When choosing a finish for your aluminum storefront, anodizing stands out because it involves adding a coating that forms from the very metal itself. This durable finish looks great for years but does eventually need cleaning and care. Buff, seal, and restore your anodized aluminum the right way to keep your storefront looking great for another few decades.
Use the Right Abrasives
Always start with a simple sponge and some dish soap to see if you can remove dirt and stains. Of course, this technique only works for lightly soiled storefronts. Get to work on tougher stucco deposits or bird droppings with safe abrasives like:
- Non-scratching powder cleaning products designed for bathtubs, sinks, and other coated metal surfaces
- Scrubbing pads made from aluminum wire or nylon
- Brushes with aluminum or natural fiber bristles
Keep the surface wet as you work and go lightly with the abrasive cleaners to avoid scratching that lets corrosion develop under the anodized layer.
Paint thinner, mineral spirits, and other strong solvents strip the anodized coating right off the metal along with the dirt or corrosion you want to remove. Stick with mild soaps and detergents that are safe for using with bare skin to prevent damage to the coating below. However, you may have to resort to using a solvent like mineral spirits if there are water-resistant spots of oil or wax that resist the efforts of abrasive cleaners. In these cases, prepare to invest in a chromic acid coating restoration product that replaces the anodized material you remove.
Wait for Cool Surfaces
It's tempting to scrub your storefront down on a sunny day because you can see all the dirt clearly and get fast drying times. Working on the metal while it's hot or even warm increases the effects of all types of cleaning products, so stick to a cloudy day or wait until the evening to start working. You'll have better control over the products you're using and prevent unnecessary damage to the metal.
Remove Corroded Spots
While steel and iron turn red with rust when they corrode, anodized aluminum develops crusty white deposits instead. Since these spots of corrosion penetrate through the protective layer and reach the metal below, there's little point in cleaning and restoring the storefront unless you remove all the corrosion first. You can resort to steel wool and solvents if necessary to get stubborn deposits off since you'll need to cover these areas with a re-coating product for anodized metal anyways.
Restore the Layers
If you managed to get all the stains and deposits off with gentle abrasives and safe detergents, you can skip the restoration step. Storefront owners that damaged the anodized coating on their aluminum to strip corrosion or tough deposits should replace the missing layer of coating before moving on. There are plenty of reliable products for doing small patches, but extensive missing material is best replaced by a professional restoration team (like the company at http://glasshopperaurora.com) They will likely need to remove the storefront pieces and dip them for a completely fresh anodized finish.
Weigh the costs of shipping and treating your current aluminum storefront versus buying brand new pieces. In many cases, removing the old coating and dipping for a new one costs as much or even more than replacement. The restored finish also tends to wear away quicker and is unlikely to come with the same warranty offered by a manufacturer.
Try to stick to a cleaning schedule that has you scrubbing the aluminum storefront at least once a week with a sponge and some soap. By making time for regular and gentle cleanings, you can avoid the need to bring out the solvents and hard abrasives that put the protective anodized coating at risk for further damage.