How you clean your aluminum products and appliances depends on the product. If the product is not used for food, you can coat it with a lacquer or wax to protect the aluminum from weathering and corrosion.
So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades
To brighten dulled aluminum cookware, cook acidic foods, such as tomatoes, apples or rhubarb. You can also boil 2 tablespoons vinegar per quart of water for 10 minutes in the pan. If you have aluminum utensils, then throw those in there to bring back their luster. To prevent discoloration in the bottom of aluminum double boilers or egg poachers, add 1 teaspoon vinegar to the water in the bottom pan. In both of these cases, vinegar can be substituted with cream of tartar.
To remove stains from the outside of aluminum pans, use silver polish or mild, nonabrasive cleaner. Avoid using soap-filled steel wool pads, which tend to scratch the outside surface. However, if you are removing burned-on food or grease that is so disgusting that a minor scratch pales in comparison, then go ahead and use the steel wool.
Getting out the Tough Stains
If the aluminum product you are cleaning is a tea kettle plagued by hard water mineral deposits, you can remove the crusted deposits by boiling equal parts water and vinegar and letting the mixture stand in the kettle for about an hour. In cases of severe encrustation, you may have to repeat the process several times. Once the crust has been removed, rinse the kettle with plain water to get the vinegar out before attempting to boil water for consumption.
If you are trying to remove burned-on food or grease from an aluminum pan, fill the pan with hot water and let it stand for one hour. The burned on food or grease should loosen. When it does, scrape off whatever you can with a wooden spoon or other dull utensil or with a plastic sponge. Scrape everything else off with a steel wool pad filled with soap.
Indoors and Outdoors
Whenever possible, use a mild detergent and warm water to clean aluminum dishes. Baking soda and other alkaline substances tend to discolor aluminum. Also, do not clean aluminum at times when it is too hot to touch or in temperatures under 50 degrees farenheit.
On outdoor aluminum surfaces, remove bugs, sap and tree seeds right away. Exposure to heat and sunlight tends to harden them so that they stick to the aluminum surface. Suitable solvents will remove tar and similar substances. But be sure to test the solvent first if the aluminum is painted to be certain the solvent doesn't remove the paint as well as the stain.
To restore color to discolored aluminum, heat a solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar per quart of water (or 2 teaspoon cream of tartar per quart of water) in affected dishes until the color returns.
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