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Everyday Cheapskate: Make It Yourself: Copper Cleaner, Aluminum Cleaner and Dishwasher Detergent

Mary Hunt on

There are so many good reasons to make your own household cleaners. It's cheaper, healthier and greener, too. The homemade household cleaners I share with you from time to time do not contain chemicals. That means you can always count on them to be nontoxic.

Dear Cheapskate: The copper post tops on my deck are becoming tarnished. Do you know of a natural (cheap) way that I can clean them without causing any damage to the copper? I'm enclosing a picture of this problem. -- Patti

Dear Patti: I really like this beautiful treatment on your deck. Thanks for sending the photo (always a good idea, by the way). I do have a solution for you, using ordinary items from your pantry, provided these caps did not come from the manufacturer with a clear coat. From what I can see, they are uncoated, but please check on that. This DIY copper cleaner is cheap to make, easy to use and works great. Best of all, it contains no toxic chemicals.


6 tablespoons table salt

6 tablespoons flour


white vinegar

Make a paste of equal parts salt and flour with a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Apply to copper item with a soft cloth and rub gently to remove tarnish. Rinse with water and buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Dear Cheapskate: I have inherited a set of vintage aluminum canisters. Somewhere along the line, the canisters were washed in the dishwasher and came out so discolored they are no longer pretty. I have tried a couple of cleaning methods that did nothing to restore their beauty. Do you have any suggestions? -- Ina

Dear Ina: Most aluminum is best washed by hand with dishwashing liquid to prevent a change in color and feel of the metal. When washed in a dishwasher, aluminum cookware and other items like these canisters can react and darken, due to mineral content in the water, chemicals in the detergent or high heat from the dryer. In most cases, this change in appearance is not permanent.


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