Cleaning Aluminum Thrift Finds

Hi everyone!

I received a couple of comments on yesterday's post and a lot of email from different readers all asking the same question, "How do you clean aluminum?". Now, let me first say, I am NOT an expert in this field. This is simply what I have found that works for me. There are a lot of different resources out on the web that tell you how to clean aluminum. Check them out if my methods don't work for you.

Jan Bargains 2011 087

To be honest, 90% of my thrifted aluminum pieces really only require a good soak and scrubbing in warm water with dish detergent. If you have some stubborn crud on your aluminum or you want to restore the shininess to them, here is my method for that.

Fill a large pot with water and two tablespoons of cream of tarter. Bring to a boil and then add a couple of tablespoons of lime juice and simmer. Add your aluminum piece and let soak for about 10 -15 minutes. Then wash with dish detergent and dry. Now, most of my pieces are large serving platters and generally don't fit into any large pots I have (sometimes I can you my canning pot) so, I do the above and then dump the water into my sink and let the pieces soak there.

Most of the time, this method is all I need to get my aluminum cleaned. I have only once bought a piece that had some serious corrosion to it. I had to really search the internet to come up with a method of getting the corrosion out. What I found was, after doing the 2 methods above and I still have corroded spots, I tried this and it worked for me.

In a pot, mix half water and half white vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of lime juice. Bring to a boil then to a simmer and put our aluminum piece into it and let it soak for another 15 minutes. This worked for the most part to get the corrosion off my piece.

Some things to keep in mind when it comes to aluminum pieces:

**NEVER use silver polish on them!! You can buy polish of pewter which works on aluminum just fine.

**Remember aluminum does not have the mirror shine as silver. but, when restored (above methods) it should have a nice shine to it.

**If your pieces have lots of pretty details in them and after you have polished them, you have some polish or lint or whatever in the details, just use some rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip and get into those crevices.

**As with polishing silver, use a soft cotton cloth to dry and shine your pieces.

**They say you can use a bit of steel wool to get out some corrosion as well. I tried this once and I just didn't like the small minute scratches the steel wool left on my piece. It worked getting the corrosion off but, I ended up with tiny scratches. So, this one is up to you.

**Remember, also like silver, the more you use it and wash in sudsy water, the nicer it becomes and it stays free of corrosion.

For the most part just soaking in warm sudsy water and then scrubbing a bit generally is all I ever have to do with my thrifted aluminum.

I hope this helped. Thank you for your comments and always feel free to ask a question because it seems a lot of others are wondering the same thing!

Here are pictures of what I did with the set of aluminum I got and showed you yesterday (above pic). This set just required a simple washing with dish detergent.

projects 1-2011 018 Yup, I turned it into a 2 tiered server.

projects 1-2011 019 Perfect for fruits, veggies, chips and a bowl of dip on top.

projects 1-2011 020 What? Did you think I only repurposed china into pedestals or servers?

projects 1-2011 021 This makes the prettiest server for different things like this. And, when you are taking crudités to a get together, this is nice and light and will present so beautifully. I hope this post helped and I hope my “redo” with my aluminum pieces gave you some fun ideas for your own pieces! So, start looking for those gorgeous aluminum pieces at great thrift prices!


  1. Thank you for sharing your cleaning idea.
    I really like the tier idea.
    have a great weekend.

  2. You might also check the cleaning page on the Aluminist

  3. Super information. I love all the pieces that you've found. Great server also. Hugs, Marty

  4. I like what you have done with the latest pieces. I wondered how to clean aluminum pieces...I don't have any but now may buy a piece if I can find a really pretty piece...thanks, Diann.

  5. It look fabulous as a server. I have some old aluminum forks and spoons that are very pretty...maybe I should take a picture of them. I think I cleaned them incorrectly after reading this!

  6. Thanks for such an informative post...I'll look at those aluminum platters in a whole new way!!!
    I'm your newest follower.........

  7. Diane, you are getting me buzzed to start looking for aluminum at yard sales and thrift stores!!

  8. You transformed your pretty aluminum trays into something even prettier, Diann. Thanks for the very helpful tips in cleaning. Thanks also for stopping by. Unfortunately, I had the camera with me so John couldn't take my picture as we entered the Polish pottery store but I was really excited....Christine

  9. Love that you got two 'layers' of aluminum. I mostly just was my pieces in soapy water and the look pretty good to me. Good tips if I find some grungy pieces.

  10. Thank you for answering my question!

  11. Great information. I have been collecting pieces for almost thirty years and you should see the 4 pieces I found yesterday at Calvary Chapels sponsored Thrift Store. They are to die for, and I have never seen pieces like them which makes the find even more exciting. THEN to top it off all pink tags were 50% off, 3 of them were pink tags & they were dirt cheap to begin with... I struck Gold!


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)