Cleaning Aluminum With Vinegar: Everything You Need to Know

The aluminum items in the home are numerous; they include kitchenware, kitchen sinks, and furniture. Interestingly, when you use your aluminum items regularly or store them, they can eventually tarnish and lose their shine and allure. Cleaning aluminum with vinegar is an easy way of keeping your aluminum items in tip-top condition. 

Cleaning aluminum with vinegar is an excellent way of removing the tarnish that gradually builds up on aluminum items. You require a water and vinegar solution at a ratio of 50/50. However, wash the area thoroughly after applying vinegar to prevent corrosion.

In this article, I’ll explore why vinegar is such an effective cleaning agent and how to use it on your aluminum surfaces. I’ll discuss what happens when you clean aluminum with vinegar. Let’s dive in!

How to clean aluminum with vinegar.

Why Does Aluminum Need Cleaning With Vinegar?

Over time, your aluminum will lose its shine and show wear and tear. Although aluminum has a thin oxide layer that protects it from corrosion — a natural chemical reaction known as oxidation occurs when aluminum reacts with oxygen. When oxidation takes place on an aluminum item or surface, you may start to notice the following:

  • Chalky, gray cast on your aluminum items, such as pots and pans
  • Black marks on the object or surface
  • Small whitish spots on the item
  • The item or surface may look like it’s stained
  • Your hands get a gray or black residue whenever you handle the item
  • A discoloration that is hard to remove
  • The item or surface starts to lose its natural shine and appeal

Vinegar is an effective cleaning agent to remove corrosion residue in a non-abrasive manner. Let’s explore some more about how vinegar cleans aluminum surfaces.

See also: Does Aluminum Rust?

What Happens When You Clean Aluminum With Vinegar?

Vinegar is a clear liquid produced by fermenting foods such as milk whey, molasses, potatoes, sugar beets, or grain alcohol (ethanol). Vinegar contains about 93–96% water and 4–7% acetic acid.

Some types of vinegar used for cleaning can have up to 20% acetic acid—which is way too high for metals such as aluminum. Stick to white or cleaning vinegar to avoid possible corrosive reactions with aluminum objects and surfaces.

The acetic acid found in vinegar is potent in cleaning as it does the following to aluminum items and surfaces:

  • Breaks down scum, dirt, and soap buildup
  • Dissolves grime, grease, and dirt
  • Removes stubborn stains
  • Removes discoloration
  • Restores brightness and shine 
  • Kills bacteria

Steps for Cleaning Aluminum With Vinegar

Although aluminum household items are easy to clean using liquid soap and water, they become hard to clean when oxidation occurs. Vinegar is excellent at removing oxidation from aluminum and restoring the sparkle of the item.

Here’s how to clean aluminum with vinegar:


  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Basin/bucket
  • Washcloth or soft-bristled brush
  • Microfiber cloth

1. Clean the Aluminum Object or Surface First

If the item or surface you want to clean is dirty or you haven’t used it in some time, you should clean it first, using warm water, dish soap, and a non-scratch scrubber sponge. Cleaning the aluminum item this way removes dust and dirt on its surface.

Dawn Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (Amazon) would be ideal for cleaning the item as it doesn’t contain salt and harsh chemicals that could damage aluminum. It also quickly cuts through grease and dirt, making cleaning work easy.

You could use the two-sided Scrubit Scrub Sponge to clean your aluminum item. One side of this sponge has a soft, absorbent sponge that collects and cleans the item’s dust, dirt, or grease.

The other side of the sponge has non-scratch scouring fibers with incredible scrubbing power that does an excellent job on your tarnished aluminum items.

2. Make the Water and Vinegar Cleaning Solution

Once you have cleaned the items in the usual way, make the water and vinegar cleaning solution that you’ll use to remove the oxidation buildup on your aluminum item.

So, put one cup of warm water and one cup of white vinegar in a container (a 50/50 ratio of water to vinegar is always best).

After putting the vinegar and warm water in the container, mix well to create the aluminum cleaning solution.

An excellent vinegar for cleaning aluminum is white vinegar, like Heinz Cleaning Vinegar. The reasons this kind of vinegar is ideal are:

  • It’s natural vinegar with a 6% acidity giving it extraordinary cleaning strength.
  • It doesn’t contain a coloring agent and won’t stain your aluminum items or surfaces.
  • This vinegar isn’t abrasive and therefore protects your aluminum surfaces or objects.

The amount of cleaning solution you prepare will depend on the number of items you want to clean.

If you run out of the solution as you clean the aluminum, you can always make more using the exact measurements.

3. Clean the Aluminum Item

When your water and vinegar cleaning solution is ready, it’s time to clean the aluminum.

Here’s how to clean the aluminum item:

  1. Dip the scrub pad in the cleaning solution.
  2. Apply the cleaning solution to the aluminum item using the soft side of the scrub pad; the solution starts working its magic immediately.
  3. Clean the object or surface thoroughly using a washcloth or soft-bristled brush using the vinegar and water cleaning solution.
  4. Rinse the aluminum item with clean water in a bucket or under the tap. Rinsing removes any residue vinegar that can damage the aluminum, which is essential to prevent potential corrosion.
  5. Dry the aluminum item with a dry microfiber cloth to avoid water spots and also make the object shine. The BUST-HOP Reusable Microfiber Wipes are suitable for drying aluminum as they are super absorbent and non-abrasive. They are also lint-free; they don’t leave fluff on your aluminum item.

Can Vinegar Harm Your Aluminum Surfaces?

Vinegar contains acetic acid and can potentially harm your aluminum surfaces if misused. Studies show that aluminum and aluminum alloy will corrode in a concentration of acetic acid as low as 1%.

Some cleaning experts caution against using vinegar entirely on metals such as copper and aluminum. However, many other cleaning enthusiasts promote the use of this household cleaning agent. 

To avoid damaging your aluminum surface, it is best if you follow these essential precautions:

  • Clean the aluminum object or surface thoroughly with soap and warm water and rinse before using the vinegar solution. This process ensures no dirt, debris, or chemical residues on your aluminum that may react with the vinegar solution.
  • Don’t use abrasive materials when cleaning with your vinegar solution. Opt for a washcloth or a soft-bristled brush.
  • Ensure you wipe away the vinegar solution and rinse the area thoroughly after cleaning with the vinegar solution to prevent the vinegar from corroding the aluminum.
  • Avoid increasing vinegar concentrations and cleaning with an acidic solution too often.

Final Thoughts

Looking after your aluminum items is vital to keep them in tip-top condition. Aluminum items get discolored and tarnished over time regardless of whether you use them regularly or store them. If you don’t do something about the tarnish and discoloration, the items will appear dirty and unsightly.

When cleaning aluminum, it’s best to avoid using abrasive cleaners as they can cause untold damage. Cleaning aluminum with vinegar and water is an easy and efficient way of dealing with oxidation. You can always use this simple cleaning solution to restore and maintain the allure of your aluminum products.

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