Aluminum is a very versatile material from which many objects are made, from pans to bicycle wheels. Unfortunately, aluminum eventually begins to oxidize, which means that a chalky, gray deposit forms on the material. When you see this oxidation developing, there are different ways to remove the deposit. Start by cleaning and scrubbing the aluminum to remove all grime from the surface. Then clean the aluminum with an acidic cleaner and scrub the surface to remove the oxidation.
Method 1 of 3: Cleaning the aluminum
Step 1. Rinse the surface of the aluminum
Begin the process of cleaning the oxidized aluminum by rinsing the aluminum to remove dust and debris from the surface. If you are cleaning an aluminum pan, rinse the pan with a strong jet of water. If you're cleaning aluminum wheels or siding, use a damp cloth to wipe off the aluminum or rinse with water with a garden hose.
Step 2. Clean the aluminum thoroughly with soap and water
If the aluminum looks clean after rinsing with water, clean it with a natural detergent. If it is still dirty here and there or there is caked-on dirt on the oxidized spots, clean the aluminum surface with hot water, soap and a soft brush or scouring pad.
Step 3. Clean the aluminum thoroughly
To remove stubborn dirt and baked-on food from the aluminum, use hot water and a flat-edged tool to scrape the accumulated residue from the surface. If you're cleaning an aluminum pan, add a few inches of water, put the pan on the stove, and let the water boil for about five minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, let the water cool slightly, and use a flat-edged spatula to scrape off the build-up with the water still in the pan.
When cleaning aluminum wheels or siding, soak a cloth in hot water and hold the cloth against the accumulated residue to loosen it. Then scrape off the residue with a flat spatula
Method 2 of 3: Using natural cleaners
Step 1. Use vinegar
If you are cleaning an aluminum pan, fill the pan with water and add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vinegar for every liter of water. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes. Then pour the liquid out of the pan. You may need to do this a few times to remove any oxidation.
- If you are cleaning a small aluminum item, bring water and vinegar to a boil in a pan, remove the pan from the stove, and place the item in the pan. Let the object soak for 15 minutes, remove it from the pan and rinse it.
- If you are cleaning a large area of aluminum, soak a cloth in vinegar and wipe over the oxidation. Scrub the areas with a soft brush, then wipe off the vinegar and loosened oxidation with a damp cloth.
- Do not use abrasive tools such as steel wool and sandpaper to rub the surface of the aluminum. You can use it to scrape away the oxidation, but it also scratches the surface of the aluminum, making new oxidation more difficult to remove.
Step 2. Use lemon juice
Follow the same cleaning process as with vinegar, but now use lemon juice. If you're cleaning a small oxidized surface, simply rub it with a slice of lemon and wipe off the residue. Dip the lemon slice in some salt to give it some sanding if it's a particularly stubborn area of oxidation.
You can buy small bottles of lemon juice at most supermarkets, which is easier than squeezing lemons
Step 3. Use tartar
Use the same method as with vinegar and lemon juice, but now use tartar to remove the oxidation. If you are cleaning a large oxidized surface, wet a cloth, apply a small amount of tartar and rub the cloth over the surface. Then rub the tartar off with a soft brush.
Step 4. Boil something sour
If you want to remove oxidation from an aluminum pan, you can simply cook something acidic in it, such as tomatoes, apple slices, lemon slices, or rhubarb. Place the pan on the stove and add one of these acidic foods, as well as enough water to cover the oxidized spots. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil, remove the pan from the stove and empty the pan.
Because the oxidation is released from the pan, it is not a good idea to eat the foods you have cooked in the pan
Method 3 of 3: Using store-bought cleaners
Step 1. Use an aluminum cleaner
There are cleaners for sale that are specially formulated for cleaning aluminum. After removing as much oxidation as possible using the methods above, put on gloves and apply the aluminum cleaner according to package directions.
Only use cleaners specifically designed for aluminum. Many commercial cleaners contain ammonia, trisodium phosphate, and other chemicals that can harm aluminum
Step 2. Use metal polish
Metal polish not only makes surfaces shine but can also clean the aluminum and remove oxidation. Buy metal polish that is safe to use on aluminum and apply it to the oxidized areas according to package directions.
Step 3. Apply wax after cleaning
Depending on the type of item you've cleaned, it may be a good idea to coat the surface with a layer of car wax to prevent further oxidation. Apply wax to surfaces such as car and bicycle wheels, cladding and garden furniture, but do not apply wax to aluminum pans and kitchen utensils.
- If you're cleaning an aluminum pan, clean the pan thoroughly and use a natural product rather than a store-bought one.
- Be sure to use store resources outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.