See if We Have Top-Rated
Metal Finishing Contractors in Your Area
Metal is everywhere in a modern day home. From faucets to refrigerators and fixtures to furniture, it makes at least a small appearance in every room of the house. Not only is metal extraordinarily durable, but when it is well taken care of, it is also quite attractive. The problem is that metal doesn't simply get dirty: With rust, tarnish, and other metal-specific issues, cleaning doesn't begin to describe what it takes to keep metal looking shiny and new.
Metal finishing is science in its purest form. In fact, much of the information available about metal finishing is quite technical and is written for contractors and people in the industry. While the chemistry and mechanical details take lots of knowledge and experience to truly grasp, homeowners with a desire for fine-looking metal should be aware of the processes and techniques that are available through professionals, as well as through your local hardware store. Mechanical Metal Finishing
The easiest and most common form of metal finishing in the home is mechanical polishing. It includes not just polishing but grinding and buffing as well.
Mechanical polishing is safe in the respect that it doesn't involve harsh chemicals or any electrical current. Basically, it is just using different levels of abrasives to create a smoother surface. The process, however, works by stripping away tiny pieces of metal. Each time it is done, some of the metal is lost. Chemical Cleaning
Metal finishing by chemical means is a common practice both with professionals and homeowners. Products you purchase at the hardware store to polish and clean metal can work either mechanically (by using a paste or liquid filled with extremely fine abrasives) or chemically. The chemical cleaners will react either with the scale (the layer of grime attached to the metal) or the metal itself and loosen the hold the undesired substance has on the metal underneath. Different metals will react positively to different chemical cleaners, so it is very important to only use a chemical that is meant specifically for what you are trying to clean.
Electro polishing and Electroplating
When professionals talk about metal finishing, they are often speaking of electroplating and electro-polishing. Electroplating is a process that uses an electrical current to basically coat an object with a desired metal. Electro-polishing is like the process in reverse; it uses a current to pull away tiny bits of metal from a surface.
Electroplating and polishing are techniques used only by professionals and often only for industrial purposes. Though you may hear of people using one of these processes in their home, the results that can be obtained in such an uncontrolled environment will not be anywhere near the quality of a commercial job. Home electroplating is more of a science experiment than a feasible form of metal finishing.
Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.