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Cleaning a crust off of polished aluminum that looks like salt


Q. I have polished aluminum rims with no clearcoat. There is a white crusty stuff which I believe is salt developing on the aluminum. I drove one time after they salted the roads for snow. I used a metal cleaner and an abrasive sponge which did take some but not all of it off. This took hours per rim. Is there a stronger metal cleaner I can use or do you have any other recommendations?

Jevan Fazekas
- Easton, Pennsylvania, USA


A. You are not going to like this, Jevan, but it's not salt. Aluminum will pit and corrode with salt-like corrosion products. Polished aluminum has no corrosion resistance since aluminum is a very active metal. It must be either anodized or clear coated or it will corrode like this.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 11, 2012

Q. A reader ask about cleaning the crusty deposits off aluminium wheels. Response was it is an oxide. Okay I get that; now I want to know how best to clean it off and stop the action.

Bill Shimer
- Deerfield, Illinois, USA

April 12, 2012

A. Hi, Bill.

Yes, you are right that it is an oxide. The point, which I can't be sure whether you got or not, is that it's not some deposit "on" the wheel, but a deposit formed "from" the material of the wheel. The aluminum itself is damaged; in the spots and pits, small amounts of it are gone.

Other readers may have tips, but I think what you need to do is mechanically polish the deposits away (the crustiness is probably "volcanic" eruptions around each pit) or the whole wheel, then paint them with a corrosion retarding paint. After polishing them you could just clearcoat them, but that doesn't offer much corrosion resistance, so you probably would be in the same spot again rather soon.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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