How to Restore a Blackened Aluminum Pan
A deep scrub with an acidic cleaner can work wonders on this metal.
While built-up grease and grime or burnt-on food can wreak havoc on any pan, aluminum ones have another distinct enemy: dishwashers. Like cast-iron cookware, aluminum pans should avoid the machine at all costs. "The combination of alkaline dishwasher detergent, high heat, and minerals in your water can trigger a reaction that darkens the metal," says Jennie Varney, brand manager for Molly Maid. Not to mention, the force of the jets can knock your pan into other dishware, scratching or nicking its surface.
"Your best bet is to simply hand-wash the pan with warm water and mild dish soap, using the rough side of a sponge or scrubber to dislodge any food remnants," says Rosa Nogales-Hernandez, head of the cleaning team at home-services company Valet Living, "and avoid taking a metal utensil to it, as this can damage its surface, too." But if you've already subjected your pan to a dishwasher cycle, not to worry—the darkening isn't usually permanent. Just follow these steps from Varney and Nogales-Hernandez to bring back the shine.
If the pan is deep enough, fill it with water, plus a few tablespoons of lemon juice or cream of tartar, says Varney. Boil 10 minutes and drain. This should lift the dark coating, which you can then sponge off with soap and water. (Such an acidic solution will also remove any white, chalky spots that have bloomed on your pan as the result of aluminum oxidation.) To steer clear of pitting, don't leave the pan wet to air-dry; instead, dry it fully with a clean cloth.
If the item is shallow or the exterior is also discolored, mix a paste of baking soda and white vinegar, says Nogales-Hernandez. Spread it all over and let stand a few minutes. Wipe it away with a steel-wool pad, then rinse and dry.
If any dark spots remain, pour a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz thoroughly, says Nogales-Hernandez. Tackle especially stubborn areas with a steel-wool pad, then rinse and dry.