One of aluminum's most desirable attributes is its natural resistance to corrosion. When the bare metal is exposed to air, it readily combines with oxygen to form a tough, transparent, protective oxide coating. This oxide layer allows aluminum products to perform virtually "maintenance-free" in a wide variety of environments.
Aluminum can also be treated or "finished" in many ways. Painting, anodizing and plating with other metals can provide a variety of surface appearances and provide further protection to the base metal.
Apart from the purely aesthetic reasons for keeping aluminum surfaces clean, there are also practical reasons as well. In certain aggressive environments, especially those containing salt, excessive surface oxidation and pitting can occur. These can shorten service life of the aluminum by reducing its strength and promoting fatigue failures.
All the finishes, including the non-finished or bare, may be kept clean and bright with mild soap and water alone. However, if cleaning has been postponed for too long, and the dirt is especially tenacious, a more aggressive cleaner and cleaning technique may be required.
This publication will provide insight into the proper methods and materials to be used to maintain the various finishes of aluminum products - from architectural to transportation, from industrial to home and recreational products. Sections include:
• tips to help identify surface finishes
• properties of various types of cleaners
• step-by-step care and cleaning procedures for a variety of aluminum products
• proper handling and storage techniques for aluminum products
• a comprehensive list of commercially available cleaning products and their producers
Aluminum is available commercially in at least seven different finishes, each with its own characteristics. Aluminum care and cleaning programs must, therefore, be tailored to the metal's finish as well as to the needs and conditions of service.