How to Clean Oxidized Aluminum Pans (4 Easy Ways)

Aluminum cookware is loved among home chefs because it allows them to cook restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of your home.

However, when it comes to cleaning and care, they can be a little high maintenance. Aluminum pans are more prone to staining, collecting gunk and grime than steel or cast iron pans.

What’s more is that if proper care is not given, your aluminum pans may start to oxidize and collect rust on its surface.

When this happens, do not be too quick to chuck the pan in the bin. It can still be salvaged and restored.

Getting rid of oxidation can be a difficult process but with the right tools, you don’t have to worry about it.

What Causes Oxidation in Aluminum Pans?

You might be wondering if there is anything you can do to avoid oxidation. Unfortunately, oxidation is a very normal, organic, and natural process, which occurs from a reaction with air.

For this reason, it is always recommended that you store your aluminum pans in a cabinet instead of leaving them outside.

Moreover, oxidation can also happen when acidic foods are prepared in the pan.

Simple sauces with tomato paste can make a pan more likely to oxidize. The higher the acidic content of the food is, the higher the chances of the pan to oxidize will be.

In fact, something as simple as washing the aluminum pan in the dishwasher can also increase the risk of the pan oxidizing.

The reason why the dishwasher increases the chance of oxidization is that it encourages aluminum objects to rub together. This friction eats away at the protective layer on the pan and causes oxidization to occur faster.

While you can pay attention to these things, you can’t always help it. Old age and just daily wear and tear can also make aluminum pans oxidizing. In such instances, knowing how to remove oxidation can be very helpful to you.

To help you out, we are going to take a closer look at how you can clean your oxidized aluminum pans and restore them with ease.

Best Methods for Cleaning Oxidized Aluminum Pans

Cleaning aluminum pans can be a tough task but with the right cleaning method and some hard work, you can get rid of the rust.

To do this, the following are some of the best methods.

We’re including easy methods, which make use of organic ingredients so as to leave your pan in perfect cooking condition.

Method 1 – Potato Scrub

For lighter oxidation where the rust is only on the surface level, you can try a gentler method, such as a potato scrub.

This method makes use of the natural juices found in potatoes to help loosen it and get rid of the rust in the pans. You will need the following:

  1. A potato – any kind, the larger size is better
  2. Baking soda – as needed
  3. Plate for the baking soda
  4. Cleaning sponge

For this, all you will need is half a potato and some baking soda. All you need to do is chop the potato in half and then dip it in some baking soda.

Any kind of potato will work here. Once you have dipped it in baking soda, place it in the pan and rub the rust patches with the potato and baking soda.

You have to do this more than once and have to cut a thin slice off the potato, reapply the baking soda on it and repeat as needed.

Once you are sure the rust has been removed, give the pan a good rinse with water and wash it as you would with soapy water.

Remember that this method is only suitable for light rust issues. For some more serious problems, you may have better success with the other methods listed here.

Method 2 – Salt Scrub

For this method, you have to make use of salt. You can use either coarse sea salt or table salt, whichever one is easier for you to use.

With this method, you will also need the following:

  1. Sea salt or table salt – As needed
  2. Brown paper bag – for scouring
  3. Oxidized copper pan

Take the salt and add a generous layer to the rusted area of the pan. Make sure that the salt is at least 1 cm thick.

Now, take the brown paper bag and fold it until you can easily hold it in your hand. Use it gently yet firmly to scour the pan.

During this time, pay attention to the color of the salt. If it gets rusty in color, dump it, add more salt and then continue to scour.

Once all the rust is removed, you can rinse out the pan thoroughly with warm soapy water.

Let it air dry properly before you check. If there are still signs of rust left, repeat the salt scrubbing as desired.

Method 3 – Scouring the Pan

One of the best things for getting rid of rust is to scour the pan. Most people do not always consider this option because they fear that they will accidentally cause more damage.

However, if you follow the methods for scouring mentioned here, you can get rid of the rust easily.

To help you out, we are detailing three tried-and-tested options that you can use to scour the pan and get rid of the rust without any problems.

Option 1 – Steel Wool

First and foremost, we have steel wool. This is a harsh and abrasive material but it is extremely effective in getting rid of thin layers of rust. For this, you will need:

  1. Steel wool
  2. Dishwashing liquid – as needed

To prevent the steel wool from being too harsh on the pan, you can add a little bit of dish soap.

This will help to prevent major scratches and ensure that the pans are in good condition. Once you have the rust removed, rinse the pan thoroughly.

Examine to make sure that you got all the rust spots off. Use a sponge and then wash the pan again. Let it air dry before you use it for cooking and store it properly.

Option 2 – Barkeep’s Friend

It can be a good idea to make use of gentle cleansers like Barkeep’s Friend.

This powder surface cleaner is usually used to polish countertops. However, it works well with ceramic, aluminum, fiberglass, chrome, tile, and other such materials.

This makes it perfect for use on pans as well. You will need the following:

  • Barkeep’s Friend Powder – As needed
  • Water – as needed to make a paste
  • Cleaning sponge

For rust, all you need is to sprinkle a little bit of the powder on the rusted areas and let it rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

Then, take a wet sponge and using circular motions, give the pan a good scrub. If the rust is particularly stubborn, add some water to the powder and make a thick paste for the rust spots.

Keep it on for 3 to 4 minutes and clean it as needed. Make sure to rinse the pan thoroughly to prevent any residue from being left behind.

Option 3 – Lemon Juice and Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is similar to baking soda and is often used to clean up stubborn stains on pans.

When it comes to cleaning oxidized aluminum pans, it can also be very effective. Moreover, it leaves pans shiny and spotless, restoring their lost shine with ease.

For this option, you will need:

  • Lemon juice – juice of one lemon
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Cream of tartar – 2 tablespoons

To use the cream of tartar, you will need to combine its water and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it.

Pour this mixture into the pan and let it sit overnight. For a faster alternative, you can also place the pan on the stovetop and let it come to a boil.

After this, let the pan cool down and scrub it well. Then drain the pan and see whether all the rust spots are gone.

If not, then repeat the steps again until the pan is spotless. Now, wash with warm soapy water and rinse it out thoroughly before you use it.

All of the above-mentioned methods can be tried out to get rid of particularly stubborn rust spots in aluminum pans.

They are also very effective in getting rid of burnt food and stains from pans too, so be sure to try them all and see which one works for you.

Method 4 – Vinegar Soak

Last but not least, you can make a vinegar soak for cleaning oxidized pans.

Vinegar is a great cleaning solution and is multipurpose in use. It also works very well in removing burnt food, stains and for helping clean rust.

For this method, you will need the following:

  1. Vinegar – 1 cup, any kind
  2. Cleaning sponge

For this method, you can try two different variations to get rid of the rust. Add the vinegar to the pan and make sure that it completely covers the bottom.

If you need more than 1 cup, add it to the pan. Now, you can leave the pan overnight and give it a scrub with the cleaning sponge in the morning.

However, for a faster method or to deal with tougher rust, you can put the pan with vinegar on the stove and bring it to a boil.

Let the vinegar simmer for 2 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it cool down completely. Now, give the pan a good scrub and the rust should be gone.

These are some of the most effective methods that you can use to get rid of rust from aluminum pans. Please note that these methods are only good with pans that have rust on them.

If the pan is oxidized and warped or has lost its shape, it is better to get rid of the pan and get a new one.

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