Cleaning Oven Cleaner Cleaned Aluminum

We’ve all seen this. Someone has the bright idea to spray a piece of aluminum cookware with oven cleaner. Well in all but the worst cases it can be repaired. I picked up this Wearever pan for $1 because someone had given it the oven cleaner treatment and then donated it.

As an object lesson I went around the edge of the bottom of the pan with 6 different products using fine steel wool. They all make a dent in the damaged surface, some requiring more elbow grease and product than others.

  • Bar Keepers Friend : will take off the white cast but not repair all of the corrosion unless you spend the rest of the day rubbing the surface with steel wool.
  • Metal Polishing Compound: will work nicely, but it will take more than 2 tubes unless you are using a wire wheel on a bench grinder.
  • Magic Wadding: Will make the corroded surface much shinier.
  • Blue Magic Alumium Polish: This stuff works great to remove the normal tarnish and layer of light corrosion, So it DOES make a difference and will easily repair the entire pan but may take the entire container.
  • Oven Cleaner: Oddly this will repair it’s own damage. The potassium carbonate is fine for cleaning non reactive surfaces like enameled or stainless steel surface will immediately soften, pit and corrode an aluminum surface. But because of the aerosolization, it will immediately dry out leaving itself and the damaged surface. However if you apply it to a small area and scrub it with the steel wool BEFORE it has a chance to evaporate, you can get a smooth finish on that small spot before moving on. A large pot could use up a good percentage of a can so I only tackle the actual blacked section by spraying it on the steel wool first.
  • Carbon-Off: This provided the best results with the least amount of effort and product. Carbon-Off’s active ingredient is dichloromethane (Methyl carbonate) and is nearly identical to a goopy paint stripper like 5F5. Surprisingly it can be used on Aluminum without a problem – not surprisingly it does require actual rubber or leather gloves. Once the steel wool was saturated I could easily go over the entire pot and get a nice surface without using up a lot of product or steel wool. I am not entirely certain how it is working, but I think a lot of the corrosion is a mixture of the aluminum and the oven cleaner and the Methyl Carbonate thinks its an alien substance.