What to clean the inside of an aluminum tank??

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Dec 7, 2007
Bought an aluminum fuel tank today. Its most likely a tank from/for a boat, just by what I have seen others like this fit. Not sure what it was used previously for, but it has a vague hint of old gas (varnish). Short of taking it to a radiator shop and having it rodded out, what are my options for a DIY tank cleaner?
If you are not worried about shine, but just clean. Acid(aka-aluminum brightener) it will clean the aluminum, turns it white though, but it will remove any grime, without any scrubbing. Foams up and rinse it off. Removes all polish too though.
This is the interior, not like I can get in there to "scrub"... I have no idea to condition yet...just brought it home and set it out back because I have other things more pressing. I just know it smells like varnish, which is a sure sign of old gasoline.
I'm not sure about Chemtool or SeaFoam, but varnish and such is exactly what carb cleaners are made for. Something like Gumout, Pyroil, Holley, CRC, or similar products would help dissolve any varnish-ey, gummy residues in the tank. (I'm thinking liquids, not aerosols) Some of them are meant to be mixed with gasoline to do their work, so read the labels. If you can dump some in there and swish it around to all the surfaces a few times with the tank closed up, that should help loosen up the gunk, then I would think regular filling with gas would wash the stuff away. You might want to use a good carb/FI cleaner like Chevron Techron (PEA), Berryman, SeaFoam, Gumout, 3M, etc. in the first few tanks to add the extra detergency to dissolve the remnants. I've never really had to do this before but varnish and gummy stuff isn't really that tough to get rid of. It's not like tough cooked-on valve deposits, ring crustiness, etc. The varnish mostly dissolves away on its own with use, but the cleaners might help get rid of it and suspend/burn it better than just straight gas. Interested to hear what others have to say on this topic.
Had to clean a tank out of a bus one time. I found that Eagle 1 A to Z Wheel Cleaner was the thing. It was strong enough to loosen any caked on sludge but didn't hurt the metal. It was a whim thought that got me to use this. I sprayed the cleaner into the tank and then sprayed a small amount of water into the tank. once the tank soaked for a while I drained and repeated. I was able to move the tank around to "slosh" the cleaner.
Don't use anything alkaline on aluminum, it will etch it. The carb cleaner, etc. sounds good. You could try some xylene.
Too late for an edit. Put a little of something that cleans well and is volatile in it. Xylene would do, but toluene might be better. Cover, but don't seal the openings. Set it out in the sun. The solvent will evaporate, condense on the top and sides, dissolving everything. Your own vapor degreaser, or bomb.
If you are cleaning the inside and not worried about the finnish then get aluminum brightener, its acid. We would use it to clean the aluminum truck bodies(beds of big trucks and wheels. You just spray it on and it foams up and hose it off, it will remove and polish so it was a no-no on polished tanks unless severely watered down. These were coal trucks though and we just wanted the beds clean. It about the same as the wheel cleaner you buy at Walmart, but about 25x stronger. Not muratic acid, that will turn it black, get aluminum brightener. I think they sell it at Ace.
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