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Need help cleaning/polishing aluminum cookware

+++++

Q. Hi,

I've read several of the editorials regarding aluminum refinishing/polishing, but I don't see anything regarding aluminum cookware. I have been given and purchased several pieces of aluminum cookware. Some of my pieces have pitting and utensil scratches inside of them. Others have years of baked/cooked on grease and goo on the outside. Still others are just dark from who knows what. I'm trying to find the best way to clean and possibly refinish (or remove the majority of the scratching and pitting) on the inside of my pots. I would also like to find the best way to clean the grease and goo from the outside and restore them to there former shiny finish. The outside of my pots are what some people call hammered aluminum finish. I'm not sure how to best describe the outside but it looks like indentions on the surface. I've tried scrubbing with a brass bristle brush and steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler]. It doesn't remove any of the pitting and scratching on the inside and very little of the goo and grease on the outside. The indentions seem to fill up with the grease and goo. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Heather Hammock
hobbyist - Allons, Tennessee


+++++

A. 5% Citric acid solution?

Marc Banks
Elizabeth City, North Carolina


+++++

A. To clean the inside of the pans you could try soaking it with a mixture of Cream of Tartar and water. It won't remove the scratches and pitting but it should remove any discoloring. As for the outside of it you could try a industrial strength orange cleaner. These usually remove grease build ups with a little bit of old fashion elbow grease.

Tera Sandon
- Mankato, Minnesota

Citric Acid



July 4, 2010appended

Q. How about Cream of Tartar to clean old hammered aluminum cooking pieces? I see this mentioned now and then in various places. Thanks, Ann

Ann Hollander
- Frederick, Maryland


June 14, 2011

thumbsup2 Thank you for the advice.

After putting a Kenwood mixer's aluminium 'K' beater in the dishwasher, it came out black. Just handling it turned my fingers black.

I tried washing and scouring it but just made my hands, the scourer and the washing-up bowl black.

Researched online, found this site, and then tried scrubbing it with a nylon scourer in a Cream of Tartar solution. It worked a treat and it has come up all shiny! Excellent!

(My wife reckons that pot of Cream of Tartar had been in the cupboard since at least 1999!)

Simon Reed
- Warrington, Cheshire, UK

Cream of Tartar
(1 lb)



June 16, 2011appended

Q. I recently acquired a cast aluminum juice king from an estate sale. It's beautiful, but I put the cup in the dishwasher and it came out with a grey film that I can't seem to scrub off. Any advice on how to clean it so I can use it again?

Rachel Gustafson
vintage kitchenwear lover - Bloomington, Minnesota USA


June 16, 2011

A. Hi, Rachel.

Never put aluminum in a dishwasher. Most dishwasher detergents ere extremely alkaline and readily pit and discolor aluminum. Please try the cream of tartar suggestion above. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


January 5, 2011

thumbsup2Thank you Ted! My sister in law boiled some t-shirts in my aluminum stock pot. It was a wedding present my grandmother received when she married in 1925, and the only thing I have of hers. She put homemade lye soap in the water, and my pot turned BLACK inside. I thought it was ruined. I boiled it with vinegar and scrubbed it with sos pads. It looks like new, and I'm not threatening to remove her from the family any more! Thanks again.

Vickie Gower
- bethlehem north carolina

January 5, 2011

Hi, Vickie. Thanks for the happy news, and for the feedback. I feel better about what we post here when people come back and tell us what happened when they tried it. Readers may wish to see letter 22551 for more info about the boiling with vinegar approach.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey



+++++appended

Q. I have purchased some cookware on e-bay but it is dull and shiny. Is there some type of cleaner to make it shiny again or some "do at home" remedy that I can use?

Thanks,

Sandra Morris
- Kenner, Louisiana


+++++

Q. Several years ago I was given three very old hammered aluminum bowls, which, at that time, I needed to used for baking. I have just finished soaking them and cleaning them in a dish soap solution with about 2 tablespoons of bleach added. It has completely removed the grease that was baked on, but now the bowls are darker where the grease was. Is there a way to remove the darkening and then to polish them up a bit?

After reading the other responses on this question, I am now going to try a baking sodaamazoninfo paste, but I'm not completely optimistic!

Thanks so much.

Jean Henderson
- Willimantic, Connecticut


+++++

A. Look into the citric acidamazoninfo solution, Jean. I think the baking soda is unlikely to help.

Bleach is very highly alkaline (to keep the chlorine in solution), and as a result it rapidly dissolves aluminum. This leaves a disproportionately high concentration of copper or the other alloying materials from the aluminum alloy on the surface, and that's the cause of the black color. Baking soda will not dissolve this copper, but citric acid may (even though citric acid is not usually recommended for cleaning aluminum).

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


September 26, 2009

thumbsup2Thank you so much, Ted Mooney! The citric acid worked great on my caked on popcorn grease. I make popcorn in my aluminum pot on the stove and the grease was stubborn.

I reached under the sink and used my Veggie Wash which is organic citric acid that I use to was my fruits and vegetables. Thanks, again, for your advice. It worked.

Judy Serafano
- St. Clair Shores, Michigan


+++++++

Q. My guardian service was left outside and suffered the consequences. Please help! What is the safest way to remove the rust?

Thanks,

Brenda J. Alban
Consumer - Parkville, Maryland


+++++++

A. Hi, Brenda. Only ferrous cookware (cast iron and stainless steel) can actually "rust" because rust is the corrosion product of iron. Is this cookware aluminum that is corroded in some similar fashion (pits, white spots, black stains)? There's some good advice on this page for restoring aluminum cookware. But maybe it is cast iron or stainless steel? That would probably benefit from a different approach. Thanks.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


+++++++

Q. I collect antique hammered aluminum serving pieces at flea markets and would like to know how to clean them. Thank you.

Judy Becker
- Seeley California


March 9, 2010

A. I've found great results cleaning my mother's 1940 set of aluminum cookware. Her set was entirely black on the outside from daily use for 60 years. I put the pieces in my self cleaning oven and cut in on the three hour cycle. They come out perfectly clean, but a little ashy. I then wash them and season them with oil much like cast iron. I also will leave my pizza stone in the self clean cycle when I want it to look brand new. We also solved the warped bottoms of my mom's cookware by putting the pieces on hot coals of a campfire, heating the pots and them covering the bottoms with a board and hammering with a sledge hammer....each pot is now perfectly flat and can be used on a glass stove top.

Marsha Johnson
- Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina


May 13, 2010

A. I clean pots, pans and roasters all the time. I love to go the thrift stores and ebay to buy these items. It appears that I buy the greasiest, most burnt up, baked on gooked up cookware there is. However, it is a joy for me to see just how clean and beautiful these items are once cleaned.

I found a round Guardian Roaster in a thrift store and, get this, for $10.00 with $5.00 off. I was elated. The roaster was as I described above except for the "most burnt up" part. I was afraid to clean it as I normally clean my other cookware such as stainless steel and enamel. So; I tried to clean it with just an SOS pad since I didn't have any aluminum cleaner. Of course, this had some effect but not much.

I decided I would clean it using Easy Off. Although, on the Easy Off can it doesn't mention aluminum as being one of the products to use it on. I sprayed the Easy Off on the roaster and just let it stay on long enough for me to see the Easy Off turn brown from the grease and gook. Then I used one of those sponges with the scouring pad and scrubbed it all over. Once I got it cleaned with the Easy Off, I used a SOS pad to scrub the roaster again. You can't imagine how clean and beautiful this item came. Easy Off is not usually used on aluminum. But I have also used it on aluminum skillet and then scrubbed them with a SOS pad.

You can also use comet and if the aluminum has turned dark from the Easy Off the SOS pads, Brillo Pads, and Comet will shine it right up. Try it, I promise you that you won't be disappointed. I certainly don't think so, if fact I know you won't.

Joyce Branch
- Naperville, Illinois, USA

Easy-Off
(12-pack)


Thanks for the highly detailed help, Joyce!

But readers: please don't extrapolate. While Easy-off cleaned Joyce's heavy cast aluminum cookware to her satisfaction when used judiciously, it's strong stuff that can quite quickly destroy thinner aluminum, or the finish on polished aluminum.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


Ted, that is why I said let it stay on just long enough to see the brown gook start to dissolve (which is immediately). The only difference I see in my pan is the cleanness. Easy Off didn't harm my pan and it is part of the Guardian collection.

Joyce

Joyce Branch
- Naperville, Illinois, USA


thumbsup2Hi, Joyce. I wasn't arguing your advice. There's so much stuff on the internet that I often just quickly then run with something and I just wanted to warn other hasty readers to pay attention to the details that you offered them. Thanks again.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey



March 25, 2011

Q. Does cleaning my Aluminum ware in a self cleaning oven really clean the outside of my items? How detrimental is it to my Guardian ware? ALSO I have bought a lid to one of the tri-pots but has a film inside the lid that doesn't seem to want to clean off, it is sort of a opaque could someone give me a clues as to how to clean it ? Can the glass lids go in the dishwasher?

Sharon Brooks
- Bristol, Connecticut USA

October 24, 2011

Q. Hello,
I just literally stumbled across some of my fiance's grandmother's aluminum cookware in a box in the basement (we live in her old house). The basement flooded at one point and the cookware has this crumbly, white stuff all over it (I assume from the well water drying on it?). When I scrub it with an SOS pad and mild dish washing soap the white stuff is replaced with dark stains. It's very hard to get all the roughness off. Is there anything I can do to clean it all the way? There is a beautiful roaster with an aluminum lid I would love to use!!

Bridget Berry
- Crownsville, Maryland

July 1, 2012

A. I severely burned spaghetti sauce with meat into my vintage cast aluminum dutch oven. This 45 year old pot is one of my favorites. Just before throwing it out, I put a dishwasher soap tablet in it and boiled it gently on the stove. All of the burned sauce and meat came off.

Nancy McGinty
- Ellijay, Georgia, USA


July 2, 2012

Hi Nancy.

Glad that it worked, but I personally wouldn't use a dishwasher tablet on aluminum. Some of them are highly alkaline and will attack aluminum as well as the burned sauce.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


September 4, 2012

Q. Hi, My son went to turn on my electric fryer without checking to see if there was any oil in it for frying. Consequently, it completely burned the bottom of the fryer which is aluminum. I tried a baking soda paste and scrubbed with a steel wool pad with no result. Any suggestions?

Sonya Balling
- Kaysville, Utah USA


November 30, 2012

Q. So I cleaned my pot with oven cleaner and now it has a ruined finish inside and out What do I do now. I don't care if it is ugly just as long as it is safe to cook in.
I had bought it at a garage sale and it was completely black with built up crude for about 30 years. Any chance to salvage it?

Carolyn Tilley
- Mandeville, Louisiana, USA


November 30, 2012

A. Hi Carolyn.

As long as the oven cleaner has been completely washed away, it's safe.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


December 18, 2012

A. If you cook tomatoes or rhubarb in the blackened aluminum pans/pots they will be shiny once again.

Jean Hodges
- San Antonio, Texas



December 29, 2012

Q. Hi, the tips for cleaning are welcome.
But, once cleaned, are pots like Magnalite safe to use if they are second hand and the interior is pitted?
Thank you

Reanada Darensbourg
- Euless, Texas, USA


December 31, 2012

Q. I just received a Magnalite aluminum cast roaster from my mother in law. There was no product literature enclosed. She told me not to worry about the protective film on the inside, but to cook it, empty, in a 300 degree oven. I've done as directed... twice!... but the film has only turned an opaque yellowish color and is now sticky and a little smelly (chemical smell). I'm guessing this film was applied by the manufacturer, even though the roaster did not arrive with any original packaging.

Does anybody know how I should remove this film? Should I cook it at a higher temperature? Or do I want to pull out a disposable scrubber and give some dish soap and elbow grease a try? Or will it take something a bit more industrial than dish soap?

And while I'm at it, once I get the coating off, what are the proper care instructions for a cast aluminum pan? I couldn't find any info on the manufacturer's website.

Thanks!

Anne Berry
- Sacramento, California


March 14, 2013

Q. I just bought a Wagner Ware 1911 Aluminum tea kettle that was used as a humidifier. The inside is in very good condition with some light calcium/lime deposits. The surface on the inside is a little textured, not smooth like a cooking pan. Can I use the vinegar and water boiling method to clean the inside? The pot does not have any pitting and I want to keep it that way. Thank you for your help.

Valarie Seibold
- Yorba Linda, California, United States


September 1, 2013

Q. I recently bought two antique hammered aluminum platters that are Farberware limoges. I would like to display them together. One of the platters appears to be cleaner and shinier than the other. How should I clean/shine up the dull platter? Thanks

Charlotte Erickson
- North Andover, Massachusetts
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^


September 17, 2013

A. I see that a lot of people want to clean their aluminum pieces of cookware and related pieces. If you are cleaning an aluminum pot or other cooking utensil, you should note that the inside should not be cleaned. The natural oils that have been absorbed into the metal act as a barrier against sticking. If you do scrub it off, it should be re-seasoned to protect against cooking on raw aluminum. If the piece is a serving or ornamental piece which is not in contact with food, it can easily be cleaned with some automotive wheel cleaners which will also leave a protective coating to prevent oxidation.

Robin Thede
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada


October 6, 2013

Q. Just acquired a Magnalite pot that was bead blasted with aluminum oxide to remove film that was on it. Scrubbed it with scouring pad and cleaned numerous times with dish detergent but still has film on it. Is there a trick to this? Does it need to be polished?

Neal Trahan
- St. Martinville, Louisiana, USA
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^


October 10, 2013

A. The blasting has roughened the surface to the point that a professional polisher with the best equipment will have a hard time restoring it if it can be done at all.

Likely you can buy a new pot cheaper.

jeffrey holmes Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
- Spartanburg, South Carolina



January 5, 2014

Q. I have an Imusa cast aluminum cauldron (caldero) that I used to burn some paper in. As a result the finish inside is ruined and it is discolored.
Imusa cast aluminum cauldron before

Can this pot be restored?

laura_taveras
Laura Taveras
- Salem, New Hampshire


January 7, 2014

A. Hello Laura,
I had a pot like this that had burnt gravy imbedded in the Aluminum. Try putting the pot on the stove with an inch or 2 of water and a teaspoon of table salt. Boil the salt water for 10 minutes, discard and let the pot cool. This will soften the burned area. Take cream of tartar (grocery store brand) and mix up a paste with warm water. You will want to wear gloves or you will have metallic fingernails! With the bottom of the pot still moist, apply the cream of tartar paste on a scotch brite pad and scour. You will notice a grey foam after scrubbing. You will have to remove a thin layer of the aluminum to get down to clean metal. You may have to repeat the scouring process a few times, but it should work.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, New York, USA


February 1, 2014

thumbsup2It worked as you said.

pot cleaned with cream of tartar

After three 3-oz bottles of cream of tartar and A LOT of elbow grease, I have gotten the pot to a much better place.

laura_taveras
Laura Taveras [returning]
- Salem, New Hampshire, USA


February 3, 2014

thumbsup2Hello Laura,
Glad we could help. Bet your wrist and arms are stronger now!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, New York USA


February 5, 2014

It was pretty intense! I worked on it over a period of a week or so. I left it on the counter w/ the cream of tartar in it and moistened it w/ water every few days when I was in the mood to scrub...

laura_taveras
Laura Taveras [returning]
- Salem, New Hampshire, USA



March 2, 2014

Q. I watched a video online that said clean Wagner Magnalite with Zep Purple Grease Cleaner. I did that and it did clean the inside, a dull finish AND streaks on the outside of the pot! How do I shine everything back to original shine?? Help!!

Elaine Callahan
- Nacogdoches, Texas


February 2014

A. Hi Elaine. Zep Purple is a powerful caustic similar to lye; it's for cleaning steel, and is unsuitable for aluminum per the Zep site's FAQs. You should relate your experience to whoever suggested it for aluminum pots and pans.

I'd suggest following Laura's advice. The only labor saving I'd suggest is to get a soft buff for a battery operated electric drill rather than scrubbing by hand. Today's battery drills are dangerously powerful though. Set the clutch lower and preferably use an old 9 or 12 volt drill.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


March 3, 2014

Q. So, just use Cream of Tartar on a little buffing machine? Will this turn it back to shiny?

Elaine Callahan [returning]
- Nacogdoches, Texas


February 2014

A. Hi. I don't have Magnalite and haven't encountered the problem personally. But, yes, you'll buff away the aluminum that was oxidized with a buff and cream of tartar. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


March 4, 2014

Q. I guess the question I should have been asking is "does aluminum Magnalite have a bright shiny finish to it naturally?" If so, then if I continue to buff the pan, it will be the shiny gloss all over, yes? I do not know if there was a shiny finish put on the outside of the pots and pans or if that was the natural finish of the Magnalite aluminum. Thank you.

Elaine Callahan
- Nacogdoches, Texas


March 2014

A. Hi again. "Shiny" is a relative term. Although pure aluminum can be mirror-polished so perfectly that it's used as a telescope mirror; magnesium oxidizes and turns gray quickly, so this cast alloy of aluminum and magnesium probably will never get mirror bright. But Laura posted before-and-after pictures, and I think that's what you can expect from cleaning old Magnalite at home.

"Magnalite" is also a relative term because it's a trademark and includes pots made in America since 1934, and pots made in China in 2014 -- it means whatever the trademark holder decides it means. We are not trademark attorneys and can't comment knowledgeably, but it also appears that there was/is a trademark dispute, with American Culinary Corp. making "Magnalite" here, and World Kitchens making it in China -- rendering it all even more confusing. If anyone can clarify my poor understanding of the trademark situation, I'd appreciate it.

Look at the Magnalite listings from American Culinary Corp. or World Kitchens to see how shiny it looks when new today, and look at the reviews on Amazon where some people feel the "Magnalite" they bought recently is excellent and others hate it as being nothing like the older pieces they have.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


March 4, 2014

Q. Appreciate your comments. My question is still "using cream of tartar and polishing with a buffer will bring back the "shiny" polish effect on the outside of the Magnalite pan?" Yes or No. Thank you.

Elaine Callahan
- Nacogdoches, Texas


March 2014

A. Hi. It is unlikely that there was ever a shiny coating on that pot, just the aluminum itself. Sorry, but my answer remains that shiny is a relative term, not a yes or no answer. Please look at the pictures that were suggested and decide for yourself whether they meet your definition of shiny. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey

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