How to Clean and Polish Aluminum


Sandy asked: I have many aluminum platters and trays from the 1940s. How do I clean them to get rid of the tarnish without scratching them? These pieces were given as wedding gifts and were considered to be poor man’s silver. They are dull and I would love to clean them, but the product I tried was too abrasive and scratched the surface. Help!

Aluminum is commonly used in a variety of products from car wheels to dishes to window frames. Over time, these aluminum pieces can develop a dark color and lose their shine. Here are the simple steps to bring your aluminum piece back to life and its original luster.

You Will Need:

  • Regular dish soap
  • Cream of tartar
  • Aluminum polish
  • Water
  • Soft cloths
  • Old toothbrush

Steps to Clean and Polish Aluminum:

  1. Begin by washing the aluminum piece with water and regular dish soap. Use a soft cloth to scrub away dirt build up that may have occurred over time.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Next, mix cream of tartar with a small amount of water to form a paste.
  4. Use the soft cloth to apply the paste to the surface of the aluminum. Use small circular motions to clean the surface.
  5. An old toothbrush can be used to clean designs or corners in the piece.
  6. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
  7. Next, apply aluminum polish to the surface with a soft cloth. Only apply the polish to aluminum pieces that are not used for food as it is not safe to be consumed. It can be applied to the outside of pans and pots, but do not place it on areas that will come in contact with burners or fire. Use small circular motions to apply and rub it in. Remove with a soft clean cloth and buff to shine.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Do not use baking soda or other alkali-based cleaners on aluminum as it can cause discoloration.
  • Aluminum scratches fairly easily, so avoid abrasive cleaners and scrubbers when cleaning and polishing.
  • Whenever using a new cleaning product on your aluminum piece, it is advisable to test a small, hidden area first to ensure there are no unwanted effects to the surface.
  • Dry the surface immediately when rinsing after polishing to avoid streaks and spots.


  1. There are chemical removers that will take away this white layer, or rubbing vinegar over the surface may help as well. Be aware that once this white film develops, it can be very difficult to get rid of. It will require persistence or just living with it.

  2. I have an aluminium statue that has some water stains that I want to remove without damaging any of the protective coating. Can anyone tell me a foolproof technique as the statues don’t belong to me.

  3. I mistakenly put my mother’s aluminum serving tray in the dishwasher and it came out black. How do I clean it to restore its previous shine? I have a set of three and now know to never put them in a dishwasher! Thanks.

  4. I have picked up a vintage “juicer”. The parts that actually press the fruit is made of aluminum . Now that I have them cleaned naturally, how do I polish them back to their original shine?

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