The Best Way To Clean Aluminum

Aluminum is widely recognized as a light-colored metal with a silver look to it. Tell you something you don't know? It was once valued as a precious metal and worth more than gold. This was before it was found to be the most abundant metal on our planet, with over 8% of the Earth's crust being made of this element. Since it's usually found bound to other materials, aluminum wasn't even discovered until the 1820s, according to All About Aluminum. Another half a century would pass before it was made into useful products.

Being light in weight, rustproof (although it can become corroded), and durable, aluminum is widely used for both commercial and industrial goods. You can find it in airplanes, air conditioning units, equipment used for food processing, patio furnishings, hardware, and materials used for constructing buildings. The most common items in a home made of aluminum are various types of baking pans, aluminum cookware, and appliances like stovetop coffee pots. Sooner or later, those items need to be cleaned and it's important to do it right to avoid damaging them.

Precautions to take when cleaning aluminum

Whether you're dealing with thinner baking pans made of aluminum or heavier anodized cookware, the cardinal rule for this metal dictates keeping it out of the dishwasher. Why? Dishwasher detergents tend to be quite harsh and many no longer have phosphates that once served to protect metal. Combining those abrasive cleaners with heat and the minerals found in most water supplies can lead to pitting, corrosion, or bad discoloration, notesĀ World of Pans.

That said, some pans are treated so that you may be able to pop them in the dishwasher. Others are only top rack safe, so always look for appropriate symbols on the pans as a guideline. It's also wise to thoroughly peruse your cookware manufacturer's instructions for proper cleaning guidelines. If the maker deems bakeware to be dishwasher-safe, you can give it a go. Keep in mind that aluminum damage can be cumulative. If you see minor signs after one wash, you'll know not to go that route again. Cleaning your pan by hand offers a better alternative.

The best way to clean aluminum

Aluminum responds well to acidic cleaning solutions, so even if you've messed up and darkened your aluminum in the dishwasher, you can still rescue it using the best cleaning method for this metal. To accomplish the task, JES Restaurant Supply suggests mixing several tablespoons of vinegar with a quart of water, bringing it to a boil, and soaking your dirty aluminum in the solution for 10 minutes or so. You can also try cream of tartar or lemon juice in lieu of vinegar if you like. If you can't boil your aluminum, try using half a lemon dipped in salt to scrub the surface instead.

After the short soaking period or a lemon scrub, use a scouring pad made of a soft material and a mild dish soap to wash the item. Stay away from metal scrubbers and steel wool to avoid scratching the aluminum's finish. Once clean, rinse the pan with water before thoroughly drying it.

Other suggestions for cleaning aluminum include letting it cool a bit before rinsing away food residue or you may end up warping it. Rinsing is important as well because acidic and salty foods can cause pitting on uncoated aluminum if left to sit too long. Thorough drying is also paramount since water can leave a chalky residue on aluminum if allowed to air dry. Cautious cleaning along with following the all-important manufacturer's guidelines should keep your aluminum in top shape for years of use.