Author Topic: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum  (Read 522 times)

Online SIR REAL ED

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preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« on: April 09, 2021, 08:53:50 PM »
I have heard of people using Aluminum Wheel cleaner, low concentrations of Muriatic acid and water.....

I would appreciate hearing about chemical and techniques that have worked well for others.

And a similar request, what are the preferred solutions for Ultra Sonic Cleaners.

Simple Green, Pine Sol, Krud Cutter, Greased Lightening, all diluted with water...

Thanks in advance!
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Offline SED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2021, 11:25:42 PM »
Don't have a sonicator, but maybe my other experiences are helpful.

I've been using Simple Green and Krud Kutter as degreasers for a couple years and they seem to be the same surfactant-detergent idea, but Krud Kutter works about twice as fast. (you can check the MDS sheets for the basic formulae) I just use them undiluted - no water.  They work a lot faster when warm.  Eagle1 aluminum wheel cleaner (orange bottle) is similar, but about 2x expensive.  Don't mix metals for more than 20-30 minutes or you will start  etching the aluminum and anodizing other parts.  Avoid parts sitting in a stainless steel pot or sonicator tub because the stainless will cause etching too.  I use plastic wash basins.

There are 2 problems with acid based cleaners so I think they are really risky.  Vinegar, muriatic acid and hydrofluoric acid (HF - sold as cast wheel cleaner - Eagle1 silver bottle) are most common.  Muriatic acid (HCl) and HF work by etching the surface of the aluminum. Dirt then sticks to the rough surface easier unless you polish it or coat the parts with something.  Another problem is acids will start mobilizing the metals and start anodizing much more quickly than the surfactant-detergent cleaners - even if all the parts are "aluminum".  Acids quickly mobilize any zinc in aluminum alloys.  The aluminum brightens, but the zinc turns black. 

For example I soaked the heads and valve covers of my '83 LM in Krud Kutter and was not getting out all the dirt so sprayed them down with Eagle1 cast aluminum wheel cleaner and scrubbed.  The heads brightened up quickly, but the valve covers, especially the left, developed dark gray splotches.  This was the same as the zinc plugs for my Ariel - zinc turns dark gray.  You can polish it brighter, but the zinc will always be darker.  I was pleased that the LM heads seemed to be high quality aluminum, but was disappointed that the valve covers were not!
Hope this helps!
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Online Perazzimx14

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2021, 05:25:36 AM »
What are you cleaning? Things like carbs are alloy and while a ultrasonic cleaner speeds up the process there is nothgin better than a 12/24 hour soak in PineSol for cleaning up old gas stained varnished carbs.

Acids like aluminum wheel cleaner or muriatic acid will etch the finish so if you want the final product to be a shiny polished aluminum finish these are not what you want to go to. They will make the surface dull but clean.

Simple Green IMHO is just not worth the bottle it comes in. I have never expierence the de-greasing, cleaning or magic that so many others have.  For degreasing I have found nothing better than Purple Power diluted to match the task at hand. Purple Power is a base and makes grease its bitch.

Offline Chuck in Indiana

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2021, 07:45:29 AM »
^^^^ Purple Power *is* an awesome degreaser.. comma but. I did some tests while rebuilding the Lario, and it will attack paint if left on long enough. A short time was fine. I tried it in my aircraft degreasing gun, and stopped that immediately. From memory, :rolleyes:  it was caustic.
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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2021, 07:45:29 AM »

Offline larrys

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2021, 08:00:47 AM »
Any cleaner with TSP in it has the potential to turn aluminum dark gray. In 1982 I passed on a '81 SP that had been washed with a heavy TSP solution. The paint had been ruined, the bike painted an ugly gold/black two tone, and all the aluminum was dark, splotchy gray. It was sad to see.
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Online SIR REAL ED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2021, 02:23:33 PM »
excellent information.  Thank you everyone!

I'm asking for general information.  Some carb cleaning, some parts to just plain clean.  Some parts to clean and prep for painting.
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Offline dguzzi

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2021, 02:36:29 PM »
There is a NAPA product called "Aluminum Brightener" I have some but not yet tried it. This thread has nice info, now we know what to watch out for!
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Online Moparnut72

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2021, 08:49:46 PM »
There is a NAPA product called "Aluminum Brightener" I have some but not yet tried it. This thread has nice info, now we know what to watch out for!
That is diluted muriatic acid. It doesn't leave a bright finish but it does clean up oxidation. Try it on a hidden area first.
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Offline SED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2021, 09:38:42 PM »
Given the length of my post it seems crazy to add anything, but...

I said the acids would darken the zinc (and aluminum-zinc alloys), but Krud Kutter and the like also darkens aluminum-zinc, it just takes longer.

In general the acids etch the metal to get below the dirt whereas the bases (detergents combined with surfactants like KrudK) turn the grease to soap so dirt rinses out.  Both will etch the aluminum and darken zinc especially when other metals are present (sacrificial anode).  The wild card is that aluminum is commonly alloyed with zinc which seems to darken and soften the alloy - picture old Amal carbs.  Zinc is bad - see zinc pest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_pest 

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Offline LesP

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2021, 12:54:29 AM »
I have a 30 litre (iirc) ultra sonic cleaner but as far as aluminium cleaner I have only used DuraGloss 851 / 853 to date.

You have to be very careful on the material, spray it on the likes of Norton Commando engine cases and there is no problem do the same on a Moto Guzzi case and it will turn them gray very quickly.

This is DuraGloss diluted 50/50) , sprayed on and rinsed off as soon as white foam is seen (done 3 x)
These PHF's had sat unused since the late 1980s (replaced with 40's,PHM's) and were looking fairly tardy but not oxidised.






 
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Offline LesP

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2021, 01:01:44 AM »
After making sure they are washed to remove any traces of the DuraGloss they were brushed (wood handle brass bristle brush) then washed in kerosene.
They look better in real life and the bowls are 'shinier but were not touched with polish.
All parts around them are vapour blasted with the exception of the Gilardoni cylinders.

I buy the brushes in three's or more.
Something like these and work on near everything.

https://www.amazon.com.au/MAXMAN-Brass-Brush-Handle-Bristle/dp/B07RXV2ZTD
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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2021, 08:16:08 AM »
Given the length of my post it seems crazy to add anything, but...

I said the acids would darken the zinc (and aluminum-zinc alloys), but Krud Kutter and the like also darkens aluminum-zinc, it just takes longer.

In general the acids etch the metal to get below the dirt whereas the bases (detergents combined with surfactants like KrudK) turn the grease to soap so dirt rinses out.  Both will etch the aluminum and darken zinc especially when other metals are present (sacrificial anode).  The wild card is that aluminum is commonly alloyed with zinc which seems to darken and soften the alloy - picture old Amal carbs.  Zinc is bad - see zinc pest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_pest

I have noticed the graying of Aluminum coming out of the Ultrasonic cleaner with Simple Green solution.  As you stated, it is not consistent.

Keep adding.  More information is always better!!!

Even though we all know people who are exceptions to the rule.  Dusty in the case of cable lubricants for example........
Not you in this case.

As a friend likes to say "I was listening right up to the point where he said more than he knew!"
« Last Edit: April 11, 2021, 08:18:03 AM by SIR REAL ED »
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Online SIR REAL ED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2021, 08:23:07 AM »
I have a 30 litre (iirc) ultra sonic cleaner but as far as aluminium cleaner I have only used DuraGloss 851 / 853 to date.

You have to be very careful on the material, spray it on the likes of Norton Commando engine cases and there is no problem do the same on a Moto Guzzi case and it will turn them gray very quickly.

This is DuraGloss diluted 50/50) , sprayed on and rinsed off as soon as white foam is seen (done 3 x)
These PHF's had sat unused since the late 1980s (replaced with 40's,PHM's) and were looking fairly tardy but not oxidised.







Nice work!  Thanks for sharing.  Is the airbus missing in the photo, or do you have a custom air filter setup?
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Offline PeteS

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2021, 08:33:00 AM »
For cast aluminum like engine cases and heads I just use Eagle One etching mag wheel cleaner. Already has an acid mixed in so you don't have mess with mixing yourself. Spray it on a cold surface and rinse off after about a minute. Don't use on polished aluminum.
I have an ultrasonic cleaner but agree soaking in a carb cleaner linke the old Gunk is a better option.

Pete

Offline pete mcgee

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2021, 04:07:44 PM »
Well now youve done it, this has as many answers as an "oil thread".
Acids etch, period. And they have their uses.
Simple green, the green one will corrode aluminium if left on there, how well it cleans depends on what you want to remove.
Simple Green Extreme Aircraft Precision Cleaner on the other hand is possibly the best cleaner I have ever used, removes grease, oil, soot, reverted aircraft sealeant, smashed dried on bird etc. Not corrosive works in ultrasonic cleaners and parts cleaners.
What are you cleaning, whats it made of, what are you trying to remove and what surface finish on the part being cleaned do you want to maintain.
Autosol and elbow grease are the go to for shiny bits you want to keep shiny.
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Offline LesP

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2021, 05:06:41 PM »
Nice work!  Thanks for sharing.  Is the airbus missing in the photo, or do you have a custom air filter setup?

It has the stock 'Loop air box and rubber boot which match up like stock.
The carburetors are vertical and do not hit the gearbox (I machined the manifold gaskets so they were wedge shaped and swung the manifolds/PHF's outward a little away from the gear box to gain clearance)
The stock air box did need to be moved rearward by 6 mm but looks near factory (The machined adapters (PHF to rubber boot) got a wrap of black electrical tape to hide them a little)
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Online SIR REAL ED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2021, 07:41:07 PM »
It has the stock 'Loop air box and rubber boot which match up like stock.
The carburetors are vertical and do not hit the gearbox (I machined the manifold gaskets so they were wedge shaped and swung the manifolds/PHF's outward a little away from the gear box to gain clearance)
The stock air box did need to be moved rearward by 6 mm but looks near factory (The machined adapters (PHF to rubber boot) got a wrap of black electrical tape to hide them a little)

Slick.  Thanks.  Tough to read very much at this site without learning something useful.

Like Dusty swings a broadsword like King Arthur himself!!   :wink:
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Online SIR REAL ED

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2021, 07:44:36 PM »
Well now youve done it, this has as many answers as an "oil thread".
.....


I take that as High Praise indeed!

Very few humans contribute more to the betterment of humanity than the one's who start an "oil thread" on the internet!
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Online jrt

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Re: preferred chemicals for cleaning aluminum
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2021, 10:51:53 PM »
It has the stock 'Loop air box and rubber boot which match up like stock.
The carburetors are vertical and do not hit the gearbox (I machined the manifold gaskets so they were wedge shaped and swung the manifolds/PHF's outward a little away from the gear box to gain clearance)
The stock air box did need to be moved rearward by 6 mm but looks near factory (The machined adapters (PHF to rubber boot) got a wrap of black electrical tape to hide them a little)
F'ing brilliant.  Good idea- I might have to do that!
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