Anodized aluminum is among the most widely used metals in commercial buildings, and for good reason.
This attractive, durable material comes in a wide assortment of colors and is highly amenable to painting and sealing. The most popular finishes for anodized aluminum include clear, black and bronze.
The anodizing process results in a metal surface that stands up to corrosion and resists chipping and peeling. It is an environmentally friendly option, with minimal impact on land, air and water. Thanks to these and other advantages, anodized aluminum can be found in skyscrapers and a range of other facilities throughout the world. Exterior applications include roofing, window frames and curtain walls. On the interior, it may be included in ceilings, floors, escalators, lobbies and staircases.
As with other architectural assets, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential for maintaining aesthetic appearance, correcting damage and preserving asset value. George Smith, Regional Director of Sales for Mid America Specialty Services (MASS), talks about some of the common maintenance issues he sees with anodized aluminum. He also offers advice on day-to-day care and investing in professional refinishing service.
Common Maintenance Issues
Smith explains that oxidation leads to color loss over time.
The anodizing process creates a thin layer of aluminum oxide, which protects against corrosion but gradually deteriorates. Exposure to masonry materials such as lime and concrete leads to corrosion, which causes fading and discoloration. Exposure to air-borne salts, especially in coastal areas, can also cause corrosion and pitting.
In addition to corrosion, aluminum surfaces will also sustain unsightly scratches from normal building traffic. Exposure to harsh weather and pollutants will also take a toll.
Routine Anodized Aluminum Cleaning
Proactive cleaning is essential for preserving anodized aluminum. Environmental contaminants should be removed as quickly as possible. Allowing dirt and debris to accumulate causes the finish to wear away more quickly, shortening the life of the asset and increasing long-term costs.
Smith recommends routine washing with a mild detergent and a microfiber cloth. Neutral, chlorine-free products with a pH of 6 to 8 are ideal. A good rule of thumb is to begin with the most conservative cleaning methods and then progress to more aggressive approaches for heavily soiled surfaces. When considering new cleaning products, test a small sample on a less visible portion of the asset first.
For lightly soiled aluminum, the simplest procedure is to flush the surface with clean water, apply cleaner using moderate pressure with a cleaning cloth and rinse thoroughly. Avoid allowing the cleaner to run down onto the lower portions of the surface.
If gentle cleaning doesn’t dislodge all soil, use a mild detergent and sponge. Apply uniform pressure with a horizontal motion first, followed by vertical. For especially stubborn soiling, it may be necessary to sponge the surface while rinsing. Don’t use abrasive products and avoid excessive pressure or scrubbing. Allow the surface to dry completely after cleaning.
As noted above, Smith warns against using acids and abrasive products on anodized aluminum. Harsh chemicals may damage painted surfaces and degrade the effectiveness of protective sealants. Always follow the cleaner manufacturer’s instructions, never mix different cleaners and avoid aggressive rubbing.
For exterior cleaning, pay attention to weather conditions and avoid cleaning in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Cleaning hot aluminum may cause chemical reactions that could result in a non-uniform appearace. On the flip side, freezing temperatures may lead to unwanted condensation. Foggy conditions may cause mineral deposits to become more stubbornly attached to the surface.
Although building staff can perform routine washing, Smith recommends professional care for more serious problems like oxidation, color loss and scratches. Trained refinishers are also appropriate for treating elevated surface areas.
MASS provides cleaning and oxidation removal for a range of anodized aluminum assets. Technicians apply clear protective coatings to rejuvenate faded finishes and protect against extreme weather and pollution. High performance paints let you update the color of your asset while restoring the luster of severely corroded or scratched aluminum.
Investing in professional refinishing, along with a routine preventive maintenance program, helps to preserve the value of anodized aluminum surfaces. If you’re looking to remove existing damage and protect assets moving forward, our experts at MASS are here to help.
Give us a call at 800-544-4576 or contact us online for more information about our facade restoration services.