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What Is Hard Anodizing?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hard anodizing, also known as hardcoating or Type III anodizing, is a process used to create a hard wearing, corrosion resistant coating on a variety of metals. Anodizing can be broken down into two broad sub-categories: decorative and hard anodizing. The main differences between the two is how thick and durable the coating is, and the exact process used to create it.

The Anodizing Process

Anodizing a metal part involves putting it into a liquid that is electrically conductive, typically an acid solution, called an electrolyte. Circuits have a positive electrode (cathode) where electrons enter and a negative one (anode) where they leave; in anodizing, the metal part becomes the negative electrode. When an electric current is passed through the solution, the action of the electrons leaving the circuit through the metal part causes a tough, corrosion resistant coating of oxidization to build up. The coating can either be left as it is after this treatment or further enhanced with decorative dyes and other performance-improving additives.

The process of manufacturing hard anodized parts differs from decorative coatings in several ways. It uses electric currents that are generally higher and electrolyte solutions that are slightly weaker. The temperature of the electrolyte solution is also lower allowing for less distortion of precision parts and better adhesion of the coating. Generally speaking, the anodizing process is also considered to be relatively environmentally friendly and the byproducts are recyclable.

Types of Coatings

Hard anodized coatings are typically applied to heavy wear industrial parts intended for use in aggressive or highly corrosive applications. These coatings are typically far thicker and harder than decorative ones, and usually lend the parts a durability approaching that of hard faced or case hardened steel. They also penetrate and cover surface imperfections such as fissures better.

Generally, hard anodized parts have coatings which exceed 10 μm (0.01 mm or 0.0004 inches) with typical coatings exceeding 25 μm (0.025 mm or 0.001 inches). Decorative anodizing usually features coatings of less than 10 μm and, although durable, doesn't have the same exceptional wear characteristics of hard anodizing. Decorative or architectural treatments are commonly found on consumer items such as domestic cookware, electronic device casings, and ornaments.

Hardcoated items usually have a dark gray, matte finish, although this can vary depending on the metal the item is made of and the composition of the electrolyte solution. This method can also produce a black finish as well as various shades of bronze. Decorative anodizing usually produces a lighter shade, and can be made matte or shiny. Both types typically take dye well.


One of the main reasons to anodize metal is to make it more resistant to corrosion. The thick outer oxidized layer prevents the internal material from being exposed to moisture, oxygen, and other factors that can cause the metal to disintegrate. Sealed items are even more corrosion resistant and can often stand up to thousands of hours of exposure to salt water sprays.

The outer coating is also extremely hard, typically much harder than the original metal. In many cases, a thick hard anodized coating can be as hard as tool steel. It's also very wear resistant, meaning that it is often used for pistons and other sliding parts that often rub together. Because the oxidation layer is part of the metal itself, it won't peel off; the metal surface may be rough after it's anodized, however, so it may be necessary to grind it down to prevent bits from breaking off.

Hard anodized metals are usually very insulating, meaning that they don't conduct heat or electricity well. This is especially useful for applications that require the part be used at high temperatures. The coating is also chemically stable and non-toxic.

Additional Treatments

As with decorative coatings, hard anodized surfaces can be dyed, although, in most cases, they are left as is due to the purely functional nature of most of the parts involved. They are, however, often impregnated with performance enhancing additives such as Teflon® which improve the part's self-lubrication. In some cases, they are also sealed in boiling distilled water or dichromate solutions to further improve their corrosion resistance.


Metal that has been anodized has a much lower fatigue strength, meaning that it's more likely to fracture when put under stress, although this can be improved if the item is sealed. Sealing the item can reduce its resistance to abrasive wear, however, so whether or not a part is sealed often depends on its final use. Anodizing also does not protect thinner metal items from damage like dents. The outer coating does make the metal part thicker, which can be a problem if screw holes or other spaces are pre-drilled.

Materials That Can Be Anodized

Although aluminum is by far the most common metal subjected to hard anodizing, other materials can benefit from the treatment, including tantalum, magnesium, and titanium. In all cases, the treatments lend the parts exceptional wear and corrosion resistance and can be dyed nearly any color. Common uses for hard anodized parts include heavy commercial cook and bakeware, medical prosthetic parts, and automotive components. The military is another large consumer of these products, as most hard anodized surfaces meet or exceed stringent military specifications.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon351934 — On Oct 17, 2013

@Myquest - yeah, it's called chrome.

By anon201064 — On Jul 29, 2011

i am heading up a project for producing a hard coating for aluminum. what type of material should we use for the construction of the tank?

By anon86389 — On May 25, 2010

for pneumatic application with a dynamic seal present, which is the better process to follow: hard or normal anodizing? please tell me. --Naveen

By anon69668 — On Mar 09, 2010

Does hard coating process make the part non-conductive?

By anon44591 — On Sep 09, 2009

Is cooking in teflon, aluminum or hard anodized utensils harmful for the health? if yes what health risks do they pose? Which of these is best suited for cooking?

By anon44148 — On Sep 05, 2009

"Rust" is the name given to oxides of iron - aluminum oxide is not, therefore, rust.

By anon35685 — On Jul 07, 2009

Aluminum causes no health risks. it is associated to Alzheimer's but there is no firm evidence. its a myth, kind of like the 'blue blood' myth years ago - using stainless steel utensils in a s/s pan caused blue blood which killed the royals, but im pretty sure this came out when nylon utensils were new. anyway an antacid tablet has more aluminum in it then you will get from cooking in an aluminum pan for the rest of your life.

By tlbruch — On Jan 25, 2009

I'm still confused! I sell cookware at a large Macys store for a living I have a lot of people coming in - or brides that want it short simple -- kindergarten language - what is hard anodized - what product is best - will non stick hurt me -- what stainless cookware (besides All Clad) is best - what is crap! We sell Emeril, Cuisinart, Analon, All Clad, and certain Macys brands

By ylletroja — On Mar 13, 2008

Here I am living in a residential area next to a small business that uses hard anodizing in a garage that no longer functions as a garage, but is loaded with high-tech equipment for the business. Aluminum is provided with coatings in this business. Sometimes I can smell odors that seem to indicate unhealthy air pollution. The owners are not covert about this business, and in fact have a splashy web site. Is there any reason to think that this well-constructed garage might be putting stuff out into the air that could be harmful to me next door?

By anon5758 — On Dec 05, 2007

My grandmother told me not to buy aluminum pans, because are bad for your health? Is she correct? She told me that the aluminum is not safe, that either nonstick or stainless steel is better.

I know a lot of time ago the aluminum was prohibited because it can cause cancer??? Can you answer this question?

Thank you!

By anon5549 — On Nov 29, 2007

Alternate processes exist for ferrous metals such as nitriding or carbon-nitriding. This results in an extremely hard case. Also, anodizing is not necessarily "aluminum-based". Other materials can be successfully anodized such as tungsten, magnesium and molybdenum. Depends on the stability of the oxide the material forms.

By anon2216 — On Jul 03, 2007

To Respond to myquest: no, the anodization of Aluminum is a byproduct of the unique way that Aluminum oxidizes. Al2O3, the product of Aluminum oxidation, is hard compared to Al by itself. It forms as soon as raw Al hits the atmosphere and prevents further oxidation of the Al. Anodization further pushes and forces this process to create a thicker oxidation layer. Hope that helps.

By myquest — On Jun 21, 2007

I know anodising is an aluminum based process but does an equivalent exist for other conductive materials like ductile iron?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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