How to Clean Vintage Aluminum Kitchen Canisters

Heather asked: How do I clean vintage aluminum kitchen canisters. The canisters are about 1940/1950. They have dust and oil on them. I would like to clean them without damaging them.

If mild soap and water won’t cut the buildup on your vintage aluminum, it’s time to amp up your cleaning power. You will have to use some judgment on your particular pieces, but assuming they’re in otherwise good condition, you should enjoy good results from this process.

You Will Need:

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Cloth scrubber or sponge
  • Damp cloth
  • Dry towel

Steps to Remove the Buildup:

  1. Make a paste of ¼ cup baking soda and ½ cup lemon juice.
  2. Use the scrubber or sponge to apply it to the aluminum.
  3. Rub gently to clean. If needed, you can scrub harder but only after you’ve ascertained no damage is being done.
  4. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  5. Dry thoroughly with a soft towel.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Do not use an abrasive cleaner such as a scouring pad, especially in pieces with decorative coloring.


  1. I wish to thank you very much for your tip on cleaning vintage aluminum canisters. The lemon juice and baking powder worked great. So, thanks again.

  2. Does this method work with lithographed canisters? It seems when I clean them, the shine and lithograph both disappear. Thanks for your prompt answer.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much! Used this to clean up a vintage citrus juicer and it worked like a charm.

  4. I have my grandma’s aluminum canister set. They were really sticky with grease and dust, so I loaded them in the dishwasher. This tarnished them, and took the shine away. Can I fix this? Is there a way to shine them? I am afraid to do anything else to them without guidance. Thanks for your help!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Will lime juice (instead of lemon juice) work too?

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