Jun 25, 2023
5 Best Aluminum Polishes, Tested (2023 Guide)
An all-around paste polish that takes little effort to use. A liquid polish great for knocking out small marks. A heavy-duty polish for removing resilient buildup. A pinpoint cleaner for small details
An all-around paste polish that takes little effort to use.
A liquid polish great for knocking out small marks.
A heavy-duty polish for removing resilient buildup.
A pinpoint cleaner for small details and missed spots.
A foaming wheel cleaner with polishing properties.
Aluminum polish is a heavy-duty compound designed to remove oxidation, stains, water spots, and more from aluminum surfaces. Car owners use it on their vehicles, particularly wheel rims, to improve appearance and protect against future damage. However, there isn’t one perfect polish for every person’s preferences, as they each have different textures, features, and more.
Our expert review team has rounded up and tested the best aluminum polishes based on their ease of use, clarity of instructions, the shine they produce, and whether or not they leave streaks. Read further to discover the pros and cons of each and which one is right for you.
A trusted name in aluminum polishes, Mothers® Mag & Aluminum Polish is a paste that adds a protective coating to aluminum surfaces. It can be applied directly by hand using microfiber towels.
Because of its advanced paste formula, Mothers can work on nearly any metal surface besides aluminum. The paste formula makes it a great choice for those who need a quick and easy clean that thoroughly protects rims from environmental damage.
We give Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish 5 out of 5 stars. It’s easy to apply and leaves a brighter shine than any of the other aluminum polishes we tested. Our team also appreciated how well it works on small scratches and marks.
Mothers polish is easy to work with due to its creamy paste texture, which buffs with little effort. The instructions are direct and make the application process a breeze.
The Mothers formula changes color as it works, lifting grime. After our test, it left no streaks nor water spots, and it filled minor scratches enough to where they were barely noticeable.
Amazon Review Score: 4.6 out of 5 based on around 20,000 reviews
Many of the positive reviews mention that Mothers polish is versatile. Customers claim to use it on household items such as sinks, tea kettles, and other metal furnishings with successful results. Some of these reviews also commend how little effort it takes to make a great shine.
While most of the reviews are positive, some negative reviews complain about containers arriving leaking or smashed.
Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish has a concentrated formula great for restoring sheen. Besides aluminum, this polish can also brighten several other types of metal, including: diamond plate metalwork, chrome, and stainless steel surfaces.
It can remove light rust stains and oxidation from metal surfaces, which is especially useful for cleaning built-up brake dust on aluminum wheels. The best way to apply the Heavy Metal Polish is with a microfiber towel and applicator pad, plus careful attention to detail.
This aluminum wheel polish is easy to apply and leaves a brilliant shine after one coat. It did a superb job of extracting worn-in grime on our vehicle’s rims and has direct instructions that even a first-time user could understand.
The Heavy Metal polish left no streaks or spots, plus it made scratches less visible after a few passes with a dry microfiber towel. Deeper scratches were still prominent, though.
Amazon Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 based on over 5,500 reviews
Many positive reviews claim this product leaves a better shine than any other polish they’ve used as well as a mirror finish. Some praise how well it works as a chrome polish, citing its usefulness for restoring their classic car’s bumpers.
Some negative reviews say the Heavy Metal polish leaves slight discoloration after a few coats.
Best for tackling well-worn stains, 3M Metal Polish & Aluminum Restorer removes rust and heavy-duty dirt with little effort. Its formula is designed for safe use that can tackle tough stains and restore shine even after long-term corrosion.
Our review team had a difficult time using the 3D because of its bottle design, which provides inconsistent amounts of polish with each squirt. In our test, this polish didn’t leave as noticeable a shine as the other polishes in this roundup after putting in a little elbow grease with consistent circular motions using our microfiber cloth.
3D Metal Polish includes clear instructions and requires no extra steps to apply other than polish and buff. It isn’t as tough on ground-in debris, but still removes or covers light scratches and water spots without streaking or tarnishing the finish.
Amazon Review Score: 4.3 out of 5 based on around 1,200 reviews
Satisfied customer reviews note how well their polished surfaces resist grime buildup even after one use. A couple of reviews even discuss using the 3D polish for successfully restoring sterling silver antiques.
Although most reviews are positive, some users complain that extra physical effort or a polishing tool is necessary for a glossy finish.
When you have a difficult scratch to remove or a pesky stain that won’t come out, Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and Cleaner excels at evening out the appearance of many different materials. It tackles anything from water spots to oxidation, and Flitz claims it even works on difficult materials such as fingerprints, tree sap, and oil stains.
While Flitz works well on aluminum, this detailer can also be used on plastic, fiberglass, and chrome.
Based on our testing process, we rate Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish 4.6 stars. It isn’t easy to open the seal on the tube packaging, plus measuring out the right amount is difficult due to Flitz’s texture, but the results of our testing speak for themselves.
Note that in the image above, we used Meguiar’s on the right side of the wheel.
We had to move quickly to avoid this polish from streaking, as it dries quicker than the instructions claim. The first coat didn’t remove all of the minor scratches but produced a surprisingly bright shine on our rims.
Amazon Review Score: 4.6 out of 5 based on over 12,000 reviews
Customers who enjoy using this polish commend how well it works to restore rusted aluminum surfaces. There are also some who say Flitz polish is able to remove tough chemical materials such as acetone and paint spills.
A common negative remark against the Flitz is that it takes extra effort to apply in large quantities on car parts like fenders and rims.
Meguiar’s Ultimate All Wheel Cleaner is specifically designed for automotive use. It’s loaded with pH-balanced polymers that are especially effective on brake dust and rust buildup.
Because of its all-wheel design, this cleaner won’t stain tires if spilled. It also turns purple as it picks up grime, providing users a visual indication when it’s ready to be rinsed.
Due to its more involved process and poorer performance on scratches, we rated Meguiar’s cleaner at 4.3 stars. Unlike the other polishes in our roundup, Meguiar’s had to be washed out and then buffed for the most thorough finish possible. Even after buffing, we had to give it a second run-over with a dry cloth to prevent streaking.
Note that in the image above, we used Meguiar’s on the left side of the wheel.
The provided instructions were straightforward and gave us little room for error. And the Meguiar left a clear shine, but not as reflective as some of the other products we reviewed.
Amazon Review Score: 4.6 out of 5 based on over 30,000 reviews
Those who left positive reviews appreciate the Meguiar’s color-changing properties to tell them when it’s time for removal. Other reviews point out how well it works on high-end aftermarket wheels.
Some unhappy customers are upset that the Meguiar’s left a sticky residue on their rims after application.
When selecting aluminum polish, it’s important to consider your vehicle’s needs. Some rims may require polishes with a strong formula while others can be damaged by abrasive compounds. Whichever one you choose, be sure to test a small amount on a small portion of your rims before applying all of it.
Some polishes are designed for lightweight metals while heavy-duty polishes can tackle more intense jobs. It is better to choose polishes built for automotive detailing when cleaning your vehicle because its strength is made for these metals.
Also try to use polishes that are non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-abrasive so you can protect your skin in case of accidental spillage.
Be sure the polish you choose is designed to work on the metal surfaces of your vehicle. Most polishes are designed to work on a variety of metal surfaces, but there are some that are specifically designed for aluminum and can damage materials like stainless steel and chrome.
While most polishes will give aluminum a new glow, the best should also double as a deoxidizer. This prevents rust buildup that can damage your aluminum over time. Polishes should also act as a sealant that prevents moisture from absorbing into aluminum.
The polishes in this article went through two rounds of reviews. We started by searching Amazon for top products, looking at factors like customer ratings, Amazon superlatives, and prices.
The five polishes that best met these standards were ordered by our team for testing. A team member tested each product on a car, taking note of ease of use, clarity of instructions, shine, and whether or not they left streaks behind. Each polish was given a rating out of 5 stars based on these criteria.
Aluminum polishes come in a variety of textures, and some are easier to apply than others. Products that are easier to spread evenly across our aluminum rims scored more points in this category.
Not all polishes work the same, but the provided instructions should clearly explain the application process. Polishes that have simple, straightforward instructions scored well in this category while those with complicated manuals did not.
The purpose of an aluminum polish is to improve overall appearance and make wheels shine like new. The polishes that earned the most points improved our aluminum’s luster significantly.
The best aluminum polishes shouldn’t leave streaks or water spots after application. They should also reduce the appearance of scratches or marks. It is important to consider that polishes cannot completely remove scratches. Polishes that left a clear, uninterrupted finish scored better in this category.
We tested each of our five polishes on the rims of a 2004 Subaru Forester. The rims were first cleaned using Sonax wheel cleaner prior to being buffed with the aluminum polishes. We applied each polish according to the manufacturer’s instructions and recorded how easy they were to buff in, how clear the instructions were, the shine that each one left, and whether or not there were streaks, spots, or scratches after initial polishing.
Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.
We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.
While each manufacturer has different recommendations for how to apply their aluminum polish, most follow these essential guidelines:
Some detailing experts recommend sanding aluminum before applying polish, as this process evens out the surface for a more precise finish. While this is one suggested method, many polishes do not require this extra step and can simply be buffed after a thorough wash-and-dry.
We believe that liquid polishes are better for larger surface areas and general cleanings while pastes are better for fine detailing. Although texture plays a role in the application process, the most important consideration when choosing an aluminum polish is whether or not it’s safe on the surface you intend to clean.
WD-40 is not an alternative to aluminum polish and, therefore, should not be used as such. WD-40 etches the surface of aluminum before it can be anodized and would leave your aluminum surface black and sticky.
*Data accurate at time of publication.Best PasteBest LiquidBest Heavy-DutyBest Precision DetailerBest Combo Option