Aluminum is an excellent material for building dependable ladders and hand trucks, as well as spaceships, solar panels and soda cans. According to aluminum.org, it is "infinitely recyclable and nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today." It is described as a "miracle metal" due to its strength, corrosion resistance, recyclability, and versatility. Making up about 8% of the Earth's crust, aluminum is also the third most abundant metal worldwide. Due to these benefits, many Cosco products are made of this material. Aluminum does not rust, but another form of oxidation may occur if items are exposed to weather.
To explain this process, defining a few terms may be helpful:
- Alloys: These are additives to a metal to help it achieve more desirable characteristics depending on the intended use. Alloys may either affect the resistance or susceptibility to corrosion, depending on the composition, though this may vary by model.
- Corrosion: a natural process where refined metal converts to a more chemically stable form, such as oxide, hydroxide or sulphide. On aluminum, corrosion is aluminum oxidation. In a weird twist of nature, however, corrosion by oxidation also acts as a protection against corrosion, because once oxidation forms, it can corrode no further; it prevents corrosion by slightly corroding itself.
- Oxidation: A chemical reaction that takes place when a substance is exposed to oxygen. Oxidation of steel or iron results in rust. Aluminum is impervious to rust, but over time it can oxidize in its own way, which results in a powdery gray or white coating over the surface. This, in turn may blacken your fingers when touched, as it is compounded by the oils in your skin. Aluminum oxidation is not an instantaneous process, but one affected by time and exposure to environmental elements such as humidity.
- Anodization: Along with painting and powder coating, anodizing is a means of creating a protective coating over the material. Anodization is a means of preventing oxidation. It is an electrochemical process, which requires the item to be dipped multiple times in a chemical bath and electrically charged with a high-amperage, low-voltage electrical current. There are many benefits to anodizing aluminum products; it makes for a shinier, more scratch resistant surface and allows color to be added to the surface as well, but it does increase the cost. Additionally, it must be carefully controlled for environmental waste.
With a few exceptions, most of our aluminum products are non-anodized. When aluminum products are stored indoors, or away from exposure to the elements, oxidation is more of the exception than the rule. Should oxidation occur, wiping the affected surface with a rag can prevent smudging and keep your work area clean. We do not recommend commercial cleaners, as we do not test these on our products.