How to Clean Aluminum Heads at Home: An In-depth Guide

Cylinder heads are really important for your car’s engine. They partake in the internal combustion, the intake of fuel and air, and the expulsion of exhaust gasses. 

So keeping them clean is really important. Cylinder heads are made of different materials such as iron, aluminum, etc. the cleaning process is different for each.

So how to clean aluminum heads at home?

Aluminum is soft and must be cleaned with care. A plastic scraper, sandpaper, etc can be used to remove the surface-level dirt. Chemical solvents will be needed to remove hard carbon deposits and grease. Media blasting, combining the scrubbing ultrasonics with water-based cleaners can also be used.

So get your aluminum heads ready and read our article to know how to clean them properly.

Cleaning Challenges

Cleaning heads by yourself will not be easy. The castings have complicated contours and intricate geometrics. The water jackets inside the head may gather rust.

Combustion chambers and ports may have hard carbon deposits.

Both iron and aluminum heads have to be cleaned down to the bare surface. But as we already mentioned, Aluminum cylinder heads cleaning solvent is different from iron head cleaning solvents. It is because the elements react differently to chemicals and heat.

Cleaning The Aluminum Head

Now let’s get into the process of cleaning your aluminum cylinder head. But before we start, make sure you are 100% confident that you are working with an aluminum head. Because aluminum cylinder head cleaning is different from iron heads. And this guide is just for aluminum heads. Now let’s start


There are necessary preparations you need to do before you can clean your aluminum head. This includes gathering cylinder head cleaning tools and taking safety precautions.

Gathering The Essential Tools

To begin you will need to gather the needed tools and equipment. Most of them should be available in your house. The ones you don’t have should be available in your local auto parts store. Make sure you have access to warm water for the cleaning process.

The following list answers what to clean aluminum heads with.

These are all you need to clean the cylinder head.

Completely Disassemble The Head

A completely assembled cylinder head has many intricate parts that have to be removed for cleaning. Ignition components. one or two camshafts, intake, and exhaust valves are parts that need to be removed.

Carefully detach the valve cover on the top of the cylinder. This is to stop it from warping. First, loosen all the bolts. Next, unscrew them completely.

Some components might need a machine for removal. The machine press is such a machine. It is needed to remove some components that need to be pressed out of the head, if you don’t have one, you can get help from a machine shop.

Most importantly, keep all of the removed parts carefully. Do not lose any of the small parts. And remember which came from where.

Safety Gear

Cleaning the aluminum head with chemicals might be hazardous. So best if you take some safety precautions. Wear protective gear on your eyes. Safety glasses or goggles are highly recommended.

Chemical-resistant gloves are also needed. They will protect your hands from irritation by the brakes or chemical cleaners. Gloves that extend to the elbow are recommended in case you fill the tub with non-spray part cleaners. 

Cleaning The Head

Now that we are done prepping, we can start cleaning the head. For your ease, we have sectioned the process into 6 simple steps.

Step 1:Remove Head Gasket Using Plastic Scraper

The first thing that needs to be addressed is how to clean head gasket surface. Scrap off the head gasket with a plastic scraper. Be very careful while scraping. Do not scratch or damage the mating surface of the cylinder head. 

Step 2: Place the Head In the Tub

It is time to place the cylinder head in the tub. Pour the liquid parts cleaner into the tub after placing the cylinder head. But if you have a spray cleaner, you will not have to fill the tub.

Be careful about moving the head and get help from another if needed. Do not damage the studs or vacuum line nozzles sticking out.

Step 3: Scrub the Head With Parts Cleaner & Rag 

Scrub every inch of the aluminum cylinder head using a rag and cleaning solution of your choice. Pour or spray the cleaner in areas you cannot reach by hand. Using cleaning agents is the solution to how to clean carbon off aluminum heads.

Step 4: Place the Head In a Tub With Warm Water

Now fill the other tub with warm water. Have enough water to completely submerge the head. Having the tub outside may be for the better as there may be spillage.

Then gently place the cylinder head into the tub. Again, be careful about moving the head and enlist the help of another if needed.

The water will be able to go to the places your hand was unable to. The warm water, with the help of the cleaners, will remove the remaining debris. The water will also help remove the caustic cleaner. Long exposure to the caustic cleaner might damage the aluminum head.

Step 5: Wipe Down the Head

After letting the head soak for a few minutes, carefully remove it from the water. Now use a clean rag, without any cleaner, to wipe down the head. Wipe it as thoroughly as possible.

Step 6: Spray Wash the Head

A spray washer will help you effectively clean the aluminum head. You may find one in auto-parts shops. Though it is very helpful for the cleaning process, it is not a necessity.

And with that, you have a clean aluminum cylinder head.


How To Dry And Store Cylinder Heads?

First, try using compressed air to remove water out of unreachable places of the head. Then let the head dry completely. Next, check the head thoroughly for damage. If there are no damages, oil, and bag the head to store it. Be sure to store it in a safe place.

What Are Some Cylinder Head Cleaning Machines?

Ultrasonic cleaners are effective for cleaning cylinder heads. Professionals use it for cleaning as well. You can use ultrasonic cleaners to clean the cylinder head without using any caustic chemical cleaners. Because it relies on cavitation for cleaning.

What Is The Best Way To Clean Aluminum Cylinder Heads?

You can clean aluminum cylinder heads in multiple ways. You can enlist the help of a professional cleaner, clean it yourself in your house, or even use an ultrasonic cleaner. All are valid options and what is best for you depends on the situation you are in. 


Now we know how to clean aluminum heads at home. It is pretty easy if you follow the steps properly. 

Gather all the necessary tools and carefully clean the cylinder head. Aluminum is a soft metal so be gentle while cleaning. Do not lose any intricate part of the head.

That’s about it! 

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