The discovery of aluminum in 1827 makes aluminum a newcomer to utility items, particularly since aluminum was rarer than gold and silver when first discovered. Aluminum use in the early 20th century was limited primarily to military aircraft and Art Deco furnishings, according to a Montana State University report. Today, we have aluminum rims and lawn chairs, and are finding household remedies for cleaning aluminum.
Dawn Detergent and Baking Soda
Aluminum rims have road dirt, grease and tar, requiring a degreaser and cleaner. Dawn detergent is a degreaser used in the kitchen and sometimes for cleaning animals after an oil spill. Mix Dawn detergent with equal parts of water and clean the aluminum rims. Sprinkle baking soda on the rough side of a damp sponge or green scrubber and run the sponge around the rims several times. The baking soda is slightly abrasive, and in combination with the sponge, will clean the grime from the aluminum rims. Rinse well with clear water after any cleaning products.
Cream of Tartar Paste
Potassium bitartrate or cream of tartar is a kitchen product and is fairly expensive, but there is nothing that cleans aluminum better. If you have dark spots that did not come off with Dawn and baking soda, make a cream-of-tartar paste and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse with clear water.
Lemon Juice and Soda
Consumer Reports suggests lemon juice and soda to clean aluminum. Lemon juice alone may remove stains, but the soda provides an abrasive. Use a soft scrubber or a stiff brush to remove stubborn spots and rinse with clean water.
Coca-Cola is an acid that cleans metals and rust with some success. Metal Web News explains that Cola is phosphoric acid that actually etches the metal. Coke is used to clean rust from chrome, too. Rinse with clean water to avoid a sticky substance that will attract dirt.
Specks of road tar and sticky substances release with WD-40. Spray the WD-40 on the tire and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse with a garden hose to remove the WD-40 from the rim, the tire and the roadway, as it may be slick.
- Consumer Reports: Greener Choices: Cleaners - Green Buying Guide
- Avian Web: Non Toxic Cleaning & Household Products
- Metal Web News: A Primer on Rust
- Team.net Automotive Webs: Cleaning Aluminum Engine Components
- Montana State University: Composite Materials for Aircraft Structures
- Carnegie-Mellon University: A Short History of Metals
Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.