Aluminum was once one of the most precious metals – Napoleon III of France is said to have reserved aluminum utensils for his most honored guests – but today, this versatile material is abundant and affordable. Everything from disposable beverage cans to high-performance aircraft makes use of light and practical aluminum. As an excellent conductor of heat, aluminum is also a popular material in kitchenware.
Like many other metals, however, aluminum can acquire a dull and unattractive finish over time as it naturally reacts with oxygen. Care must be taken when removing this tarnish so as not to scratch or discolor the metal. If your aluminum kitchenware is looking a bit dull, here’s how you can restore the shine with a handful of household products and some simple steps.
Tools and supplies
- Mild dish soap
- Aluminum pot
- White vinegar, whole lemons or cream of tartar
- Non-scratch scrub sponge or pad
- Clean rags or dishcloth
- Non-abrasive metal polish
For everyday cleaning of aluminum cookware and utensils, hand wash them with mild soap and warm water. If stubborn stains remain, try the following steps, which clean pots and utensils together.
Hand wash all items with soap and warm water to remove food and grease, then place any aluminum utensils in an aluminum pot. Don’t use cookware made of cast iron or other metals for this technique as the process can harm their finishes.
Take note of the pot’s liquid capacity (usually printed on the bottom), and fill the pot with water to about 1 to 2 inches from the top to allow for boiling. Add 2 tablespoons of your preferred cleaning agent (white vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tartar) for every quart of water.
Bring the water to a boil and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes. The interior of the pot should now be brighter. Wait for the contents to cool, then pour out the water.
Rinse and dry the utensils and pot, then gently rub the inside of the pot using a non-scratch scrub sponge or pad. Rinse again with water and dry fully with the clean rags or dishcloth.
For stubborn discoloration on the outside of aluminum cookware, use a non-abrasive metal polish according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Aluminum cookware comes in various alloys and coatings, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for complete directions on proper care. While you may never use your aluminum kitchenware for an elaborate banquet like those of 19th Century France, by following these steps, you can help this unique metal maintain an attractive shine that would make Napoleon III proud.