How to clean aluminum to keep it from looking dull, dirty or scratched

Help your items to sparkle with our guide for how to clean aluminum

a collage image of aluminum items
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean aluminum properly is essential for keeping it looking its best. The metal is popular because of its durable, shiny exterior, but it needs a little TLC from time to time to retain its shine. 

Aluminum is one of the most commonly found materials in our homes. From pots, pans, and utensils, to furniture, cars, lights, bikes, and more. While most kitchen items made with aluminum are washed after every use, cleaning other common aluminum products may be easily overlooked on your list of chores.

Unfortunately, neglecting items made from aluminum can have consequences. Aluminum corrodes over time and can turn grimy and worn without proper care. But if you know how to clean aluminum to restore its shine, you can extend the lifespan of the items around your house. 

How often should I clean items made with aluminum?

How do you know when it's time to clean your aluminum-made items? The type of aluminum product, where it's stored, and how frequently you use it will influence how often it needs cleaning. 

  • Aluminum items kept indoors (such as pans and tables) are prone to becoming dull and stained. Kitchenware should be cleaned after every use. And homeware should be cleaned weekly, or as soon as you notice them becoming dirty or scuffed. 
  • Items left in outdoor environments (like garden chairs and bicycle frames) don't dull so easily, but they have a tendency to corrode much quicker. These need to be cleaned every month, or as soon as you notice them corroding.
  • Heavily-used aluminum products may show wear and tear sooner if left untouched—clean regularly, at least once or twice a week to maintain shine. 
  • Items used occasionally that don't have visible signs of wear or tarnishing, plan to clean them every other month.

How to clean aluminum—three easy methods

Cleaning aluminum is pretty easy once you know the steps. It's quick, and, while you can use store-bought cleaners, we find that common kitchen essentials offer a more organic and natural way to clean without the risk of scratching or damaging the surface.

Each of our suggested methods works for any type of aluminum, and you can choose the approach based on what you prefer—or what you have to hand. 

1. Try a white vinegar and water solution

vinegar blobs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most effective and simple methods for cleaning aluminum involves mixing vinegar and warm water. The solution isn't abrasive and can help remove grease or heavy-duty stains.

Directions:

  • Mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with two cups of warm water. You can adjust the measurements for larger batches as needed.
  • Dip a wet cloth or a non-abrasive pad into the water and vinegar mixture.
  • Gently rub the cloth or pad over the item you're cleaning to remove any dirt or grime.
  • Rinse the item off thoroughly with fresh water to remove any residue. Let sit and air dry. 

Vinegar is brilliant when it comes to mastering how to clean aluminum thoroughly thanks to its fast-acting effects. But it can also be incredibly useful when cleaning other household items too, due to its natural antibacterial properties. 

See our guide on how to descale a kettle and how to clean a toilet with vinegar to find out more. All in all, it's a very handy addition to your kitchen cleaning and bathroom cleaning routines!

Use this method to clean...

While you can clean all aluminum products with this method, it's particularly suitable for:

  • Pots and pans
  • Utensils

2. Polish with lemon juice

lemons in a bowl

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another great home remedy for cleaning aluminum is utilizing the natural acid in lemons. When mixed with salt, it creates a polish that doubles up as a cleaner. Not only can you restore the gleam of aluminum with this method, but it leaves a fresh, citrusy smell afterward, too. 

Directions:

  • Cut a lemon in half and dip it in salt. 
  • Use the lemon to scrub lightly over the aluminum product. Re-dip the lemon in salt as many times as you need.
  • Rinse the items off with fresh water once you're done, letting them air dry. 

You can also use this method when cleaning different types of pans. For example, when researching how to clean copper you'll find citrus fruits are also touted as an effective natural cleaning solution—the acidic nature of the lemon will cut through dirt and grease on delicate items. 

Use this method to clean...

While you can clean all aluminum products with this method, it's particularly suitable for:

  • Pots and pans
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Kitchen and bathroom sinks

3. Clean with cream of tartar

baking soda with a toothbrush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cream of tartar is a common baking ingredient that many of us have in our kitchen. Much like the lemon method, cream of tartar is acidic and makes for a great base when cleaning aluminum. 

If you don't have a jar of cream of tartar in your kitchen, you can substitute it with baking soda for this method. Baking soda is also an essential ingredient in our guides to how to clean a burnt pan, and how to clean an iron, too.

Directions:

  • Mix cream of tartar (or baking soda) and a little hydrogen peroxide (which can be purchased in your local drugstore) in a bowl, stirring and adjusting the proportion of each until it becomes like a paste.
  • Once you've got your paste, take a microfiber cloth or a toothbrush and dip it in the mixture. Rub over the entirety of your aluminum items and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • When the time is up, rinse the cloth and gently wipe away the paste before thoroughly rinsing off the item with fresh water.
  • Like the other cleaning methods, let your aluminum sit and dry before using it again. 

Use this method to clean...

While you can clean all aluminum products with this method, it's particularly suitable for:

  • Appliances (such as coffee makers)
  • Outdoor items (such as bicycles)
  • Outdoor furniture

A final tip for cleaning aluminum 

Whenever you're cleaning your aluminum items around the house, it's important to remember to let the material dry before use again, to avoid dirt, smears, and marks appearing. You don't want to destroy the newly restored shine so soon after achieving it!

Amy Hunt
Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com, having been with the brand since 2015. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on either women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com. She is passionate about everything from books, to homes, to food and the latest news on the royal family. When she isn't editing or updating articles on cleaning, homewares, the newest home gadgets, or the latest books releases for the website, she's busy burying her nose in a gripping thriller, practising yoga, or buying new homeware of her own.