Methods of selectively etching aluminum and aluminum layers from the surface of a substrate are described. The etch selectively removes aluminum materials relative to silicon-containing films such as silicon, polysilicon, silicon oxide, silicon carbon nitride, silicon oxycarbide and/or silicon nitride. The methods include exposing aluminum materials (e.g. aluminum) to remotely-excited chlorine (Cl2) in a substrate processing region. A remote plasma is used to excite the chlorine and a low electron temperature is maintained in the substrate processing region to achieve high etch selectivity. Aluminum oxidation may be broken through using a chlorine-containing precursor or a bromine-containing precursor excited in a plasma or using no plasma-excitation, respectively.