In the context of restoring the finish of an oxidized once-polished aluminum finish, is there anything better (easier) than 0000 steel wool with Marvel Mystery Oil? I am restoring an old Cannondale aluminum frame. Over the years, the environment has taken its toll. After renewing the driveline, I would now like to improve its appearance.

  • I'd leave this to a professional due to the risk of leaving particles behind (see sheldonbrown.com/paint-prep.html#removal for details)
    – Batman
    Jan 23, 2014 at 21:50
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    Note that the best way to preserve "bare" aluminum is via anodizing, and if the frame was originally anodized then "polishing" it will remove the anodized surface and make the aluminum more subject to corrosion. Jan 24, 2014 at 0:50
  • Kirk, did you ever solve this problem. A friend of mine has the same issue.
    – James
    Oct 5, 2014 at 19:51

4 Answers 4


I think that polishing paste like Mother's Magnesium and Aluminum should be your first choice. If the result is not good enough, at least you will be sure that you didn't do any damage to the surface like you can do with wrong sand paper or metal wool. I would use sanding of any kind only when some scraping of the surface is necessary, to remove nicks and dents for example. Last time I used bathroom cleaner Comet first which made the whole surface evenly gray, light and clean, I guess oxidation free. It was very matte but very evenly. Then I used Mother's Mag and it became shiny, not luster but nice.


Yes and no, it depends on how much elbow grease you want to put into it. If you just want to get the oxidation off, then you can use a grinder with a wire brush and go to town. Alternatively, you can use sand paper and do it by hand, with a coarse grain for the major stuff.

After that, it's all about details. You can work with successively finer grain to achieve a smoother, more uniform finish. And if you are feeling particularly picky, this is when you pick up some 00, 000, and 0000 steel wool and go at it. From there, you'll want to seal the frame with something to prevent future oxidation.

  • Steel wool is a bad idea; you will leave tiny steel particles engrained in the surface of the Al. This will rust, causing unsightly discolouration. Aluminium wool would be a much better bet (or stainless steel wool at a push). Jul 23, 2014 at 22:40
  • @headeronly good point, I didn't think of that. You could probably use steel wool if you follow up with something else to take a layer off and remove remaining bits (or a good acid bath, etc). Plus, if you seal it right after that, it shouldn't rust!
    – Aaron
    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:54
  • Aluminum forms an oxidation layer any time it comes in contact with the air. It's actually good and is why aluminum doesn't rust. If you sand that top layer down it will just form a new layer of oxidation when it comes in contact with the air.. I am not an expert and may be wrong but I'm pretty sure.. Dec 5, 2015 at 4:11

I found this article to be particularly informative. I'll be using this method for my own bare aluminum frame. It requires purchasing a couple small items, but uses proven methods.


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    Welcome to Bicycles.sx.com. In our format try to collect information directly here on the site, therefore answers that mainly consist of a link are sometimes frowned upon. Maybe you can edit your answer to include the main points from your linked site. Feb 23, 2014 at 19:07
  • To build upon what @BenediktBauer is saying, if your link dies, the answer is no longer helpful. We want answers that are going to stand the test of time.
    – jimchristie
    Feb 23, 2014 at 20:57

In my efforts to restore a Vitus 979 frame, I found that a combination of coarse and then fine grain bronze wool will eliminate the oxidation and restore the finish of the aluminum. Follow up with Mothers Aluminum Polish.

If the anodized portions contain oxidation and pitting, the bronze wool will finish it out but obviously the look will be less than aesthetically pleasing. In my case, I will be painting over the anodized areas which are the tubes in the triangle. I have polished the head tube, BB casing, drops, forks and stays which are all non-anodized. Once finished, with restored Campy components, I hope to have a nice looking machine

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