If you’re struggling to keep your aluminum truck and trailer parts looking clean, it’s probably because you are not using an acidic cleaner. An acidic cleaner will knock down oxidation and bring out the best clean on your aluminum when paired with an alkaline-based soap to remove dirt and grime.
Now, if your aluminum is polished, that’s another matter. If that’s the case, polish-safe soaps are a must. At Hydro-Chem Systems, we have some fantastic polish-safe options, and can certainly help you there. Unsure if the aluminum is polished? Read more here.
However, the majority of folks that we encounter have aluminum (particularly on trailer rails) that is not polished and has a strong tendency to dull and oxidize pretty quickly. What’s really happening to the aluminum and why is acid so important to its maintenance?
When aluminum is new, it typically has a light, microscopic clear film layer on it that protects it, at least for a little while. The film thinly covers the aluminum and fills in tiny pores on the surface.
The sun’s UV power helps ‘powder away’ this film, along with the millions of fine scratches that come from dirt and dust hitting the aluminum, which take lots of tiny gouges out of the film. Eventually (and maybe not after very long) that protective film no longer exists.
Then the aluminum is exposed to those same elements and begins to oxidize, slowly deteriorate, and be eaten away.
Enter the Acid.
A good acid-based cleaner, if allowed to sit for the appropriate dwell time, will eat the oxidation away. Interestingly, it also leaves its own tiny film behind, which fills in some of the pores. With consistent use, a good acid-based cleaner will help keep the oxidation at bay, refill the pores, and stave off the deterioration. Acidic cleaners can have some other benefits too, including brightening and working against minerals - like salt.
All you have to do is rinse and repeat.
The bottom line for aluminum is that over time, it will eventually oxidize and dull. A good alkaline soap works to keep the grime off but it doesn’t touch oxidation. The alkaline soap really can’t accomplish that by itself, and its consistent use without an acidic partner will lead to clean but very oxidized aluminum.
A complete approach includes keeping the oxidation at bay and taking off the grime – that’s where the 2-Step Process is particularly effective. So, get the right complimentary soaps, use them consistently, and easily clean off your aluminum rails so they are envied and admired for years to come.