

Requires Regular Maintenance: To preserve the polished appearance and delay oxidation, regularly scheduled maintenance is necessary, such as reapplying varnish or wax. This may entail additional maintenance costs.

High Skill Level Required: Achieving satisfactory polishing results demands a certain level of skill and experience. Beginners may face a learning curve to master the techniques involved.


Ultimately, the decision to polish aluminum should be guided by specific application requirements, aesthetic preferences, and the willingness to invest in both the initial polishing process and subsequent maintenance. When approached thoughtfully, polishing can significantly elevate the appearance and performance of aluminum, providing a visually appealing and durable finish.

In the polishing process, in addition to aluminum, copper, 410 stainless steel, and other materials can also use polishing technology. Copper material can be polished to achieve a bright surface effect similar to aluminum. The polished copper material is often used to make decorations, household items, crafts, sculptures, copper nails and so on.


Will aluminum oxidize after polishing?

In the atmosphere, aluminum metal exists in the passivation zone, forming a very thin oxide film on the surface. This oxide film acts as a barrier, preventing further contact between aluminum and the surrounding environment. The thickness of the oxide film increases with time exposed to the atmosphere, and it can reach up to 200nm. The ultimate thickness of the naturally formed oxide film within one day at room temperature is approximately 2-3nm, and after a few days in a dry atmosphere, it may reach around 10nm. The thickness of the oxide film is influenced by factors such as the alloy composition, environmental conditions, temperature, and more.
In natural atmospheric conditions, aluminum alloys will undergo oxidation. However, the naturally formed oxide film has an ultimate thickness in the nanometer range, making it practically imperceptible to the naked eye.

What is the best thing to polish aluminum?

One commonly used material for polishing aluminum is a dedicated aluminum polishing compound, formulated to effectively enhance shine. Additionally, abrasive materials like sandpaper or emery cloth may be employed for hand polishing or initial mechanical polishing. Polishing wheels, such as felt or buffing wheels, can be utilized with polishing machines to achieve a glossy surface.
Power tools, including electric polishers or rotary tools with polishing attachments, can expedite the polishing process, especially for larger surfaces. Prior to polishing, it is essential to use mild cleaners to remove any dirt or grease from the aluminum surface.
To protect the polished surface and delay oxidation, applying a clear lacquer or wax is recommended. Microfiber cloths and specialized polishing cloths play a crucial role in the final stages of polishing, ensuring a clean and polished finish.

How do you polish aluminum to a mirror finish?

To achieve a mirror finish on aluminum, start by thoroughly cleaning the surface. Use progressively finer sandpaper to eliminate imperfections and scratches. Apply a specialized aluminum polishing compound in circular motions, buffing with a polishing wheel. For a mirror-like finish, use a fine polishing compound, clean the surface, and apply a protective layer like clear lacquer or wax. This concise process ensures a brilliantly reflective aluminum surface.

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