Aluminium brighteners are essentially forms of hydrofluoric acid, which also sold under the type “tire cleaner”. A very similar product is used for etching glass and rust removers. The pure product is extremely toxic and dangerous. Aluminium brightener is another name for “wheel cleaner” or “metal cleaner”.
Why use an aluminium brightener
Aluminium is a type of metal that forms a protective layer on its outer most surface by a chemical reaction with oxygen. This creates a barrier between oxygen and the material itself, preventing it from oxidation. However, due to the use of many different types of chemicals, and effects that other variables can have on aluminium it can still become faded and matte over time. Aluminium can be polished to a high gloss, but it has to be fully decontaminated before this is possible. An aluminium brightener is a product that will remove vast amounts of contamination from aluminium and remove the outer most layer of the aluminium. As soon as it comes into contact with oxygen again, the protective layer will be re-created again. It will increase the look of the aluminium and shorten the amount of time needed to clean it prior to polishing.
What is an aluminium brightener
Aluminium brightener is a product based on hydrofluoric acid, which is an extremely acidic product. The acid has a limited effect on metals but reacts heavily with sand, dust and several other contaminants. The products is almost always a liquid that can be applied by spraying it on, and (where needed) agitated with a brush or similar. Due to its high acidity it is highly recommended to wear protection for skin, eyes, face and lungs when working with this product. The product can be rinsed off after use since it is completely soluble in water. Be very careful with the use of this product, it is capable of attacking many different types of surfaces such as glass and rubbers. It will also strip any form of protection on the surface.
Note that some manufacturers have been able to create products with similar properties without the use of hydrofluoric acid. If you are unsure on the product you are about to use, please contact the manufacturer directly and ask for the data.
Care taken when working with an aluminium brightener
Most if not all aluminium brighteners work on the basis of a chemical reaction, because of this it is recommended to take care when working with these substances.
- Containers to keep the product in should be made polyetheylene or teflon, or the product might dissolve the container
- Due to very high toxicity, proper protection should be worn at all times
- Breathing masks are highly recommended
- In case of a spill, immediately use calcium gluconate gel on the affected area
- Aluminium can get a slightly white-ish shine after being treated with this product. Polishing should restore the shiny metallic look.
- Be very careful with other surfaces such as glass
- Rinse very thoroughly, Limewater or caustic soda can be used to counter the acid
- Clean any object that has come into contact with this product thoroughly
- Always try on a very small area first