How to Clean Aluminum Running Boards (6 Methods!)

Running boards should not be overlooked when cleaning your vehicles. Whether they are made of plastic or aluminum or chrome, they can be easily cleaned.

Cleaning your aluminum running board is important to avoid staining despite being resistant to corrosion.

This article will cover several methods on how to clean aluminum running boards.

Common Problems Associated With Aluminum Running Boards

Though aluminum is strong and resistant to corrosion, it is also prone to some problems. Aluminum is prone to the following:

1- Water Staining

is a common problem with aluminum. Water staining is a white powdery substance on the surface of aluminum. However, water staining does not affect the mechanical properties of aluminum. Its only effect is on aesthetics.

2- Rust

Aluminum running boards are prone to rust. Rusting begins as small spots on the board. The spots gradually get bigger, adversely affecting the aesthetics of the board.

3- Scratches

Aluminum running boards are susceptible to scratches. Scratches can be caused by having a sharp or hard object against the aluminum surface.

How to Clean Aluminum Running Boards (6 Methods)

Here are a few methods of cleaning aluminum running boards:

Method 1: Cleaning Brushed Aluminum Running Boards


1- Clean, dry cloths – three pieces
2- Water
3- A cleaning pad, preferably non-abrasive
4- Liquid soap or detergent
5- White vinegar
6- A bucket
7- Cream of tartar
8- Rubber gloves
9- Glass cleaner


STEP 1: Take a dry cloth and wipe the running board surface thoroughly to will remove any dust or debris.

STEP 2: Use a non-abrasive cleaning pad to remove any dried-on or crusted dirt that the dry cloth could not remove.

STEP 3: Fill the bucket with warm water, and add a detergent or liquid soap.

STEP 4: Take the non-abrasive cleaning pad or cloth. Soak it in the water and soap solution and use it to clean any debris from the running board.

Use a circular motion to scrub the running board with the pad gently. If the board has particular grain, scrub following the direction of the grain.

STEP 5: Prepare a solution of 50 percent water and 50 percent white vinegar. Use a cloth and let it soak up the solution.

STEP 6: Take the soaked cloth and rub it on the aluminum board. Use a circular motion or follow the direction of the grain and concentrate on discolored areas.

STEP 7: Use the cream of tartar to clean the more heavily discolored areas. Next, make a paste using half a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of cream of tartar. The paste should not be too wet.

STEP 8: Coat the heavily discolored areas with the paste and let it rest for five to ten minutes. Then rub the paste off using a wet cloth.

STEP 9: If the cream of tartar is not available, you can use lemon juice and baking soda instead. Mix them in the ratio of 33 percent baking soda and 66 percent lemon juice to make a paste.

STEP 10: Once the discolored spots are clean, spray your aluminum running board with a glass cleaner.

Next, take a dry cloth and gently remove the glass cleaner either in a circular motion or following the direction of the aluminum grain.

STEP 11: To bring out a shine on your aluminum running boards, apply a commercial metal polish.

Method 2: Cleaning Cast Aluminum Running Boards

Cast aluminum running boards look great and are sturdy. Although abrasive pads can leave very subtle scratches on aluminum surfaces, they’re barely noticeable in case of roof racks. So let’s learn how to clean them.


1- Clean, dry cloths
2- A soft-bristled toothbrush or a non-abrasive pad
3- Cream of tartar
4- Lemon juice
5- White vinegar
6- Rubber gloves
7- A spray bottle or bucket.


STEP 1: First, you will have to remove any debris or dirt on the running board. Use a dry cloth.

STEP 2: Remove any dried-on dirt using the non-abrasive cleaning pad.

STEP 3: If there is still dirt, use water and a detergent. Then, gently clean the affected area with the water solution and the non-abrasive cleaning pad.

STEP 4: If you still have stained spots on your board, use white vinegar or lemon juice. Prepare a solution of white vinegar or lemon with water.

STEP 5: Soak a cloth into the solution and gently rub the affected area with the cloth. Use a circular motion to rub the area.

STEP 6: For excessive stains, make a paste using the cream of tartar. Then, apply the cream of tartar to the affected area and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

STEP 7: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub the area using a circular motion gently.

STEP 8: Once you have scrubbed the board clean, use a cloth soaked in the vinegar solution to clean up the tartar paste.

Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle to spray the vinegar or lemon solution onto the running board and use a cloth to wipe.

STEP 9: Finally, use a dry clean cloth to wipe the running board clean.

Method 3: Cleaning Oxidized Aluminum Running Boards

Oxidation happens to aluminum over time and gives your aluminum running boards a dull appearance. The board appears to be stained with a white, chalk-like substance. Steel wool is used sometimes for gentle use on aluminum surfaces.


1- Clean, dry cloths
2- Soft-bristled cleaning brush or a non-abrasive cleaning pad
3- Fine grade steel wool
4- Aluminum polish
5- Liquid soap or detergent
6- Rubber gloves
7- White vinegar
8- A bucket
9- Aluminum oxidation remover


STEP 1: Clean off any dirt or debris on the aluminum board with the cleaning brush or cloth.

STEP 2: Add warm water and the liquid soap or detergent into the bucket.

STEP 3: Wet the cloth, non-abrasive cleaning pad, or the brush in the water and soap mixture. Gently clean the aluminum running board. Do not press too hard as you may damage the surface.

STEP 4: After thoroughly cleaning the board, rinse the cloth and use it to clear any soap residue.

STEP 5: Allow the aluminum to dry.

STEP 6: If the oxidation is not completely cleaned, you can use an aluminum cleaner or polish. Then, using the fine-grade steel wool, gently apply the cleaner to the aluminum running board.

STEP 7: Rinse off the aluminum cleaner using a wet cloth or sponge.

Method 4: Cleaning Aluminum Running Boards Using a DIY Solution

To thoroughly clean aluminum running boards, you will need a solvent. The solvent will assist you in removing the oxidized coating that naturally develops on aluminum.

White vinegar is the best when using a homemade solution.


1- Warm water
2- White vinegar
3- Bucket
4- Non-abrasive cleaning pad
5- Wet sponge/cloth


STEP 1: Mix two cups of warm water with one tablespoon of white vinegar in a bucket. Use the same ratio to prepare a larger amount of the solution.

STEP 2: Wet a non-abrasive cleaning pad in the solution and gently clean your aluminum running board.

STEP 3: After thoroughly cleaning your running board, use a wet sponge or cloth to remove any residue from the board.

STEP 4: Allow your aluminum board to dry on its own.

Method 5: Removing Difficult Stains From Aluminum Running Boards

Your aluminum running board may still have stains even after you have tried the above methods. These additional steps will assist in tackling stubborn stains such as excessive water staining.


1- Microfiber cloth
2- Denatured Alchohol
3- Oxidation remover (Optional)
4- Cotton towel/cloth
5- Lemon & Salt
6- Brush


STEP 1: Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the stains gently. Spraying a little denatured alcohol on the affected area will assist in removing the stain.

STEP 2: For tough-to-remove spots, use a commercially prepared product like an oxidation remover. You can apply it with a cotton towel or microfiber cloth.

STEP 3: Lemon and salt are also great for removing stains off your aluminum running board. Cut the lemon in half and pour salt into a dish.

Press the lemon, cut side down, onto the salt, and rub it onto the stained areas. Use a wet sponge or cloth to remove any residue.

STEP 4: You can use lemon juice sprayed onto a cleaning pad, cloth, or brush to scrub the stained area.

Method 6: Removing Rust Spots From Aluminum Running Boards

Rust is persistent and quickly spreads to other areas. Dripping water transports rust from one surface to another. It is common for aluminum running boards to develop a rust stain.


1- A stiff brush
2- Water
3- A bucket
4- A detergent or liquid soap
5- A water hose with a power nozzle
6- A bottle of Calcium, Lime, and Rust remover – CLR
7- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser


STEP 1: Rinse the aluminum board with a water hose. Use a high-pressure nozzle to spray the board thoroughly. The initial high-pressure spraying washes away part of the rust.

STEP 2: Mix water and the liquid soap or detergent in a bucket.

STEP 3: Use soapy water and a stiff brush to clean the stained area. Scrub the affected area hard to wash away as much rust as possible.

Rinse the running board using the water hose after you have finished cleaning.

STEP 4: Scrub the affected area with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Wet the Magic Eraser and use it to scrub the aluminum running board.

STEP 5: Rinse the running board. At this point, the rust stain should be completely gone.

STEP 6: If the rust stain is not gone, use the CLR to remove any remaining rust stain. Use a sponge to rub the CLR onto the affected area directly, then rinse with a hose.

CLR should be your last resort since it may dull or remove pain from your aluminum running board.


Aluminum is a nice material for making running boards. Unfortunately, it succumbs to environmental factors as well as wear and tear. As a result, your aluminum may appear ruined and dull.

However, you will restore your aluminum running board to as good as new with the correct cleaning method.

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