Beginners Guide to Aluminum Polishing

Beginners Guide to Aluminum Polishing

Are you wondering on how to make aluminum shine like chrome? Keep reading this article to learn secrets to polishing.

How To Polish Aluminium To Mirror Finish

Aluminum is a comparatively soft and easy-to-machine metal. It is because of this reason that polishing aluminum to mirror finish is an easy operation.

Aluminum Mirror Polishing Process Overview
Aluminum Mirror Polishing Process Overview

Let’s look at the 3 main steps of how to polish aluminum to look like chrome:

STEP 1: Cleaning Aluminum

The first thing to do before starting aluminum polishing process is cleaning the material surface. Make sure that you eliminate any dirt, oil, paint, grime or any foreign substances from the aluminum surface. This is crucial since these substances presence can affect the outcome of the subsequent steps and result in poor aluminum polish.

Clean the whole aluminum surface with a wet sponge or rag and cleaning solution. Ensure that you remove any dust, dirt, grime, rust, or any debris.

For small aluminum polishing projects, you can do the cleaning using ordinary soap or a blend of vinegar and water. Most larger or industrial polishing of aluminum use commercial cleaners.

You may need a strong paint thinner or degreaser if grease or oil has accumulated on the material surface. In case of difficulties in cleaning, remove the accumulated substances using steel wire brush. Do not utilize carbon steel since it can lead to after-rust.

After cleaning, wipe and dry the material surface before moving to the next step of polishing aluminum metal.

Aluminium Mirror Polish Overview
Aluminium Mirror Polish Overview

STEP 2: Sanding Aluminum

Sanding is important during polishing aluminum to mirror finish. To achieve the best outcome, most of the polishing operation should focus on aluminum sanding.

Similar to most sanding works, you will need to begin with the lowest grit (coarse) to the highest grit (ultra-fine) sandpaper. Perform the aluminum sanding process until you eliminate the deepest gouges or scratches.

For best aluminum polishing, you should avoid using lower than 320 grit sandpaper. Nonetheless, you may use lower grit sandpaper for polishing aluminum if you need to remove deep gouges. But, refrain from going lower than 180 grit when polishing aluminum with sandpaper.

Most experts recommend moving from 320 grit sandpaper, to 400, and finalizing with 600 grit. Sometimes, detail oriented aluminum polishing may go up to 1500 grit.

Hand polishing aluminum with sandpaper and small amount of elbow grease is possible for smaller metal pieces. However, for bigger aluminum sanding projects, you need to utilize a power tool with an abrasive.

The best alternative for fastening the sanding aluminum process is using an orbital sander having PSA discs. Similarly, you can use an angle grinder having a grinding flap disc. Do not use aluminum oxide material for grinding or sanding aluminum.

STEP 3: Buffing ALuminum

Aluminum buffing should be relatively easy operation if you did proper wet sanding aluminum.

Small Scale Aluminum Buffing

For small scale aluminum polishing, all you will require is an aluminum polish and a clean cloth. Begin by applying a little of your best aluminum polish on the metal surface.

Employing small, circular motions, continue smearing the polish into the surface. Using the clean cloth, wipe out all the polish. With another clean cloth and applying the same procedure, buff the aluminum surface again.

Large Scale Aluminum Buffing

For large scale aluminum polishing processes, you can utilize an angle grinder fitted with traditional muslin or airway buffing wheel. Begin by fitting the coarsest abrasive to the stiffest buffing wheel. It is advisable to use buffing compound bars in aluminum polishing process.

Working in portions, buff the whole aluminum surface, applying additional polish compound as need be. When done, totally wipe out all residue and replace the buffing wheel.

Similar to sanding aluminum by hand, you will need to begin with the lowest grit as you move up to highest abrasive grit.

When using compound bars, begin with grey buffing compound bar. Then move to brown tripoli abrasive compound, and finalize with white rouge. With this, you be able to polish aluminum for mirror finish.

But, you can close the polishing process with green rouge compound bar in order to achieve the best aluminum polish. For convenience and efficiency, use pre-made aluminum polishing kits having the right compound bars and airway buffs included.

Ensure to always utilize a separate buffing wheel with every abrasive compound. Combining the compounds on the wheel beats the effect of going down to finer abrasive with every step. Nevertheless, it is allowable to reutilize buffing wheel provided you apply similar compound on it always.

After finishing the final buffing step, perform one ultimate wipe-down using a clean cloth to make the aluminum look like chrome.

3 Ways Of How To Polish Aluminum To Mirror Finish

Here are the 3 ways you can make aluminum shine like chrome:

Hand Polishing Aluminum

Often, use the best aluminum hand polish and a microfiber applicator to achieve a mirror finish. Polishing aluminum by hand is ideal when the surface is dull but has negligible rust, oxidation, pitting and burns. This aluminum polishing technique is perfect for rounded/smooth surfaces or for maintenance.

Hand Polishing Aluminum
Hand Polishing Aluminum

Dual Action Polishing of Aluminum

This polishing method involves utilizing a dual action polisher together with a foam pad or microfiber pad and a little metal polish. It is ideal for smooth, flat aluminum surfaces that are free of rust, oxidation, pitting or burns.

Aluminum polishing employing dual-action polisher is a perfect technique that is fast and efficient if you have the right equipment.

Rotary Polishing

Rotary polishing is among the most efficient ways of how to polish aluminum for mirror finish. With this technique, you can employ polishing wheels or sanding wheels to totally restore burned, pitted, rusted and oxidized aluminum to shine like chrome. We highly prefer a variable speed grinder fitted with airway buffing wheels when applying this aluminum polishing technique.

Rotary and Dual Action Polishing Patterns Respectively
Rotary and Dual Action Polishing Patterns Respectively


We provide a broad range of options for polishing aluminum. Contact us today if you still undecided or unsure of the way forward for your aluminum polishing project – we have the solution.

More Resources:

Metal Surface Treatments – Source: KDMFAB

How to Polish Aluminum – Source: Travers

Aluminum Polishing Guide – Source: Empire Services

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