How to Paint Polished Aluminum

by Larry Simmons
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Polishing aluminum until you achieve a mirror-like finish may be attention-grabbing, but it's difficult to pull off, and the surface is tough to maintain. You can paint aluminum instead, adding color and creating a low-maintenance surface. Painting polished aluminum is much like painting any other surface, requiring both primer and topcoat. To achieve a long-lasting paint job, you'll have to prepare the polished surface properly before applying the paint. Otherwise you end up with a peeling paintjob that reveals a layer of dirty, oxidized aluminum beneath.

Step 1

Clean the polished aluminum with a commercial aluminum cleaner/degreaser to remove both dirt and oils from the surface that could inhibit paint adhesion. Use a sponge for light cleaning, and a scrub brush to remove heavy dirt or oil deposits. Rinse the aluminum with clean water after washing, and allow the surface to dry.

Step 2

Abrade the surface of the aluminum lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to break up any film coating. The sandpaper leaves behind a series of small scratches that provides a textured surface for the primer. Wipe the sanded surface clear of residue with a tack cloth.

Step 3

Brush a coat of aluminum oxide primer over the sanded aluminum surface immediately after sanding. The primer covers any flaws in the aluminum, creating a smooth surface for the paint, and halts oxidation of the aluminum exposed to the air through abrasion. Apply the primer with a paintbrush, using two light layers for even coverage and waiting two hours between the first and second layer. Wait overnight before continuing after painting the second layer.

Step 4

Sand the primer smooth with fine-grit sandpaper. Work in small circles over the primer with the sandpaper to remove any imperfections in the primer layer, including brushstrokes. Wipe the primer with a tack cloth to remove any dust or loose paint.

Step 5

Brush two coats of epoxy paint over the primer coat as a topcoat. Apply two light layers of the paint to create each coat. Wait 10 minutes between layers to allow the paint to begin to set, and wait two hours after the first coat of paint before applying the second. Allow the second coat to dry for 48 hours before touching the aluminum surface.

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