The Best Practices To Clean And Polish 6061 Aluminum

If you own a construction business, then you likely use a wide variety of materials during the construction process. If you have recently decided to start using aluminum, then 6061 aluminum pieces are a good choice if you want strong and lightweight constructions. You may not be familiar with the material, so you should understand that you need to clean and polish the aluminum properly. Keep reading to find out more information about the proper cleaning and polishing methods you should use.

Cleaning Before Welding

If you commonly weld pieces of metal together during the construction process, then you likely already know that your metal pieces need to be as clean as possible to ensure a strong and high quality weld. If you are used to welding steel pieces together though, then you probably use soap alone to do the cleaning to remove debris. Aluminum requires the use of a cleaning agent as well a material that will remove oxidation. This helps to remove any rust that has formed on the surface of the aluminum.

Clean the Aluminum

One of the best ways to clean your aluminum metal pieces is to start with a degreaser. This will break down any motor oil, grease, or body oils that have come into contact with the metal. Commercial acetone or nail polish remover can remove the grease and so can an environmentally friendly citrus or pine degreaser product. Use a clean cloth to apply the acetone or use a soft-bristled scrub brush to clean with the degreaser. Make sure to rinse your aluminum pieces afterwards to make sure all grease is released from the metal.

Once you use the degreaser, use a mild soap to make sure that leftover debris and degreaser deposits are released from the aluminum. Dish soap is one of the most gentle cleaners you can use, so use a sponge or brush against the aluminum when you are finished degreasing the metal.

Release Oxidation

After you clean the aluminum, make sure to remove oxidation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to gently scrape the outer surface of the aluminum to make sure that rust particles are released. You can do this with a steel wire brush that is designed to clean both metal and wood materials. Move the brush across the surface of your metal until you see a slight texture across the surface. 

If you do not want to scratch the surface of the aluminum, then you can use a strong acid solution that contains either sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid. Always wear gloves when working with acid and make sure to rinse your aluminum pieces when you are done releasing the oxidation. After you  thoroughly clean the aluminum, make sure to use a cloth to dry it. This will help to keep new oxidation from forming.

Polishing After Construction

After you are finished welding and constructing with the aluminum, make sure to polish the pieces completely to make sure they appear as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Inspect the entire surface of the aluminum first to see if there are any scratches or indentations left behind during the machining or construction process. If you see scratches, then run a piece of medium grit sandpaper over the metal. A piece of 220 grit sandpaper will work well for this. Remove any scratches left behind by the sandpaper by using a piece of 1,000 or 2,000 grit sandpaper over the aluminum afterwards.

Once the aluminum appears smooth, use aluminum polish to give the metal a shiny and finished look. Place a dab of the polish on a microfiber cloth and move the polish around in a circular fashion across the aluminum surface. Use water to rinse the aluminum afterwards and dry it completely with a clean microfiber cloth.

If you start using 6061 aluminum for construction projects, then you need to make that you both clean and polish the metal properly. Follow the instructions above to do this so that welds are strong and the completed project appears smooth and shiny.