Remove Stains from Aluminum Cookware Naturally

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I recently adopted some old aluminum baking pans from my parents. I love old bakeware and cookware because they’re so well made. I think I could stop a bullet with these baking pans. The only problem is that my mom always put them in the dishwasher and they became discolored. I did a bit of research and found an easy and natural way to remove stains from aluminum cookware naturally with ingredients you probably already have. 

top image - stained aluminum pan and lid, bottom image - pan and lid without stains with title text reading Natural Way to Remove Stains from Aluminum Cookware

My mom’s philosophy was that if it couldn’t go through the dishwasher, she didn’t want it. She put everything through the dishwasher except for her silver and china. 

It’s recommended that you hand-wash aluminum cookware because the aluminum reacts with dishwasher detergent causing that graying, discolored effect. But there was no telling that to my mom. 

Remove Stains from Aluminum Cookware 

aluminum pan with stain near top of pan and arrows pointing to the before stained part and the after clean part

Even before I received these aluminum pans, I knew that I was going to want to do something to return these pans to their original color. It was important to me to restore these discolored aluminum pans with natural, chemical-free ingredients.

Why do I care to go through the work to restore these discolored old aluminum baking pans?

  • They’re the pans I grew up with and there are stories and memories behind them.
  • They are really well made. Seriously, I think I could stop a bullet with them Captain America style.
  • They’re Made in the USA back when most things were. You know how I love Made in the USA products!
  • I already have them, so why buy new ones and put these in the landfill when I can simply restore them?
bottom of pan with "made in America" text circled

Remove Stains from Aluminum Cookware 

Be sure to research first and make sure your pan will be safe with this procedure.


  • Large Pan to Submerge the Discolored Pan In – Be sure to research and make sure that the large pan will be safe to hold the following ingredients. 
  • Cream of Tartar – You can find this is in the spice aisle of your grocery store if you don’t already have it in your cabinet.
  • Lemon Juice – I’ve read that you can use vinegar, but I already had a bottle of lemon juice that was about to expire, so I chose to use it. 
  • Tap Water

Fill your large pan with a mixture of 1 quart water, 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar and 1/2 cup lemon juice. Keep adding those ingredients in that ration until your pan is close to full.

Bring to a boil.

Submerge your stained aluminum pan in the mixture. 

Boil for ten minutes or until the stains are removed. 

silver aluminum pan with stains at  top 1/2 inch by lip of pan

The first time I tried this process, I poured the mixture into my baking pan. It worked great, but only on inside part of the pan that held the mixture. The top third of the inside and the outside were still discolored.

long silver aluminum pan with stain in middle

Next I submerged my pans in a larger pan. This worked great on the inside and outside of each end of the pans. However, this taller pan was too tall for the middle to be submerged. 

top image - silver pan in large black pan on stove top, bottom image - long silver pan in large black pan ion stove top

My smaller pan could be turned so that each portion of the pan was submerged. But you can see that the longer pan was too tall for the middle to be submerged.

You’ll have to experiment a bit with your pans to find the best way to restore all sides of your stained aluminum pans. But it’s definitely worth it. I’m so thrilled that I found a non-chemical way to remove stains from aluminum cookware. I’ve already baked a cake in my mom’s baking pan. It might be the best cake I’ve ever baked. 

I also have a couple of posts about the Natural Way to Clean a Utility Sink and how to Remove Sticky Label Residue Naturally.

Find all my best cleaning tips and hacks in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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    1. It’s easy to do if you can find a pot big enough to hold your cookware. I’m so happy with the outcome.

  1. Even though your pans didn’t fit when you were trying to clean them, it made a really good visual to show us. It’s great that you found a natural method to clean your pans.

  2. Wow, what a transformation! I would have never thought these pans could get so new looking. So simple to do too!

    1. I’m still amazed when I use my newly un-stained pans. I love that is used ingredients I already had in my pantry.

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