Cleaning Aluminium Surfaces

Cleaning Aluminium

Aluminium is a proven construction material for buildings, vehicles, appliances and products, both as a framing and cladding material. In the building industry, it is by far the most common material used for window and door joinery, curtain walls and shop fronts. It is widely used in every aspect of the transport, leisure, boating and household appliance industries .Its selection is based on many criteria – one being its ease of fabrication to provide visual appeal and easy maintenance.

Aluminium has a natural beauty and lustre of its own, yet its surface can be treated in various ways to protect and enhance its appearance, which can be maintained with regular, low maintenance attention.

The surface of fabricated aluminium, whether untreated, anodised or coated can be spoiled by improper care. Here we briefly summarise the methods of maintaining aluminium the good appearance of aluminium surfaces after installation. Usually this care is no more than periodic cleaning, as in e.g. window glass. Anodising treatment will substantially enhance appearance, render the surface more resistant to various forms of attack and facilitate cleaning and maintenance.

The Architectural Aluminium Fabricators' Association of New Zealand has published a guide which deals with all aspects of design and use, care and maintenance. Here we only briefly highlight the cleaning aspect since it applies to so many users of architectural aluminium products.

Grime which causes deterioration cannot be prevented from settling on exposed surfaces. If cleaned reasonably frequently then the mildest methods of washing will produce satisfactory results. There are many ways to clean aluminium, from using plain water to harsh abrasives. The type of cleaning that should be used is governed by the finish, degree of soiling, and the size, shape and location of the surface to be cleaned. The mildest method possible should be used, particularly for aluminium which has been anodised.

With anodised aluminium, surface deterioration occurs as a result of grime deposition and contaminated moisture attack. in coastal environments it is caused by airborne chlorides, in industrial or urban environments by sulphur compounds. Grime deposits absorb contaminated moisture like a sponge, assisting attack on the film, which cannot be restored without removal. Cleaning frequency depends on accessibility and environmental severity. In rural areas, cleaning may be needed only every six months. In industrial and marine environments, cleaning is recommended at least every three months, preferably monthly.

Cleaning Materials

The following cleaning materials and procedures are listed in order of mild to harsh. The mildest treatment should be tried on a small area and if not satisfactory only then should the next be examined.

  1. Plain water
  2. Water with mild soap or detergent
  3. Solvents, e.g. kerosene, turpentine, white spirit
  4. Non-etching chemical cleaner
  5. Wax-base polish
  6. Abrasive wax
  7. Abrasives

After applying the cleaning agents, the surface should be washed down thoroughly and dried with a clean cloth to prevent streaking. There should be no concentration of cleaning agents at the bottom edges of the aluminium. If using proprietary cleaning solutions the maker's recommendation should be obtained and followed carefully.

If abrasives are used then the appearance of the aluminium finish may be altered. If there is a grain in the finish then cleaning should always be with the grain. If the condition of the surface indicates the use of abrasive or etching materials, it is advisable to consult a cleaning specialist. If all other methods fail it may be necessary to resort to heavy-duty cleaning. This involves cleaning methods using strong etching chemicals or coarser abrasives.

Article courtesy of our supplier Ullrich Aluminium.