How to Clean Aluminum Window Frames?

Clean Aluminum Window Frames

Aluminum window frames are popular for many homes due to their durability, low maintenance, and sleek, modern look. However, dirt, grime, and oxidation can build up on aluminum surfaces over time, making them appear dull and dirty. Regular cleaning is essential to keep aluminum frames looking their best. Let’s learn how to clean aluminum window frames.

Proper techniques and products make it easy to clean aluminum windows and restore their luster. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through 18 effective methods for cleaning aluminum window frames and discuss when and how to use each technique.

Why It’s Important to Clean Aluminum Window Frames

Before jumping into the various cleaning methods, let’s first go over why it’s important to keep aluminum window frames clean in the first place.

Here are some of the top reasons:

  • Prevents Oxidation – Aluminum can oxidize when exposed to air, causing pitting and corrosion. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of oxidized material.
  • Extends Life of Frames – Dirt and debris trapped on the surface can accelerate wear and damage. Proper maintenance keeps frames looking new and longer.
  • Improves Appearance – Oxidation and dirt make frames appear dingy and worn. Cleaning refreshes the look of windows.
  • Allows Windows to Operate Smoothly – The grime buildup in channels can prevent windows from sliding correctly. Cleaning clears any obstructions.
  • Helps Windows Reflect Light – Clean aluminum has more luster and reflects light better, improving daytime visibility.
  • Removes Allergens and Pollutants – Cleaning removes pollen, dust, vehicle exhaust, and other irritants on window surfaces.

Now that you know why keeping aluminum window frames clean is important, let’s review the various methods and cleaning agents you can use.

1. Use Dish Soap and Water

One of the simplest ways to clean aluminum window frames is with dish soap and water.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix a few drops of mild dish detergent in a bucket with warm water. Avoid using harsh degreasing detergents.
  • Dip a soft sponge or rag into the soapy solution.
  • Wipe down the aluminum window frames to loosen dirt and debris.
  • Rinse off the soap residue thoroughly with clean water.
  • Dry the frames entirely with a clean microfiber cloth to prevent water spots.

Dish soap is a mild cleaner that helps lift grease and grime. The key is to rinse thoroughly after cleaning to avoid streaks. Repeat the process as needed for stubborn dirt.

2. Use a Mild All-Purpose Cleaner

For a bit more cleaning power, you can use a diluted mild all-purpose cleaner formulated for aluminum.

Here are some tips for using all-purpose cleaners on aluminum window frames:

  • Spray the cleaner directly onto the surface of the aluminum and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. This gives the active ingredients time to break down grime.
  • Using a soft brush or sponge, gently scrub to loosen dirt and grease.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry with a microfiber towel. Never let the cleaner dry on the surface.
  • Look for a cleaner that labels “safe for aluminum” to avoid damaging the finish. Citrus or other acidic cleaners can stain and corrode aluminum.

All-purpose cleaners offer more powerful grease-cutting action than dish soap alone. Be sure to follow dilution instructions to avoid overusing harsh chemicals.

3. Make a Baking Soda and Water Paste

Baking Soda and Water Paste

Mix baking soda and water into a mildly abrasive paste for an effective homemade aluminum window frame cleaner.

Here’s how:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to a bowl.
  • Mix in just enough water to form a thick, spreadable paste.
  • Using a soft cloth, gently rub the paste onto dirty aluminum frames.
  • Let it set for 5 minutes before rinsing clean with water.

The gritty texture of the baking soda paste works to scour away grime, while the alkaline composition helps remove oxidation and restore shine. Always do a spot test first to ensure the paste won’t scratch the frame finish.

4. Clean with Club Soda

Keep a can of club soda on hand for an easy way to clean aluminum window frames. The carbonation in club soda is a mild abrasive to remove dirt and debris.

Here’s the method:

  • Pour club soda directly onto the aluminum surface.
  • Wipe with a microfiber cloth, using gentle circular motions.
  • Rinse with water and wipe dry with a clean cloth.

Repeated use of club soda can also help remove stubborn oxidation and water stains over time. The carbonation gives just enough fizzing action to break down buildup without harsh chemicals.

5. Use Vinegar and Water

For gently removing oxidation and water spots, try making a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.

Here are the steps:

  • Mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part water in a spray bottle.
  • Liberally spray the solution onto oxidized areas of the aluminum frames. Avoid getting it on glass panes.
  • Allow it to set for 5 minutes before wiping it with a cloth and rinsing it clean.

The acetic acid in vinegar dissolves oxidation and mineral deposits. Use this method periodically to restore shine and luster to frames that have become oxidized and weathered.

6. Clean with Lemon and Baking Soda

Here’s a recipe for an all-natural aluminum window frame cleaner using lemon juice and baking soda:

  • In a bowl, squeeze the juice from 1 lemon.
  • Add two tablespoons of baking soda and mix into a paste.
  • Rub the paste onto oxidized areas of the aluminum using a soft cloth.
  • Let it set for 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

The citric acid in the lemon lifts oxidation while the baking soda gently scours. This helps restore a polished look without using harsh chemicals. For best results, make the paste fresh right before cleaning.

7. Try Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol for Clean Aluminum Window Frames

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) quickly dissolves dirt, grime, smoke residue, and other gunk on aluminum surfaces.

Here’s how to use it:

  • Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a microfiber cloth.
  • Wipe down the aluminum window frames to dissolve stubborn buildup.
  • Rinse with clean water and dry with a lint-free cloth to prevent streaks.

The high evaporating strength of rubbing alcohol cuts through all types of residues. It also dries fast to limit streaking. Use this for tough cleaning jobs when dish soap alone doesn’t cut it. Avoid rubbing alcohol on anodized or lacquered aluminum finishes, as it can damage certain coatings.

8. Clean with TSP Substitute

TSP (trisodium phosphate) was the go-to for cleaning aluminum siding, concrete, and other exterior surfaces until it was banned for consumer use due to environmental concerns. However, you can still find TSP substitute products containing sodium carbonate as the active ingredient.

Here’s how to use TSP substitute cleaner for aluminum window frames:

  • Mix the TSP substitute with water according to the package directions.
  • Apply the solution and let it set for 5-10 minutes.
  • Scrub with a stiff nylon brush to lift grime.
  • Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry.

The sodium carbonate in the TSP substitute helps cut through dirt, grease, oxidation, and other tough buildup. Use protective gloves when handling and rinse entirely after use.

9. Try a Metal Cleaner and Polish

Specialized metal cleaners designed for use on aluminum can clean and polish in one step.

Here are some tips for using:

  • Apply a small amount of the metal cleaner polish to a soft cloth.
  • Rub onto the aluminum surface using gentle circular motions.
  • Wipe dry with a clean, lint-free cloth.
  • Repeat as needed to remove the tarnish and restore luster.

Look for a formula containing detergents to dissolve grime and acceptable polishing agents to add shine. Avoid products with harsh solvents that could damage aluminum finishes.

10. Use an Aluminum Siding Cleaner

Another option is a specialized aluminum siding cleaner designed for exterior use.

Here’s how to apply it:

  • Spray or brush the aluminum siding cleaner directly onto the window frame.
  • Allow it to set for the time specified on the label.
  • Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose.
  • Wipe dry with a clean cloth.

The detergents and wetting agents in these cleaners help blast away grime. Only use a cleaner specifically made for aluminum and avoid allowing it to dry on the surface.

11. Try Window Washing Spray

Keep a bottle of window washing spray on hand for occasional quick cleanups. To use:

  • Mist the aluminum frames with a window washing spray.
  • Wipe down with newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
  • Flip and wipe the other side for a streak-free finish.

The ammonia and detergents in most window washing sprays help lift away dirt, smoke, fingerprints, and other grime. To prevent streaking, the key is to wipe it off immediately before it dries.

12. Use an Automotive Polish or Wax

Use an Automotive Polish or Wax

An automotive polish or wax works well to restore luster for lightly oxidized aluminum window frames.

Here’s how to apply:

  • Choose a polish or wax explicitly designed for aluminum or other metal surfaces. Avoid abrasive compounds.
  • Apply a thin layer using a soft applicator pad.
  • Allow it to haze, and then buff it to a shine using a microfiber cloth.

The mild abrasives in metal polish gently smooth oxidation, while oils and waxes add glossy protection. Be sure to prep the surface thoroughly before applying wax or polish.

13. Try a Magic Eraser

Magic erasers work through a mild abrasive action to lift away grime.

Here’s how to use one on aluminum window frames:

  • Lightly dampen the magic eraser, then wring out excess water.
  • Gently rub stained or dirty areas using minimal pressure.
  • Wipe with a clean, damp cloth and dry thoroughly after cleaning.

Test magic erasers on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure the melamine foam doesn’t damage the aluminum finish. The gentle scrubbing can help remove stubborn dirt, oxidation, and water stains.

14. Use a Pressure Washer

For aluminum window frames that are heavily soiled, break out the pressure washer.

Here are some tips for pressure washing:

  • Use the lowest pressure setting and keep the nozzle at least 1 foot away to avoid damaging the aluminum.
  • Apply a degreasing cleaner and let it set for 5 minutes before rinsing.
  • Rinse thoroughly, moving the nozzle slowly and evenly across the surface.
  • Wipe down with a microfiber cloth after pressure washing.

Aim to use no more than 1200 PSI when pressure washing aluminum. This blasts away caked-on grime while gentle enough not to strip away finishes.

15. Try Wet Sanding

If you need to remove scratches, oxidation pitting, or a chalky residue from aluminum window frames, wet sanding can help resurface the metal.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lightly wet the aluminum surface with water before sanding. This prevents creating dust.
  • Gently rub fine-grained wet/dry sandpaper across affected areas using minimal pressure.
  • Clean between sanding with a damp cloth to remove residue.
  • Apply a metal polish once finished sanding to restore shine.

Start with 600 grit paper and work up to 1500 grit for polishing. Wet sanding should only be used for poor-quality finishes that can’t be restored otherwise. Avoid over-sanding, which can damage the frame.

16. Buff with Steel Wool

Superfine 0000-grade steel wool can buff out minor oxidation, water spots, and stains on aluminum window frames.

Here’s how:

  • Dampen the steel wool slightly with water to prevent scratches.
  • Gently rub affected areas in a circular motion.
  • Rinse away any residue and apply metal polish for added shine.

The ultra-fine steel fibers provide mild abrasive action to smooth defects without damaging the aluminum. Before buffing the entire frame, use minimal pressure and test on a small spot first.

17. Repaint Damaged Areas

Repainting is an option to improve the appearance of aluminum window frames where the finish is too far gone to clean and polish.

Here are some tips for repainting aluminum:

  • Sand and spot prime any areas showing bare metal before painting.
  • Choose a spray can or brush-on paint made explicitly for aluminum surfaces.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper surface prep and application.
  • Apply thin, even coats, allowing adequate drying time between coats.
  • Consider a clear top coat for added protection.

Look for paint with rust inhibitors and UV blockers to maintain the refurbished look. Properly prep and clean the aluminum first for best paint adhesion.

18. Consider Professional Refinishing

Professional Refinishing

Consider hiring professional refinishers for aluminum window frames that need extensive restoration work.

They have access to special equipment and metal finishing techniques such as:

  • Powder coating – applying colored or clear powder coating to recondition frames fully.
  • Anodizing – immerses frames in an acid bath to create a durable protective oxide layer.
  • Metal plating – coats frames with a thin layer of metal like nickel for a chrome-like finish.

Professionals can also handle repairs of any cracks, dents, or missing sections to restore frame integrity and appearance.

5 Tips for Maintaining Clean Aluminum Window Frames

Regular cleaning is the key to maintaining the look of aluminum window frames.

Here are five handy tips for keeping them in their best condition:

  • Wipe down frames monthly using a mild dish soap and water solution. This prevents a heavy buildup of grime.
  • Apply a protectant wax or polish seasonally to protect the surface from oxidation and elements.
  • Inspect weatherstripping and hardware for wear and replace immediately if damaged to prevent infiltration of dirt and moisture.
  • Clean screens thoroughly at least twice yearly for proper water drainage and airflow.
  • Install protective covers over frames when doing projects generating dust, paint overspray, etc., to prevent damage to the finish.

With occasional cleaning and care, aluminum window frames can look freshly installed for decades!

Last Words

Keeping aluminum window frames looking clean and new doesn’t have to be a chore. With diligent care and attention, these frames will retain their luster and perform well for many years before needing a thorough restoration. Try some of these cleaning methods to keep your aluminum windows shining bright.


What is the white powdery stuff on my aluminum window frames?

The white residue is likely oxidation, which occurs when aluminum reacts with oxygen in the air. Regular cleaning can remove mild oxidation. Severe cases may require buffing, sanding, or refinishing.

How can I restore the shine to oxidized aluminum window frames?

Mild oxidation often responds well to vinegar, lemon juice, or metal polishes designed to dissolve oxidation and add gloss. For heavy oxidation, try buffing with steel wool or fine sandpaper. Refinishing may be required in extreme cases.

Why do my freshly cleaned aluminum frames look streaky?

Streaks are caused by soaps, cleaners, and minerals in water that are not thoroughly rinsed off the aluminum surface. After washing aluminum, always do a final wipe with a clean, damp microfiber cloth.

What is the black staining on my aluminum window frames?

Black stains are typically caused by mildew and mold. Use diluted bleach or other fungicidal wash to remove the stains and kill mold spores. Improve ventilation to prevent reoccurrence.

Can I use a pressure washer on aluminum window frames?

Yes, but use the lowest pressure setting and keep the nozzle at least 12 inches away to avoid damaging the finish. Test in an inconspicuous area first before pressure washing the entire frame.

Thomas Hundley

Thomas Hundley

Thomas Hundley is a licensed contractor with over 15 years of experience in the home improvement industry. His passion for helping homeowners create their dream spaces led him to start this blog, where he shares practical tips, DIY guides, and insights on the latest trends.

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