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How to Clean Aluminum

Aluminum is fairly popular for its excellent finish. That is why it makes an excellent material for cookware. But the great look doesn't stick around forever. After a while, aluminum can get discolored because of stains and oxidation.

Luckily, you can easily restore the shine using some affordable home supplies. The golden rule is to clean aluminum at the earliest time possible when the layer of dirt is still thin.

What you will need:

  • Regular dish soap

  • Cream of tartar or lemons or another acidic fruit or vegetable like tomato

  • Water

  • Soft cloth

  • Old toothbrush

Steps to Cleaning and Polishing Aluminum

1.       Before you can get down to restoring aluminum, you need to start by removing regular dirt. You can use regular dish soap and water for this. Use the soft cloth to scrub the dirt and build-up that has occurred over the years.

2.       Give it a quick rinse to see if you’ve gotten all the gunk out. If you’re happy with the results, you can move on to the next step. If not, you can use the dish soap and soft cloth once more to get to the areas you missed.

3.       Mix the cream of tartar with some water to form a paste. Alternatively, you can use your other sources of acid like lemon, tomato or even ketchup.

4.       Use the soft cloth to apply the paste to the surface of the aluminum. Gently rub in small circular motions to work the mixture into the metal and clean the surface. 

5.       For the best results, use an old toothbrush to clean the hard to reach places like the corners of the piece.

6.       Rinse with clean water and dry using a soft cloth. It's always good to check on the progress after rinsing. If you've missed any spots, you can use some of the acid and water mixture to address them.

After the rinse, your aluminum should be looking much better. If the piece you're cleaning is not used for food, you can go a step further and apply an aluminum polish to give the aluminum finish an even better look. However, for cookware, it's not safe to use an aluminum polish.

Tips to Keep in Mind

Here are some additional tips that can be helpful when cleaning aluminum.

  • You shouldn’t use baking soda or an alkali-based cleaner on aluminum. These cause discoloration of the metal.

  • Aluminum scratches fairly easily. When cleaning be cautious not to use abrasive cleaners and scrubbers, which could damage the smooth finish. If you have to get aggressive, use steel wool.

  • If you have any new aluminum cleaning products, it’s advisable to test them out on a small area before going all out.

  • Make sure you rinse the surface with plenty of water and dry it immediately after polishing to prevent streaks and spots.

These simple household tools and supplies are perfect for removing normal dirt. However, if you are dealing with tough stains like coarse dirt or adhesive residues, you need a stronger cleaning agent.