Stains and Scratches on Flagpoles
Types of Staining
1. Dirt, Grass, or Other natural debris that may collect on the pole while it is installed or waiting to be installed.
2. Chemicals, Paint, and Other markings that may spill onto the pole or be thrown onto the pole. This may be noticed as streaks or marks on the shaft’s surface.
3. Water Staining that occurs due to water being in contact with the shaft and having no way to evaporate through the wrappings in a timely fashion. Dark spots or streaks will begin to present themselves over time. This is most often seen when wrapped poles are left outside or not unwrapped immediately after delivery. This is typically described as a ‘black mark’, ‘dark colored streak(s)’, or ‘dark splotches’ along the shaft’s length or circumference. Water Staining is the most reported problem we see as a manufacturer.
4. Scratches from improper handling on the job site or by the transportation company.
Cleaning of Mild Dirt or Debris
A garden hose, with low to moderate pressure can be used to wash off most dirt and debris that may be on the flagpole. If it still does not come off of the shaft, use of a wet cloth should be tried. If necessary, a mild soap or detergent may be used (items such as Go Jo hand cleaner or liquid soaps). We must warn that the cleaning of any surface that is anodized or painted should be done with great care and that it should be tested on a small ‘test’ area where the finish will not be seen (ground set poles can be tested in the area which will go into the ground sleeve). Rinse away any remaining soap to prevent future reactions with the metal.
Cleaning and Removal of Water Stains
The following are options to try in removing these stains from shafts in the order of least reactive to most reactive (please follow safety procedures and not let chemicals come in contact with skin or other body parts ? if you do come in contact with the chemical please follow directions on the container or contact a doctor immediately for advice ? if chemicals or ingested contact your local poison control hotline immediately). Please dispose of chemicals carefully in correlation with all local and federal guidelines after use.
1. Run a stream of warm or cold water over the stained area using low to moderate pressure from a water hose. Use of a soft cloth may be used to gently rub the affected spot.
2. Mild liquid soaps can be used to aid in removal of the stain. If the pole is painted or anodized, a small spot should be tested first to verify the finish will not be damaged by the product being used.
3. The solution of Lemon oil + Pumice + Pumice Hand Cleaner with soft rags can remove most stains.
ATTENTION: For the following options, always test a spot before proceeding due to the chemical nature of these products. These could cause damage to anodized or painted finishes if not used carefully. For Anodized poles, soap and water is typically sufficient to clean any dirt or stains and the following options are not suggested.
4. Household cleaners such as 409, Lysol, or Texize can be applied with a soft cloth and applied in a circular motion. It is best to rub around the shaft, in the same direction as the sanding marks, to prevent scratches or scarring.
5. Naval Jelly, Zepalen, Sodium Hydroxide, and Diluted Drano (50/50 concentration with water) can be used and applied in the same manner as #3, making sure to rinse clean when complete.
6. Aluminum Alloy Wheel Cleaner, purchased at most retail stores handling automotive supplies. This cleaner should be sprayed directly onto the stained area per the bottle’s instructions. A soft cloth should be used to clean the area, in the direction of the sanding marks. In severe cases, the use of a stainless steel wire brush can be used in the direction of the original sanding marks. Depending on the severity of the stain, the process may need to be repeated several times to eliminate the entire stain. If steel bristles are used, rust may set up over time causing the appearance of a stain.
7. EMCEE Chemical has a stain remover sold by the name “Aluminum Stain Remover”. They will accept direct calls or contacts at the following address and phone numbers:
PO Box 39
New Bern, N.C. 20560
Apply per bottle’s instructions with a brush onto pole in direction of sanding grain. Rinse with water. For moderately stained poles one quart of the liquid should be sufficient. Outside air temperature may affect performance.
Notes to Remember
Aluminum can be exposed to almost any solvent for a short period of time without any adverse effects. If a cleaner contains oil or wax, a dry cloth should be used to help remove.
Heat accelerates chemical reactions. Cleaners may become overactive or may evaporate too quickly in hot temperatures. It may also create streaks leaving an improper finish. Cold temperatures inhibit the chemical process. Try to clean on a mild day in shaded areas.
Spot testing — place solution on unobtrusive portion of the finish (the part below ground or side away from normal view) in concentration and manner you plan to use for the same length of time. Rinse clean, let dry, and inspect. Check painted or anodized poles for softening/dissolution of color in grain.
NEVER mix chemicals for your own safety.
Do not let chemicals come in contact with other materials or yourself.
Cleaning and Removal or Other Types of Stains
In rare instances a chemical or paint can be spilled onto a shaft when at the job site. In this instance, the options given above for water staining should be attempted. If these do not work, you may also wish to try the following (using same guidelines as above for your safety). These include:
1. Paint Thinner/Remover
2. the affected areas as described below.
REMEMBER: No chemical treatment or sanding should be tried on any pole with a painted or anodized finish. Only those with a directionally sanded finish should be considered for these options.
Visible Scratches To Directionally Sanded Surfaces
If scratch marks are present from shipping or from handling on the job site, the following procedures can be used to attempt a repair on the shaft’s finish. Again, we would warn that these sanding procedures should not be attempted on anodized or painted shaft assemblies.
1. Use an aluminum oxide sanding belt, 80 grit or higher, such as is used with portable electric belt sanders. These are available through most hardware stores.
2. Take the belt and break at one point along the loop to have one long single piece.
3. Pull the belt back and forth (similar to a shoe shining motion) over the stained area of the pole in the same direction as the existing sanding lines on the pole. If care is used in the process, a satin finish equal to the original factory finish can be achieved.
The rate of halyard wear depends on several factors including flag size, wind conditions, climate and usage. For these reason we recommend monthly inspections of the halyard for wear. Worn halyard should be replaced before complete failure so that it can be used to pull the new halyard through the truck.
Polypropylene and nylon rope halyard should be replaced if there are signs of fraying, tearing, or other visible damage. Stainless steel cable halyard should be replaced if there are any signs of kinking, fraying or other visible damage.
Note: For internal halyard poles with winch, see below.
Winch Operation, Care and Maintenance (if required)
1. Slide winch handle completely through or onto winch (depending on model) before raising or lowering flag.
2. Always maintain tension in the cable when raising or lowering the flag. If tension is not maintained, the cable may jump off the drum and jam the winch.
3. Turn winch handle clockwise to raise the flag and counter clockwise to lower the flag.
4. When the flag is raised to its highest point, turn the handle clockwise with extra force to engage the winch brake.
In order to ensure proper winch operation, we suggest that new operators open the access door and watch the movement of the winch while raising and lowering the flag. Damage to the winch can result if the handle is turned in the wrong direction. When raising the flag, a loud clicking sound should be heard. When lowering the flag, there is no clicking.
Winch Care and Maintenance
The following steps will improve the operation and increase the life of your new winch:
1. Periodically clean any debris that may accumulate on winch and cable. Do not lubricate exposed parts.
2. Adjust the double nut assembly on the winch input shaft (for some models) as the winch becomes too loose or difficult to operate. Periodic adjustment of the nuts may be required as the friction brake pads in the winch wear. Two ?” wrenches are required for this adjustment.
3. Replace damaged and worn cable.
The frequency of inspections and maintenance depends on the amount of use, flag size, and wind conditions your flag pole experiences. A monthly check of all cable connections and winch operation should be sufficient in most cases.