Polishing Aluminum with Steel Wool (Wheels, Boats, Pans!)

Polish aluminum with steel wool

Aluminum objects have shiny surfaces that reflect light and look good. But because they are porous they absorb dirt and dust quickly. This makes them dull and unattractive, and when this happens they need to be polished.

There are lots of materials that can be used to polish aluminum with different methods but our focus will be on steel wool.

We know steel wool can be used to polish aluminum but how safe is it? And can steel wool clean all aluminum objects effectively? Our focus in this article will be on aluminum wheels, boats, and pans and the possibility of polishing them with steel wool. Let’s get right to it.

Polishing Aluminum with Steel Wool

Polishing your aluminum avoids the development of a rusty or pre-rusty look. Let’s take a look at whether polishing aluminum with steel wool is a good idea or not, and the methods to do it.

Can You Use Steel Wool to Polish Aluminum Wheels?

You can use steel wool to polish aluminum wheels but it isn’t advisable. Steel wool or other abrasive brushes can leave scratches on those wheels and also leave behind metal particles.

When water splashes on the wheel or it gets damp these particles rust and it makes it look like it’s the wheel rusting. If these rust particles aren’t cleaned immediately, the wheels can begin rusting too.

Steel wool isn’t useless when it comes to aluminum wheels though. If not, why do people still use it on their wheels and recommend it? It works very well in restoring and giving a smooth finish to the wheels.

But this is after you must have sanded the wheels out. You first use sandpaper to even out the surface and then steel wool can be used to do the finish.

Note: To avoid the steel wool leaving particles on the aluminum wheels after the sanding, you have to use it with a metal polish.

How to Polish Aluminum Wheels with Steel Wool?


1- Water
2- Detergent
3- Baking soda
4- Sandpaper
5- Steel wool
6- Metal polish
7- Cloth


STEP 1- Wash the Wheels

Polishing a dirty wheel will not give you the result you desire. Your wheel has to first get rid of grime, debris, and clogged-up dirt first.

Mix equal parts detergent and water to do this. You can use a sponge and a little baking soda to get rid of tough stains.

STEP 2- Sand the Wheels

The grit of sandpaper you use depends on the condition of the wheels. Sanding your aluminum before polishing evens out the surface and ensures scratches are taken care of.

It is necessary to achieve a smooth polish and finishing.

STEP 3- Polish

This is where the steel wool comes in. But you shouldn’t use the steel wool dry so you don’t leave particles that can rust on the aluminum wheels.

You can either spread your favorite polish like “Mothers” on the wheels, then use the steel wool to polish gently till you get a smooth finish and a shine, or you can dip the steel wool into the polish and then scrub the wheels gently.

STEP 4- Buff

Use a soft cloth to buff the wheel in circular motions. This removes the excess polish and gives your wheel a good finish.

Can You Use Steel Wool on Aluminum Boats?

Aluminum boats are made of different types of aluminum such as anodized, powder-coated, or bare aluminum and not all can be polished with steel wool.

1- Anodized aluminum boats cannot be cleaned or polished with abrasives so steel wool isn’t an option. Using steel wool to polish them will only damage the finish and embed the metal particles in them that can rust over time.

Unfortunately, MOST aluminum boats are made of this type of aluminum so you will need to be careful.

2- Aluminum boats made of bare or raw metal can however be polished with steel wool. This type of aluminum oxidizes and it needs to be polished before it can get back its shine and vibrancy.

You have to do it the right way though, so you don’t leave behind metal particles on your boat.

How to Polish Aluminum Boats with Steel Wool?

Before using steel wool on your bare aluminum boat, you must first prepare the boat for polishing.


1- Cloth/ non-abrasive scrubber
2- Water
3- Soap
4- Vinegar
5- Baking soda
6- Steel wool
7- Aluminum polish


STEP 1- Clean the Boat

Use a clean soft cloth/ non-abrasive scrubber with warm soapy water to get rid of the grime, debris, and dirt on the boat.

This exposes areas that might have been discolored so you can take care of them before polishing.

STEP 2- Remove Discoloration

You need white vinegar or baking soda for this. Mix one part of clean water with one part of vinegar and pour into a spray bottle.

Spray the affected areas and allow the solution to sit for about 30-60 seconds. Use a non-abrasive pad to wipe it off, adding a little pressure when necessary.

Rinse the solution away thoroughly. Your boat is ready for polishing.

STEP 3- Polish

Using steel wool on your aluminum boat doesn’t only polish it but also removes the stubborn grime and tough stains that water and soap couldn’t remove.

Dip the steel wool in an aluminum polish and scrub it into your boat gently in a circular motion. Avoid using the steel wool dry.

If an aluminum polish isn’t available, make your steel wool damp with water.

Many boats will need to clean propellers that are made of stainless steel. This can be achieved by using white vinegar or a toilet bowl cleaner and an abrasive sponge.

Can You Use Steel Wool on Aluminum Pans?

Steel wool is better used on cast aluminum pans than sheet aluminum pans. Using it on sheet aluminum pans causes a lot of scratches but if you don’t mind your pans looking rough, then it’s a good option.

Tough food stains and particles are easily removed with steel wool. It also keeps your pans less sticky.

You can also restore blackened aluminum pans with steel wool and baking soda paste. The dark coatings and spots will clean off easily, giving your pans a bright shine.

If your pan is made of anodized aluminum, you should avoid using steel wool on it as it can damage its finish and leave metal particles behind.

When using steel wool on your aluminum pans, regardless of the type, avoid scrubbing too hard. Too much pressure can cause more scratches than necessary.

If there are tough stains, you can first soak the pan in a vinegar solution or put baking soda paste on the stains before scrubbing with steel wool.

How to Polish Aluminum Pans with Steel Wool?

Even though steel wool polishes aluminum better when used with aluminum/metal polish, you can’t do this with your pans.

The contents of these polishes are never to be ingested and you can’t be too careful. What if you wash the pan but the polish doesn’t completely wash off and you cook with it? It’s better to avoid that possibility.

Polishing aluminum pans is simple. You get it done while cleaning the pans.

1- You can do it with some dish soap and water. Instead of using a sponge to wash the pans with soap, use steel wool.

By doing this, you will not only be washing the pans but also polishing them. After rinsing the pans, the result will be stain-free and shiny pans.

2- You can also do it with some cream of tartar.

Step A: Pour 2 quarts of boiled water into the pan with 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar. Allow it to sit for about 3 minutes.
Step B: Pour it out and then use damp steel wool to polish the pan to a smooth finish. Stubborn stains will also be taken care of.

Final Thoughts!

Polishing aluminum with steel wool is a simple process and an inexpensive one. Working your way into the aluminum with steel wool and an aluminum polish makes the process easier and faster.

You can also do it without the use of aluminum polish also by making sure the steel wool is damp. This reduces its tendency to scratch or leave particles on the aluminum surface you are cleaning.

Note that steel wool often leaves scratches and swirls on aluminum no matter what you do or how careful you are and there are other options of polishing that can help you avoid this. Steel wool should only be used if the aluminum has some tough stains and grime that non-abrasive pads can’t take care of.

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