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Since aluminum is very reactive chemically, it is always oxide-covered before immersion in the plating bath. The usual procedure in plating on aluminum is first to deposit a thin film of zinc on the aluminum and then to plate over the zinc. This is known as the zincate process. A less common practice is to anodize the aluminum (see Anodizing) and plate over the anodized coating. In the zincate method, the exact procedure employed depends in part on the type of aluminum alloy present. The following procedures are adapted from those recommended by the Aluminum Company of America. (See Table 1 for formulas.)


1. Degrease; then clean in an inhibited alkaline cleaner. Rinse thoroughly. 2. Pickle in chromic-sulfuric acid, and rinse. 3. Dip in concentrated nitric acid, and rinse. 4. Use zincate treatment. 5. Rinse and plate.


1. Degrease; then clean in an inhibited alkaline cleaner. Rinse thoroughly. 2. Dip in concentrated nitric acid, and rinse. 3. Dip in caustic soda, and rinse. 4. Dip in nitric-hydrofluoric acid, and rinse. 5. Dip in nitric acid, and rinse. 6. Use zincate treatment, 7. Rinse and plate,


1. Degrease; then clean in an inhibited alkaline cleaner. Rinse thoroughly. 2. Pickle in chromic-sulfuric acid, and rinse. 3. Dip in nitric-hydrofluoric acid, and rinse. 4. Pickle in chromic-sulfuric acid, and rinse. 5. Use zincate treatment. 6. Rinse and plate.


After the thin zinc film has been formed in the zincate bath, the work is struck in a Rochelle copper solution, and then given a thin plate of Rochelle copper. After this, the work may be plated with the desired deposit. The copper coating should be at least 0.15 mil thick, and preferably 0.3 mil thick before subsequent plating.

Although less desirable, it is also possible to plate various metals directly over the zincate-treated surface, without the use of Rochelle copper. In such instances it is necessary to use specially designed plating solutions.


A great many patents notwithstanding, aluminum cannot be deposited from aqueous solutions. The reason is that it is so active electrochemically that, in aqueous solutions, it is always easier to reduce water to hydrogen than to reduce aluminum ion to aluminum.

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