Aluminum is a light-weight metal with a bright silvery luster. Its affinity for oxygen makes it resistant to corrosion and attack by most chemicals, and small amounts of other metals can be added to aluminum to make harder alloys for most uses. Most aluminum used in visible parts of appliances is also lacquered or otherwise coated, anodized, or painted.
Aluminum exposed to air does grow its own thin oxide coating very fast. This hard, dark gray coating protects the metal, and it's found on all bare aluminum surfaces, including utensils. "Anodizing" is a commercial process that thickens this coat, often colors it, and stops it from rubbing off. A special anodizing process produces a very hard, dark gray finish on professional cookware. However, while aluminum is durable and requires little maintenance to keep a good finish, there will be times when your pieces need cleaning and repair. Read on to learn more about how best to take care of your aluminum.
Protect Against Blemishes and Stains
Proper care depends on the product made from aluminum. Lacquers or waxes can protect against weathering and corrosion, but they cannot be used on objects in contact with food. Brighten aluminum utensils instead by cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes, apples, or rhubarb; you can also boil one to two teaspoons cream of tartar per quart of water or two tablespoons vinegar per quart of water for 10 minutes in a pan.
Prevent discoloration on the bottom of double boilers or egg poachers by adding one teaspoon vinegar or 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar to the water in the bottom pan.
Remove stains from the outside of aluminum pans with silver polish, or mild, nonabrasive cleaner. Soap-filled steel wool pads only scratch the outside surface, so use only when removing burned-on food or grease is more important to you than the scratched pan.
Removing Food and Grime
Remove hard water mineral deposits (lime scale) from tea kettles where they have become crusted by boiling equal parts of vinegar and water for several minutes and letting the solution stand an hour or so. The process may have to be repeated in severe cases. Rinse the kettle with plain water before you use it again.
For food debris, start by filling the object with hot water and letting stand one hour. Scrape off as much food as possible with a dull item such as a wooden spoon, half of a clothespin, a plastic spatula, or a plastic sponge. For any tough spots or residue that remains, use a soap-filled steel wool pad. Grease build-up can be easily taken care of with a soak in very hot water with detergent. Follow it up by scouring the piece with your steel wool.
Use a mild detergent and warm water when possible to clean. Alkalis, even baking soda, can discolor aluminum so avoid these for cleansers. If you need to try a stronger cleaner, pre-test it on a hidden place to be sure it cleans satisfactorily without damaging the aluminum. Always follow directions on the product label for aluminum to the letter.
Be cautious about using abrasive cleaning objects (scouring powders, steel wool, abrasive polishes, etc.) as they may scratch the surface; painted or anodized aluminum surfaces will be permanently damaged. Also, do not clean aluminum when it is too hot to touch, or if temperatures go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
For any outdoor surfaces, remove bugs, sap, tree seeds, etc. as soon as possible, as they harden with exposure to sunlight and heat, and will be tougher to get off the longer they sit. Suitable solvents will remove tar and similar substances, but test the solvent first if the aluminum is painted to be sure it doesn't also remove the paint. Follow label precautions when using solvents—make sure there’s no heat source in the area and have sufficient ventilation before starting.
Becky Hollada is a writer and editor with a decade of experience in both print and digital media. After graduating with a BA in Literature and Japanese from Bennington College, she started out pursuing work in fiction and dove headfirst into the eBook publisher phenomenon. Working with a small company required wearing many hats, so while she was copy editing novels, she turned her hand to maintaining the company blogs and working with the marketing teams on promotional material. This and her time volunteering at a small news publication focused on video game journalism fed a growing interest in digital media.
Now based in Los Angeles, she specializes in both fiction and non-fiction content, with a portfolio spanning a variety of genres, topics, and styles. She aims to use her work in fiction to bridge the gap between reader and writer by exploring new angles to traditionally dry and complex topics and using storytelling to bring entertainment and accessibility to any subject matter.
Becky&rsquo;s work has appeared on Yahoo! Finance, MSN,&nbsp;DoItYourself.com, and&nbsp;Weddingbee.com, as well as a variety of other publications. She has also worked in collaboration with a number of brands such as Disney, Macy&rsquo;s, Wayfair, Home Depot, and Osmocote.
With over 20 years of professional home cleaning experience, Lindani has extensive knowledge about best practices, space management, and cleaning solutions. Lindani especially loves researching natural, non-harmful ways to clean. She holds an LLBS from the University of Zimbabwe, and is a lifelong learner who always seeks to improve the world around her.