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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Remove Stains on Aluminum Cookware After an Unfortunate Trip Through the Dishwasher

Mary Hunt on

When aluminum pans get stained and discolored from frequent use, it's time for a thorough cleaning. But what happens when these pieces appear to be all but ready for the landfill after an unfortunate trip through the dishwasher?

Dear Cheapskate: I inherited a lovely set of vintage aluminum cookware. For some reason, I assumed I could clean these pans in the dishwasher. Well, they 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 mild soap to prevent exactly what you have experienced -- dark, unattractive staining. When washed in a dishwasher, aluminum darkens due to mineral content in the water, chemicals in the automatic dishwashing detergent and high heat from the dry cycle.

In most, but not all, cases, this change in appearance is not permanent. Removing dark stains from an aluminum cooking pot that has been damaged by the dishwasher can be challenging, but here are a few methods you can try to clean those stains to restore the beauty of polished aluminum -- and then keep them that way.


Combine equal parts of white vinegar and water in the pot, allowing it to soak for several hours or overnight. Afterward, gently scrub the stained areas with a nonabrasive sponge or cloth. The acidity of the vinegar aids in loosening the stains.



Baking soda's mild abrasiveness helps in lifting stubborn stains. Create a paste by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water until it forms a thick consistency. Apply the paste to the stained areas and let it sit for approximately 30 minutes. Use a sponge or soft brush to scrub the stains.


Halve a lemon and sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh. Use the lemon half to scrub the stained areas of the pot. The lemon's acidity, combined with the abrasive action of the salt, assists in removing the stains.


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