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topic 25376

Cleaning a building's 50 year old aluminum window frames

A discussion started in 2003 & continuing through 2017 . . .


Q. My friend is moving into a new/old building that has aluminum windows...deeply oxidized, stained with dirt that is over fifty years old. She has tried various remedies to clean up the windows and steel wool only gets her half the distance. The desired product would be something that, when applied, will clean up the "fine" dirt with removing tarnish from silver. Is there a substance that has a molecular make-up, or anything else for that matter, that will turn this job into a "wipe and clean" from an overly rigorous exercise?

Thank you kindly,

Thomas Closz
home owner - Chicago, Illinois


A. I've tried two different brands of 'aluminum cleaner' myself and found them to be the next best thing to useless. I have heard that 'aircraft remover [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]' is what you are looking for, but I haven't used it myself and it is noxious stuff: use outdoors only, upwind, wearing protective gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and goggles [linked by editor to product info at Amazon].

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Try this mixture:

10-40 gm sodium carbonate [washing soda]
5-10 gm Waterglass [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]
1 lit water,temp. 80 °C

Only for well degreased objects (petroleum or benzene or Acetone [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] ).Use rubber gloves. Rinse well.

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia


A. Try SOS Pads [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Not Brillo. They're messy but they do the trick and shine the aluminum as well.

Sara Smiley
hotel industry - Key West, Florida


A. I just tried using WD-40 [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] on my dark brown oxidized aluminum window frames & it improved their appearance quite a bit. Worth a try!

Sherrye Anderson
- San Diego, California

July 29, 2009

A. I finally found the way to clean it and I am very happy.

Tools: large and small slot screw driver, sanding block, spray bottle, old tooth brush, used cotton underwear, paper towel.

1. Remove any moving part and clean them with soap water separately. The latch, screen holder and turn handle can all be removed by loosening the screws. Get new screws from hardware store (cost $5.00 for a 100, two types of screws are needed, a long one and a short one). If you gonna spend the effort to clean them, you may as well enjoy the new screws to make it worthwhile. The handle is a little tricky, study the underside of the window to see how to dislodge it. Once you dislodge one, everything else is easy. Aluminum windows are very sturdy, it is not likely you break any parts by cleaning. Lightly pry open the slot by 1/32 inch to remove the handle, it will budge but it does not break.

2. brush away dirt, spray soap water (laundry detergent will do) and clean with wet cleaning pad (must have some scratchy surface, not just sponge. Too much water will get very messy to deal with. Wipe dry any excess water when it starts dripping ).

3. Spray soap water again and sand with a sanding block lightly (wearing rubber gloves). Wipe away dirty water to see whether more sanding is needed. When the sand block gets smooth, restore it by washing it in the water. You can get sand block from home depot which is sand surface coated on a piece of hard sponge.

4. Tiny corners can be cleaned with cloth wrapped around a screwdriver.

This will get aluminum window back to its wonderful "like new" state. I have been wondering how to do it for 8 years. I finally got it last week.

ben tsao
- palo alto, california

September 24, 2011

A. I am using a product called Autosol [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] which is taking all the oxidization off my 1957 aluminum frame windows - :)

Millie Barnes
- Los Angeles, California, USA

June 5, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am trying to fix up the exterior of a small, freestanding building. The windows are large with aluminum mullions that have "oxidized" from the salt air. They are in decent conditions. I just want to remove the oxidation and leave it unpainted. I'm trying to find out what is the overall best process to do this including what product(s) I should use? Any suggestions would be helpful.

Best regards,


Jeff Abramson
- Encinitas, California, USA

Naval Jelly

July 1, 2016

A. Naval Jelly

Sherlene Mats
- webster, Texas, usa

September 9, 2016

A. The best thing to use on aluminum window frames is Mothers Cleaner and Polish. Did one side of my VW bus and they're starting to look like Chrome. Wipe it on and wipe slowly back and forth will start to see back the Polish. Wipe off with a soft cloth and repeat it until Thursday if you want. Just did it tonight; starting to look like Chrome. Use a small buffer in between cleanings. Hope this helps

Jamed Larson
- Deklab Illinois

Aircraft Stripper

November 22, 2016

A. Navel jelly is not supposed to be used on aluminium, read the label. Using any abrasive will leave scratches on the metal. I have used steel wool and Murphy's Oil Soap [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] with good results; however, have not found a good wipe-off chemical solution. Looking into aircraft cleaner next. This is not a cleaner that will be available at big box stores. You will need to look into commercial cleaners.

Erin Schmorleitz
- San Diego, California

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