From kitchen utensils, pans, and baking trays to chair frames and windowsills, there are lots of everyday objects with sensitive aluminum surfaces. No matter how much you take care of them, aluminum will tarnish over time and you’ll find dirt and stains stubbornly sticking to the metal. With our tips on how to clean aluminum, you’ll soon be an expert!
Some people swear by aluminum cookware and baking trays because of the metal's good thermal conductivity. However, the downside is that aluminum becomes darker and darker over time. This doesn’t affect how clean your pans and baking trays are since the unsightly discoloration is simply an oxidation layer that forms when the aluminum comes into contact with oxygen in the air. Aluminum tarnishes more quickly in the dishwasher, so it is better to wash this type of cookware by hand. So how do you clean the surface of aluminum objects? With simple household products that can also be used to clean your bicycle, garden table, or windowsill, for example. This is how it’s done:
- Cleaning aluminum with baking powder
How much baking powder you need depends on the size of the object you want to clean. For example, in order to clean an aluminum baking tray, you’ll need a couple of tablespoons of baking powder. Pour the powder into a small bowl, add some water and mix everything into a paste. Apply the creamy mixture evenly to the surface with a soft cloth. As you rub the cloth over the aluminum with a light circular motion, the oxidation layer will slowly start to come off. Repeat the procedure until the metal is back to its original color. For the last step, don’t forget to rinse thoroughly with water. To avoid water stains or limescale stains, dry the surface well with a cloth. If you don’t have any baking powder, baking soda is a good alternative.
- Cleaning aluminum with lemon and other fruit acids
Various fruit acids are also well suited for cleaning aluminum. In addition to the classic lemon, you can also use apples and rhubarb stalks. The simplest way to do this is to take a slice or cut a stem and rub it over the aluminum surface until it looks good again. Then rinse with water and rub it dry – that is it.
Salt will help if you’re dealing with particularly stubborn stains. Stir the lemon, apple, or rhubarb stalk briefly into the salt so that the crystals stick. Then rub onto the stubborn areas. With this method, you can also clean larger surfaces, for example, an aluminum baking tray, with little effort.
If you want to clean aluminum pans, bring the water with the lemon juice, apple peel, or rhubarb stalks to the boil and let the mixture bubble for about ten minutes. Then drain the water and dry the pan. This method works even if limescale stains have already made themselves at home in the pan.
Bottled lemon juice works just as well as fresh lemon.
Tip: Do you own a garlic press or any other small kitchen utensils made out of aluminum? You can wash them all together in a water bath. Simply place the items in a pan, add lemon, apple peels, or rhubarb stalks and bring to the boil briefly. Leave the item in the hot water for a while and then marvel at the amazing cleaning effect!
- Cleaning aluminum with vinegar
Aluminum is cleaned with vinegar or vinegar essence in the same way it’s cleaned using acidic fruit. If you want to clean aluminum pans, simply boil water with a little vinegar and let it work its magic for a while. You could also bathe smaller utensils in a mixture of vinegar and water.
By making a paste consisting of vinegar, salt, and flour, you can clean tarnished aluminum very well. Make sure you make enough to form a creamy concoction. Then put some of this paste on a soft cloth and rub it onto the aluminum surface. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes before you wipe it off. The cloth will turn black and the aluminum will be shiny again. Don’t forget to rinse and dry properly!
If you want to clean aluminum super fast, simply dribble vinegar directly onto a soft cloth, rub the surface with it and then grab a soft brush. Then go over it once more with a damp cloth, rinse, and rub dry. That’s it.
- Cleaning aluminum with ketchup
Ketchup can be used to clean aluminum? Yes, it can! Since ketchup contains vinegar and water in addition to acid, this condiment works great. Just put a dollop of ketchup on a cloth and wipe the surface. Make sure to use an old rag or disposable one as ketchup will leave a stain. After a short while, the aluminum should be clean again. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry everything meticulously.
For stubborn stains, apply the ketchup directly to the affected area and leave the sauce to work for about half an hour. Then wipe everything away with a soft cloth, rinse, and dry.
- Cleaning aluminum with onion
Another household item that’s especially great at cleaning aluminum pans – an onion. You can use it to remove stains from burnt-on food. In order to get rid of the residues at the bottom of the pan, leave the pan to soak for a while. The next step is to use a plastic spatula or a scraper to remove the softened pieces of food, and wash off anything that comes loose as best you can with a dishwashing brush. Now add a finely chopped onion, a teaspoon of salt, and some fresh water to the pan. Boil everything up and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Pour off the water and rinse the pan again with a detergent while scrubbing at the same time with a dishwashing sponge or brush.
- Cleaning aluminum with dish soap
If you want to clean your aluminum windowsill, it is better to steer clear of lemon or other acids. Windowsills and similar surfaces made of aluminum are usually fixed in place with a sealant that could be damaged by this method. Instead, the best product to use to clean the windowsill is dish soap. Put a few drops of it in warm water, dip a soft microfiber cloth in the solution, and wring it out so that it is just a bit moist. This will remove everyday dirt. For stubborn stains, apply the detergent directly, leave it to work for a while, and then wipe first with a wet cloth and then with a dry cloth.
It’s a good idea to clean your aluminum items regularly. The longer you leave it, the thicker the oxidation or dirt layer will become and therefore more difficult and laborious to clean. Here are a few tips to ensure that cleaning aluminum always goes smoothly:
- If you’re using vinegar or other acidic substances, make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Always remember that aluminum is a soft metal. Therefore, it’s not recommended to use metal sponges or any kind of metal objects to clean aluminum since they could cause unsightly scratches.
- For particularly stubborn stains such as paint or glue residue, use cleaners specifically made to remove these substances and always follow the instructions exactly.
- Oven cleaners can sometimes be used on aluminum objects, but not all of them. Therefore, before applying the product all over the aluminum in question, it’s best to test it first in an inconspicuous place to see whether there’s staining or a change in the aluminum.
- Scouring agents cause scratches on soft metals, but if you don’t mind this, you can use it to clean your aluminum baking trays, for example.