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How to Clean Metals With Household Products

Tom Wagner

Many commercial metal cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and can cause severe skin irritation should you come into contact with them. In most cases, such products are unnecessary. You can do the job nearly as easily and far more safely with harmless everyday household products.

  1. Polish silver by rubbing toothpaste over the metal using a soft cloth. Making a paste out of baking soda and water is just as effective in removing silver tarnish. Alternately, the acid in lemon juice will also polish silver effectively; apply the juice with a damp cloth, and then polish the silver with a soft, dry rag. Cotton balls soaked in lemon juice or dipped in toothpaste can reach into tight spaces and crevices. To prevent future tarnishing, place your silver items in airtight plastic wrap or containers if possible.

  2. Clean chrome by rubbing it with a sheet of aluminum foil wetted with white vinegar. The chemical reaction between the aluminum and white vinegar interacts with chrome to restore a bright shine. However, this process can scratch chrome if the foil is at all crinkled, so only use this technique on hopelessly stained chrome.

  3. Restore a glossy shine to aluminum items by making a thick paste with cream of tartar and water. Use a soft cloth to polish the aluminum with the paste, and then wipe the item with a dry, clean rag.

  4. Polish gold with a rag smeared with toothpaste. Buff the gold item on all sides, and then rinse with cold water and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

  5. Use mildly acidic liquids to clean copper and brass objects. Tomatoes are somewhat acidic, so ketchup and tomato juice work well on these items. Likewise, you can use the citric acid in lemon juice or use vinegar to clean brass and copper safely. Wet a soft cloth with your liquid of choice and rub the entire surface of the item, then dry with a soft rag. The residual odor will dissipate quickly.

  6. Clean jewelry other than items containing pearls or opals by placing them in a glass of warm water and adding an Alka Seltzer tablet. Let the items effervesce for about five minutes, remove and dry them with a dry, soft cloth.

  7. Cleanse stained pots and pans with baked-on food by filling them with scalding hot water and adding a fabric softener dryer sheet. Allow them to sit for two hours. After removing and discarding the dryer sheet and draining the pan, you should be able to wipe the crud away with a paper towel. If some baked-on food scraps remain, repeat the process, allowing the pans to soak overnight.

  8. Warning

    Use great care cleaning any jewelry containing pearls and/or opals. Many homemade or professional cleansers or polishes will destroy the luster of these gems.