How to Polish Billet Aluminum

by Nick DavisUpdated July 11, 2023
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Billet aluminum is a lightweight and cost-effective material used in various applications, such as billet aluminum wheels. This type of metal requires regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent dirt and grime build-up on the metal’s surface, as well as oxidation. Once cleaned, polishing your billet aluminum item will restore its shine and enhance its appearance. This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to polish billet aluminum, offering step-by-step instructions for the polishing process to achieve a mirror finish. With DIY methods and the right tools, you can bring out the luster of your aluminum wheels or other aluminum surface with a little bit of elbow grease and a few polishing techniques.

Note:‌ Some of these instructions will also be incorporating the use of metal polish, buffing wheels, and polishing kits.

Things You Will Need

  • Hot water
  • Dishwashing soap
  • 2 Buckets
  • Latex gloves
  • 4 soft, nonabrasive cloths or rags
  • Water hose
  • Degreaser
  • Sandpaper: 320, 400, 600 and 1000-grit
  • Aluminum polish
  • Handheld car buffer
  • 2 Micro-fiber towels
  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Polishing compound
  • Baby powder or flour (optional)


1. Prepare cleaning solution water

Prepare a mixture of ½ gallon of hot water and 1 cup of dishwashing soap in a bucket. Wear latex gloves to keep your hands dry.

2. Scrub a nonabrasive cloth

Dip a soft, nonabrasive cloth or rag into the soapy water, wring out excess liquid, and gently scrub the billet aluminum item until it is free from dirt.

3. Rinse with water from a hose

Rinse the item with water from a hose and dry it thoroughly with a clean, nonabrasive cloth or towel.

4. Apply 3 tbsp. of a degreaser to a nonabrasive cloth

Apply 3 tbsp. of a degreaser to a nonabrasive cloth or towel and wipe the item to remove any remaining grease or residue.

5. Dry with clean cloth

Dry the item again with a clean cloth or towel to remove excess degreaser.


1. Dip a piece of 320-grit sandpaper into water

Fill a bucket with ½ gallon of water from a hose. Dip a piece of 320-grit sandpaper into the bucket to wet it.

2. Sand the billet aluminum with wet sandpaper

Wet sand the billet aluminum item using the wet sandpaper. Apply gentle pressure while keeping the sandpaper wet at all times. This step scuffs the surface of the item. Repeat the process with 400-grit, 600-grit, and 1000-grit wet sandpaper to progressively smooth the surface. Tiny scratches may appear, which is normal.

3. Repeat the water from hose and dry from clean towel

Repeat the cleaning steps mentioned earlier to remove any sand dust from the billet aluminum.


1. Apply 4 tbsp. of an aluminum polish

Apply 4 tbsp. of an aluminum polish / metal polish to a soft, nonabrasive cloth or towel. Thoroughly coat the billet aluminum item with the polish.

2. Use a handheld car buffer in even straight motions

Use a handheld car buffer in even straight motions to buff the item, removing any tiny scratches. Continue polishing until the aluminum polish on the buffer's cloth pad turns black.

3. Wipe down

Wipe down the item with a microfiber towel. For small crevices, wrap the towel around a small flat-head screwdriver to reach those areas.

4. Apply 2 tbsp. of a polishing compound

Apply 2 tbsp. of a polishing compound to a soft, nonabrasive cloth or towel. Polish the item with circular motions using the compound-soaked cloth or towel. Continue polishing until the wheels start to regain their shine and any imperfections or black residue are removed (aluminum oxide comes off as a black residue). You may need to apply additional metal polish as necessary.

5. Wipe off any excess polishing compound

Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off any excess polishing compound and reveal the polished luster of the billet aluminum.


For more effective polishing, attach a buffing wheel to a power drill or buffer. Apply a moderate amount of pressure and use the buffing wheel to polish the billet aluminum surface, moving in a back-and-forth motion.

By following these step-by-step instructions, you can achieve a mirror-like finish on your billet aluminum items. Regularly cleaning, sanding, and polishing aluminum wheels or other aluminum surfaces with the appropriate tools and materials (i.e. polishing kits, buffing wheels, metal polishes, etc.) will help maintain the shine and appearance of these materials and protect them from corrosion. With a DIY approach and a little elbow grease, you can enjoy the beauty of your polished billet aluminum, whether it's for automotive parts, accessories, or other structures.

Video: How To Polish Aluminum

Helpful comments from the video:

  • I use Mothers Mag & Aluminum polish on my Technics 1200 turntable aluminum platter. A 30 year old platter ends up with a mirror finish.
  • Tried it on my 1980’s chev bedrails. Did not faze it. Done wonders for chrome

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