Aluminum is a durable and affordable dish in most kitchens. The pots, baking sheets, jelly roll pans and other aluminum items that get used regularly can get tarnished or marred from heavy use.
The darkened pans and pots may never be the same as they were when first used, but they can be brought back to their functional and fairly attractive usefulness. There are a few ways to safely and effectively clean tarnished aluminum.
Cleaning Aluminum with Vinegar
One of the most effective cleaners in general, vinegar also works well to shine up and clean aluminum. Straight vinegar isn't always recommended. Test on a small area if you aren't sure about the aluminum item you are attempting to restore.
To make an effective cleaning solution, mix 1 part white vinegar to 1 part of water. This will create an acidic solution that can be used in a number of ways to clean tarnished aluminum.
Cleaning the exterior of an aluminum pan, use a clean cloth dipped in the vinegar and water solution to scrub away discoloration and sanitize the exterior. For pots that are caked with residue, boil a solution of water and vinegar and pour into, onto or over the cookware item. Let it sit in the pot or soak the item for 30 minutes before cleaning off with a damp sponge.
Natural Ways to Clean Aluminum
Getting the gleam back on aluminum cookware and storage can be done without using harsh commercial chemicals.
Apples. A good use for apple peels or old apples drying out on the counter is to place them in a tarnished aluminum pot filled with water. The acid in the applies will help to lift and remove stains in an aluminum pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and clean with hot soapy water.
Cream of tartar. Add 2 tablesp0ons of cream of tartar to a ½ cup of vinegar. Add a quart of water to an aluminum pot and bring to a boil. Bring this solution to a roiling boil and let it sit for 10 minutes before removing from the heat and draining. Allow the pot to cool and wash with soap and hot water.
Steel wool pads. A steel wool pad and a bit of lemon juice can scour away stubborn stains. Pair a bit of elbow grease with the lemon juice and wool pad scrubbing, and you can shine up an old aluminum pan in a few minutes.
Borax on Aluminum
The laundry aisle staple does a great job of ridding aluminum baking sheets and deep pots of tarnished spots or baked-on stains. Combine the Borax powder with a small amount of water until a paste is formed. Apply the paste to the unsightly stain or discoloration and let it sit for 10 minutes or up to an hour.
If the stain is stubborn, reapply the Borax paste and use an old toothbrush or small nylon brush to grind the Borax paste into the surface of the aluminum item. Once the Borax has been removed, buff out the surface of the aluminum pot or bakeware to a shiny finish.
Using Borax on aluminum sanitizes and brings the shine back to a blackened pan or trusted roaster. Rinse the cookware well before reusing after applying a Borax paste.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.