How to Clean Metal

Chances are there are several different types of metal in your home. Like anything else, metal accumulates dust and gets dirty over time. Luckily, you can use products you already have at home to clean most metals—there's no need to buy fancy specialty cleaners to get the job done. Here, we've gathered answers to some of your most common questions about how to clean the various types of metal you likely have around your home.


[Edit]What products clean metal the best?

  1. Acids, like lemon or vinegar, usually work best. While there are plenty of commercial cleaners out there, many of these include harmful or toxic chemicals. Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with salt, and rub it on the metal. The lemon dissolves the salt so it won't scratch the metal. You can also use a lint-free cloth soaked in vinegar or lemon juice.[1]
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    • Avoid abrasive cleansers and scrubbers, which can scratch the metal and damage the finish. If the metal is really dirty, soak it for a while, then wipe the dirt away.
    • For burned-on food, fill the pot or pan with water and of lemon juice or white vinegar. Boil the mixture for 15 minutes, then empty it out and dry the item with a lint-free cloth.

[Edit]How do you make aluminum shine?

  1. Try white vinegar or a lemon after cleaning with dish soap. Regular dish soap and warm water will clean off any of the surface dirt or grime. After that, rub a lemon over the surface to restore the shine. A soft cloth soaked in white vinegar will also do the trick! Just make sure you rinse the vinegar off with some warm water when you're done.[2]
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    • To make aluminum pots sparkle, add 1 tablespoon (14.79 milliliters) of white vinegar per quart (946.3 milliliters) of warm water and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for 15 minutes, then rinse out the pot and dry it with a lint-free cloth.
    • You can also mix white vinegar and cream of tartar to form a paste. Rub the paste onto the surface of the metal and let it dry. Once it's dry, wash it off with warm water, then dry the metal with a lint-free cloth.

[Edit]Can you use vinegar on stainless steel?

  1. No, the acid in vinegar can corrode stainless steel. Stainless steel is a lot easier to clean than other metals—regular dish soap and water should do the trick. Window cleaner is also good for cleaning larger stainless steel items, such as a refrigerator. Just make sure the ammonia doesn't come into contact with any food.[3]
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    • Wipe stainless steel in the direction of the metal's grain for a streak-free shine.
    • Cleaners and wipes made specifically for stainless steel, which you can find wherever cleaning products are sold, are your best bet to keep your stainless steel looking like new.

[Edit]Can you wash a cast-iron skillet?

  1. No, don't use dish soap on a cast-iron skillet except when you first buy it. Wash a cast-iron skillet with soap and warm water when it's brand new. Preheat your oven to and rub in vegetable oil so that it evenly covers the entire surface. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on your oven rack, then put your skillet upside-down on top of it. Bake it for about an hour, then turn off the heat and let the metal cool.[4]
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    • After seasoning, your cast iron is ready to use. Whenever you cook something, simply rinse it with water and wipe it out with a soft cloth or paper towel. Never wash it with soap or put it in the dishwasher—the seasoning will strip away and you'll have to start all over again.
    • When the surface of your cast-iron skillet starts to get dull and sticky, that's a sign that you need to season it again.

[Edit]What's the best way to clean copper?

  1. Scrub copper with salt and vinegar to get rid of all the tarnish. Copper can be tricky to clean, but these common home products make it a piece of cake! Simply sprinkle salt on your copper object, then scrub it with a lint-free towel you've soaked in vinegar. Expect your towel to get dirty as you go—that means it's working![5]
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    • Grab a toothbrush dipped in vinegar and use that to get into tiny cracks and crevices where tarnish can easily build up.

[Edit]What gets rid of water spots on chrome?

  1. Wipe chrome fixtures with a mix of equal parts vinegar and water. Soak a lint-free cloth in your mixture and gently rub the chrome. If it's especially dirty, wrap the cloth around the metal to let it soak for 10-15 minutes, then wipe it clean with another dry cloth.[6]
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    • Chrome is a soft metal, so avoid using any harsh abrasive cleaners or scrub brushes. They could scratch the metal and ruin the shine.
    • For everyday cleaning, regular dish soap and water will keep your chrome looking its sparkly best.

[Edit]How can you clean pewter pieces?

  1. Use dish soap and hot water to easily clean your pewter. Fill a bucket or large bowl with hot water and a few drops of dish soap. Swirl it around, then dip a sponge in it and use it to clean gently clean the pewter. After that, all you have to do is rinse it off with warm water and dry it with a lint-free cloth.[7]
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    • Pewter is a soft metal, frequently used for picture frames and other decorative objects. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrub brushes, which can scratch the surface.
    • If you have polished pewter, use any all-purpose metal polish to make it shine when you're done cleaning it. If your pewter has more of a matte finish, there's no need to polish it.

[Edit]Do I need a special polish for brass?

  1. No, you can restore brass with a paste of lemon juice and baking soda. Get a teaspoon (4.8 grams) of baking soda and stir in the juice from about half a lemon until you get a smooth paste. Apply the paste to your brass item with a soft cloth, then rinse with water and dry it off.[8]
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    • If your brass is heavily tarnished, let the paste sit for about 30 minutes before you rinse it off. You might also have to repeat the process more than once.
    • Believe it or not, you can also clean brass with ketchup, tomato sauce, or tomato paste! Just smear it on the brass with a lint-free cloth and leave it on for an hour. Then, rinse with warm water and dish soap and you're good to go.
    • Commercial cleaners and polishes designed specifically for brass are easy to find wherever cleaning products are sold and will typically do the job faster.

[Edit]Is gold or silver polish necessary?

  1. No, you can normally clean gold and silver without commercial polishes. Dish soap will work just as well as a commercial polish for cleaning gold and silver. Commercial polishes tend to work faster than other cleaning methods and can be more convenient to use. At the same time, some brands are also pretty toxic. Wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area if you're using a commercial polish.[9]
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    • Soak gold in a mix of warm water and 2 to 3 drops of dish soap. Stir the mixture together until the water is sudsy, then drop your gold into the water for 15-30 minutes. Use a clean, soft brush (a toothbrush works well) to dislodge any dirt in crevices. Rinse the gold off under cold water—put small jewelry in a colander so you don't lose it. Then, all that's left to do is dry it off with a lint-free cloth.[10]

[Edit]How do you restore tarnished silverware?

  1. Remove the tarnish with baking soda and water. Line a pot with aluminum foil and fill it with of water. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 grams) of baking soda and bring it to a boil. Put your silver in the boiling water and continue to let it boil until the foil turns black. Use tongs to take your silver out of the water, then dry it off with a lint-free towel.[11]
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    • If you're not happy with the results, set up your water and baking soda mix and do it again. Extremely tarnished silverware might need a couple of rounds.
    • For more ornate designs, use a soft toothbrush to gently brush away the tarnish in grooves and crevices before you dry it off.

[Edit]How do you clean old rusted metal?

  1. Soak dirty, rusty metal in white vinegar overnight. This will get rid of most of the surface dirt and rust. After soaking, scrub the metal with steel wool or a wire brush to get more of the rust off. If you're satisfied with the metal's appearance, wash it off with dish soap and warm water, then dry it with a lint-free cloth.[12]
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    • If the metal still looks rusty or dirty, let it soak in white vinegar overnight again. For really dirty metals, you may need to leave them soaking for a couple of days.
    • If the item is too large to soak, mix baking soda and water to form a paste, then apply the paste with a lint-free cloth. Let the paste dry, then use a cloth soaked in warm water to wash it off. Keep in mind you may have to do this several times before the item starts looking like new.
    • To prevent metal items from getting rusty, use a soft cloth to apply a small amount of mineral oil 2-3 times a year. And always keep your metal items clean and dry—if you need to wash them, dry them off as quickly as possible, and don't leave them soaking in water.


  • Sometimes metal items, particularly antiques, are prettier with a tarnished, aged patina. If you've got a decorative object, consider leaving it alone rather than trying to restore it to a like-new state.[13]


  • When using commercial chemical cleaners, work in a well-ventilated area and always wear rubber gloves.
  • Never use white vinegar on knives. The acid can damage both the finish and the exposed edge.[14]


  1. [v161119_b01]. 28 August 2019.
  10. [v161119_b01]. 28 August 2019.
  11. [v161119_b01]. 28 August 2019.