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How to Clean Aluminum – The Ultimate Guide

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Aluminum is a material that is largely rust-free, highly durable, and is both light in weight and on your pocket. From crockery to light fixtures and doors, aluminum is used almost everywhere.

While aluminum is rust-free, it still falls prey to staining and color degradation. When left unattended, it can slowly turn into an unattractive shade of green-brown. Before your aluminum looks like that, there are a few cleaning tips that you can incorporate to keep the metal shining bright as always.

What Equipment Do You Need to Clean Aluminum?

The first step to clean aluminum items in your home is determining whether the metal is unfinished. Cleaning an aluminum object covered with lacquer, paint, or another coating should be done according to the coverage requirements rather than the metal.

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If the item isn’t coated, you will have to follow different methods to clean it as compared to coated aluminum. This is why we have listed the instructions on cleaning different types of aluminum below. All you have to do is figure out which kind of aluminum you have.

Routine Cleaning

For day-to-day maintenance, a simple wipe-down with lukewarm water and detergent can do wonders. The more time you let the dirt settle on aluminum, the harder it will be to remove the resulting stains.

While there are a variety of methods present in the market to get rid of these stains, they are not always the best for the metal’s durability. A general rule of thumb would be to start with the mildest form of cleaning and then move upwards.

Aluminum cleaning options in ascending order of their harshness are:

  • A simple wipe down with lukewarm water and a microfiber cloth.
  • Mild soaps and general-purpose detergents.
  • Solvents such as kerosene, turpentine, or white spirit.
  • Chemical cleaners. Use caution when using these cleaners and the usage guidelines must be read thoroughly. To minimize damage, try using a non-etching solution.
  • Wax-based polish.
  • Abrasive wax that will provide a thorough wash.
  • Abrasive cleaners are the most heavy-duty erasers present and must be used only under professional guidance.
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Depending upon the type of aluminum, different cleaning methods are recommended. When choosing any one of them, it is always advised to first read the manufacturers’ booklet.

After cleaning, let the material dry completely before storing it. Make sure that no white streaks remain on the metal, as they can stain in the long run. Special care must be given to the edges of aluminum vessels and pipes, as they are the starting points for most forms of contamination.

Cleaning Aluminum Utensils

Considering the wide array of kitchen utensils made out of aluminum, it is important to consider them separately. Most vessels can be polished with water and dish soap. For an extra deep clean, you can even use soft-bristled brushes to achieve the ultimate satisfaction of scraping the dirt away.

If there are still some spots left behind, a safe way to eliminate them is by using a cream of tartar, which is an amazing cleaner. Cream of tartar is easily available online or at retail shops, and at an affordable price. Its payoff is much greater when considering its multipronged use.

For aluminum, you only need to create a paste by mixing the powder with water and rubbing the paste on with a cloth. Rinse the metal with water afterward. Be careful to not place the vessels in sunlight to dry, as the sun can cause more white spots to form. Rather, employ a soft, absorbent cloth to soak up the moisture.

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Another method to restore shine to aluminum is to use polish. However, polish should only be used when aesthetics are the primary goal. Ingesting polish can cause a horde of problems. For decorative vases and the like, rub on some polish with the help of cloth in small circular motions.

Acid-Based Cleaners for Cleaning Aluminum Items

To effectively remove the stains, tarnish, and oxidization from aluminum, you will be required to use acid-based cleaners. The acid helps in removing the tarnish, yellowing, and other elements that aren’t allowing the metal to shine.

  • You may use items like tomatoes, lemons, or even apples to create your own DIY aluminum cleaning solutions at home.
  • You can also purchase commercially prepared acidic cleaners intended for the type of material you are cleaning. It is necessary that you follow the instructions listed on the product to make it effective.
  • Acids, such as bleach or hydrofluoric acid, can be used to remove the stains from aluminum goods. However, they have several negative side effects and do not perform any better than the acids found in common household ingredients like lemon, vinegar, etc.

Pro Tip: Safety should always be your first priority before using any cleaning product. Make sure you wear gloves, a mask, and safety goggles before using these chemical-based products to clean aluminum items.

How to Clean Brushed Aluminum?

You will find brushed aluminum mainly on appliances like ovens, microwaves, air conditioners, etc. To clean this, you will need vinegar, a clean cloth, water, a bucket, and some other materials, which you can see in the steps given below.

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1. Take a bucket of water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to it. Now dip a clean cloth or a non-abrasive cleaning pad in it and wipe the surface of the metal to remove all the dirt or dust.

2. Once the metal is dirt-free, use a cloth dipped in a solution made of 50% white vinegar and 50% water and wipe the surface in a gentle circular motion. Let it sit for around 10 minutes before wiping the surface with a glass cleaner.

3. Take one of the dry clean cloths and scrub off all the residue from the surface. Now to finish off, use a metal polish to add some shine to your item!

How to Clean Cast Aluminum?

One of the most common metal types you will find in kitchen cookware is cast aluminum, and it tends to catch stains quickly. Here’s what you can do it clean it at home;

  1. If the item you’re cleaning is a utensil, then fill it with water and put it to boil on the stove. This will help in removing any burnt food that may have accumulated over time. Use a wooden or plastic spatula and use it to remove the softened burnt food from the pan.
  2. While the water is boiling, we recommend adding a bit of acid to speed up the process. Some possible choices are white vinegar, cream of tartar, lemon, or lime juice.
  3. After around 10 minutes, take the item off the stove and let it cool. Remove all the liquid and use a non-abrasive cleaning pad or fine steel wool to scrub the insides.
  4. Once you’re done with this step, use a spray bottle to sprinkle a mixture made of half cup of lemon juice and 1-1/2 cups of water. Take a dry cloth and wipe off everything to finish the steps.
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How to Clean Hammered Aluminum?

If you look closely at vintage aluminum pieces, you will find that they are hammered, which means they have slight ridges. These ridges can be cleaned with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and the best way to clean them is by following these steps.

1. Take a medium or a big pot, and fill it with 2 cups of water, 4 tbsp of cream of tartar, and 1 cup of distilled vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil.

2. Pour the heated solution into your plugged sink, tub, or bucket, and then immerse your aluminum object in it for at least 10 minutes. You may soak longer in case the hammered aluminum goods are heavily blackened.

3. Take a soft-bristle brush or a non-abrasive cleaning pad, and gently scrub the items. When you see that all the blackness has been removed, take the items out and rinse them with clean water. Dry them with a clean cloth for final results.

How to Clean Tarnished Aluminum?

Tarnished aluminum has lost its luster due to corrosion, oxidation, etc. The best way to clean them is by using the following steps:

1. Take a bucket filled with water and add some dish detergent or baking soda to it for convenience’s sake. Dip your aluminum item in the solution and let it soak for around 5-10 minutes.

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2. Create a thick borax paste by mixing a quarter cup of borax with a few drops of water. Use a toothbrush to apply this paste to the aluminum vessel or item gently. In case it is highly tarnished, leave the paste for at least an hour.

3. Gently rub the paste using the brush, and if you see tarnish coming off, then take a damp cloth and remove all the excess residue.

4. Repeat the process if still, stains are visible, if not, take a dry clean cloth and wipe the item thoroughly.

How To Clean Oxidised Aluminum?

Oxidization isn’t uncommon in metals, especially aluminum, and it can result in your items looking dull. It’s a natural occurrence that takes place over time, resulting in a dull sheen to your aluminum goods. If you want to restore their shine back, the best way to do so is by using the things mentioned in the steps given below.

  1. Take a bucket and add one tbsp of dishwashing liquid to warm water. Dip the brush, cleaning pad, or towel in this mixture and clean the item in gentle circular motions.
  2. When you’ve cleaned the entire surface, rinse the cloth, pad, or brush, and then use it to wipe away any soap residue. Allow the aluminum to dry naturally on its own.
  3. If this soapy mixture does not complete the job, use an aluminum metal cleaner and apply it to the surface gently, using fine steel wool.
  4. Let it dry, and wipe off any remaining solution with a clean dry cloth or sponge.
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How to Maintain Aluminium

Handling aluminum

If you are moving aluminum equipment or sheets for a project, there are a few ground rules to keep in mind. Do not allow the metal to scrape or drag against each other or any other elements. Even walking over aluminum sheets can cause scratches on them and overall dull the metal.

Storing aluminum

If any aluminum equipment is lying unused for a long time, you may want to take certain precautions to avoid nasty surprises.

For starters, coat the metal in a layer of oil. Place it vertically upright to allow air circulation on all sides of the tool. The place of storage plays an important role as well, so make sure the storage space is well ventilated and is not dirty.

Water staining

A common problem seen in aluminum usage is its weakness against water. Extended exposure to water can cause a thin white sheet to develop over the base, which can be dealt with easily. Depending upon the level of staining, two methods can be used.

For light staining, a simple brush will remove the debris. For more extensive staining, dip the affected area in a solution of 10% by volume sulphuric acid and 3% by weight chromic acid.

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Installing aluminum

Putting up aluminum in case of a complete home renovation should be left for the last minute. This is because aluminum can be easily spoiled by other construction debris present in the environment. Therefore, keeping aluminum installation for the end will minimize contact between the two.

By following these tips and tricks, you can keep your aluminum in a good condition for years to come. A little goes a long way when it comes to this wonder metal. Investing only a couple of minutes can extend their shelf life way beyond imagined.

FAQs

Should I season my aluminum pans?

Aluminum cookware should be seasoned as it will help prolong its color and life. You can use normal vegetable oil for seasoning the pans.

Can I cook acidic food in aluminum cookware?

If your aluminum utensils have been coated with stainless steel or a nonstick coating, then it is safe to cook acidic food in them.

If your aluminum is untreated, then it is best to avoid cooking acidic food in it.

No matter what, every household goes through this problem of losing their shiny aluminum items to corrosion. We hope this article has given you some helpful tips for how to clean aluminum items along with helping you find the correct method to restore them back to their glory.

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