DIPLO DIY: How to clean and polish aluminum

I have a beautiful thick aluminum tray which I got in Bali (they have many cheap and gorgeous aluminum products for sale in Bali at a fraction of their Jakarta price). I used it for a while in our guest bathroom as a tray for the soap and lotion, however it was getting dirty. At first I thought it was soap stains, but after trying to clean it and finding it impossible with a metal polish I realized that this is what oxidation looks like on aluminum - it looks cloudy, like it has a layer of dried milk or water (or soap!) on the surface. Check out how I cleaned it using non-toxic ingredients around the house after the jump!

aluminum wine rack via Cultured Living

First I tried using a solution of cream of tartar and water (from my Non-Toxic Home Cleaning guide) and it helped a lot. Remember to “put your elbow into it” as my MIL likes to say. But there were still oxidation left so I tried this tip on How to Restore Oxidized Aluminum from ehow.com. I am reposting it below.

Eventually the air quality around bare aluminum surfaces causes the aluminum to oxidize. Oxidation makes the aluminum  Fortunately, oxidation does not pit or leave dents in the aluminum surface. When removing oxidation, avoid the use of harsh chemicals. They can cause premature wear of the aluminum surface and get embedded in the pores of the aluminum.

Things You’ll Need

  • Warm soapy water
  • Cotton rag
  • Cotton towel
  • Boiling water (optional)
  • Spatula (optional)
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Table salt


  1. Wash the aluminum surface with clean, warm, soapy water and a rag, and then dry it thoroughly with a cotton towel. If your aluminum object is a cooking item, like a pan, get all of the baked-on food off the bottom by boiling water in the pot for five minutes and then by scraping the old food off with a wooden or plastic spatula.
  2. Place three drops of white vinegar into a boiling pot of water and submerge your aluminum item into the pot if it is small enough to fit. Allow the item to rest in the boiling water for 15 minutes. This helps to remove oxidation. If the aluminum item is the pot, simply fill it with water, add the vinegar and boil the water for 15 minutes. If the item is too large to fit into a pot, go to step 3.
  3. Wet a rag with lemon juice and sprinkle it lightly with table salt. Buff the surface of the aluminum with the rag gently.
    • Or Grab a lemon from the fridge, cut it in half, dip the cut side in some salt, and start rubbing. Don’t rub too hard, as the salt is slightly abrasive.
    • lemon acts as an acid base to remove the oxidation, and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to help remove the oxidation buildup. Do not scrub too hard, as the salt can scratch the surface.

If you wanna read a more extensive post on removing oxidation from aluminum and see pictures of an aluminum pot being cleaned click here.

I love aluminum because it looks gorgeous, and it doesn’t tarnish as easily as high maintenance silver. Plus it’s cheaper. =P What do you think of aluminum? Did you find my post useful?


UPDATE: Other options…



Click here to read recipes for more Non-toxic Homecleaning.

Lovely comments

    • says

      Hi Tita, did J send you the link for natural cleaning: http://wp.me/p1nGxq-2jC ? I think you will love that too. Btw I also added an update, you can also try making a paste with cream of tartar and rub with cloth on oxidation. If you are cleaning an aluminum pot, fill cookware with hot water and add 2 tablespoons cream of tartar to each quart of water. Bring solution to a boil and simmer ten minutes. Wash as usual and dry. I haven’t tried the latter but the paste does work so that’s a good sign!

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