Natural cleaning solutions for metal

June 23, 2015

Metal can be stubborn to clean, but you don't have to spend a lot of money to do it. Just follow these guidelines for cleaning different types of metal using natural methods and enjoy the sparkling results.

Natural cleaning solutions for metal


Aluminum is a hard-wearing metal, but it is vulnerable to alkaline cleaners, such as chlorine bleach, washing soda and baking soda, which all cause staining and pitting.

  • Don't leave food to stand or soak in an aluminum saucepan, as this will pit the surface irreparably.
  • To avoid staining, never wash aluminum saucepans and cake tins in the dishwasher.
  • To loosen burnt-on food in an aluminum pan, try boiling an onion in it.

Brass and copper

Many brass and copper items are sold with a protective lacquer coating. Simply wash these with soapy water. The following methods are for cleaning uncoated items.

  • A paste of salt and lemon juice is a good basic cleaner for both brass and copper. Rub it in and then rinse well.
  • For stubborn marks on brass, try rubbing the stain with white toothpaste and a couple of drops of olive oil, then rinse with warm water before polishing dry.
  • Don't scour copper cookware. To remove poisonous green stains, clean with a solution of one part salt and two parts white vinegar. Rinse, dry and polish.
  • Buttermilk will clean copper. Wipe it on, leave for 10 minutes and then wipe it off.


  • Don't wash bronze, but do dust it regularly.
  • Polish bronze items from time to time with a cloth dipped in linseed oil, then buff with a soft cloth.

Cast iron

  • To remove rust from cast iron, rub with fine sandpaper or steel wool. Make sure that it is dry and then wipe with vegetable oil.
  • Always wash seasoned cast iron cookware by hand. Dry immediately and wipe with vegetable oil to prevent rusting.


  • Clean chrome with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda.
  • Cider vinegar is also effective as an alternative to baking soda.


  • Remove dirt and grime from pewter by washing it in a solution of warm water and dish-washing liquid.
  • For stubborn dirt on pewter, mix finely powdered whiting (from a hardware store) with a little vegetable oil and rub this over the pewter item with a soft cloth. Polish with a clean cloth.

Stainless steel

  • Soak dingy stainless steel cutlery for 10 minutes in a sink full of boiling water together with 45 grams (3 tablespoons) of baking soda. It will sparkle.

Make your own metal polishes

You don't need to buy expensive metal polishes to achieve a beautiful shine. Instead, try making your own at home.

All-purpose polish

Try this inexpensive polish to clean brass, copper, bronze, pewter and stainless steel.


  • Salt
  • Plain flour
  • White vinegar


  1. Combine equal parts of salt and flour, then add enough vinegar to make a stiff paste.
  2. Apply sparingly to metal items, then allow to dry for one to two hours.
  3. Rinse off and polish thoroughly with a soft cloth.
  4. Take care not to use too much polish, as this may wear away the details of raised designs.

Brass cleaner

This low-toxicity cleaner is suitable for deeply tarnished or intricately etched brass items. Citric acid is available at supermarkets.


  • 25 grams (5 teaspoons) citric acid
  • 3 litres (3 quarts) hot water


  1. Dissolve the citric acid in hot water in a large pot or the kitchen sink.
  2. Place the brass items in the solution and leave to soak for five minutes.
  3. Scrub gently with an old toothbrush, then rinse and dry.

Saucepan cleaner

Try this simple recipe to clean and brighten your aluminum saucepans. Apple or citrus peel can be substituted for vinegar.


  • 500 grams (2 cups) cream of tartar
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) vinegar
  • 1 litre (1 quart) water


  1. Add cream of tartar and vinegar to water and boil for 10 minutes in your aluminum saucepan.
  2. Rinse and dry.

Using the cleaning methods above, you can keep all your metal items in great shape in a natural, environment-friendly way!

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