Cleaning Untreated Aluminum Ramps
Aluminum is a light, but strong material that is common for outdoor, commercial applications because of its weather-resistant properties; aluminum doesn’t rust because it forms a natural layer of oxide.
Steel products usually undergo the process of galvanizing to protect them from rust. Zinc is used as a protective coating for it to have a sacrificial action on the primary metal. It is necessary for outdoor products exposed to severe conditions such as acid rain or seawater spray.
Compare: Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel
Oxidation is a confusing process because it is a form of corrosion, but, unlike oxidation that occurs on other metals, it does not jeopardize the structural integrity of the aluminum – it actually strengthens the material. Oxidation creates a protective barrier against water and rust, but it can make the aluminum less attractive overtime. Cleaning the ramp will decrease the chances of severe oxidation.
Step 1: The first step is to make sure that all debris including mud, dust, and leaves are all cleared off the ramp. To do this, you must start at the top of the ramp with a stiff-bristled push-broom, and sweep all the debris down the ramp; the edge guards that run along both edges of the ramp prevent the debris from being pushed over the sides. The stiff-bristled push-broom is recommended to clean out the grooves of the ramp, but don’t try to scrub the ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.
Step 2: After brushing off the aluminum ramp, rinse it with water and mild detergent such as dish soap. Use a generous amount of dish soap over the length of the ramp, and put a concentrated amount on tough spots. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Next, hose off or lightly pressure wash the ramp to remove the soap and dirt. It is suggested to use filtered water if possible because unfiltered water may contain sulfur, chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals that could be damage the aluminum over time. Make sure that all dish soap is washed off before the wheelchair ramp is used.
Step 3: If there is dirt on the ramp still, use a towel and dish soap to scrub the area. Do not use steel wool or scour pads because these materials can scratch the aluminum and give it a dull appearance. Do not use harsh cleaners like baking soda or alkali-based cleaners as these can cause discoloration. If you want to try a new type of cleaner, test an area on the underside of the ramp to see if it discolors the aluminum.
Cleaning Powder-Coated Aluminum Ramps
If the aluminum wheelchair ramp is powder-coated, there is less chance of oxidation because the powder-coating provides an extra layer of defense. However, it is possible for the layer to be breached and form oxidation spots. Most of the cleaning steps are the same as non-powder-coated aluminum, but the powder-coating is a little more delicate than the aluminum.
Step 1: Brush off the ramp, moving from top to bottom, with a stiff-bristled push-broom. Do not try to scrub the wheelchair ramp with the broom as it might scratch the aluminum.
Step 2: The most efficient way to clean outdoor aluminum ramps with a powder-coating finish is with a pressure washer using filtered water at low pressure. Use a mild detergent such as dish soap, and DO NOT use chlorine or harsh cleaning solutions. A high-water pressure and harsh cleaning products can damage the powder-coated finish. The commercial cleaning solutions will clean the surface, but they also remove micro layers of finish. The layer might later become hard and crack while losing its protective barrier.
Step 3: As stated above, use a soft brush or cloth to clean the surface; do not use anything that has hard bristles or a scratchy pad.
Step 4: To keep powder-coated wheelchair ramps looking nice, try a high-grade, non-abrasive car wax that contains a U.V. blocker and/or U.V. inhibitors. Be sure to wipe off residual wax because it could bake in the heat and cause permanent staining. It is recommended, as with any other product applied to the ramp, to make a test area on the underside of the ramp.