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Using Acid for Cleaning Aluminum

G.K. Bayne

Using acid to clean aluminum is a fast way to remove heavy stains or prep the surface to hold paint. There are many products on the market for this purpose; although they may contain different ingredients, the basic process is the same.

  1. Place all of the appropriate safety gear on your body; acid is a corrosive, and can burn any exposed skin. You may also want to wear old clothing, as acid can damage and eat holes in it as well. Place the aluminum you are cleaning on a solid surface, such as concrete or asphalt. Acid will kill any vegetation.

  2. Thoroughly wash down the aluminum and the surrounding ground area with water. The water will help dissipate the cleaning acid over the aluminum and weaken the strength of the acid when it hits the ground.

  3. Pour the acid-cleaning solution into the pressurized applicator (as per the manufacturer's mixing instructions) and pump up the sprayer. Apply the acid liberally to the surface of the aluminum and allow it to set for a few minutes. Do not allow the acid to dry on the surface, as this may cause a white stain that will be even more difficult to remove.

  4. Use the green scrub pads to work the acid into and over the surface of the aluminum. Rinse with the water, reapply the acid and scrub again. The acid will remove all oil and stains, with a little help from your own elbow grease.

  5. Flush the surface with clean water when finished. Allow the aluminum to air-dry only, as using a cloth may reintroduce contaminants onto the newly cleaned aluminum surface.

  6. Tip

    Acid should only be used to clean plain aluminum surfaces. Never attempt to clean a painted surface or one that is covered in decals. The acid will remove the paint or the adhesive that is holding the decals to the aluminum surface.


    Follow the manufacturer's directions to dispose of all acid products.