Neri: Caring for metals


WE ALL have different kinds of metals in the house—in faucets, pots and pans, house decor, furniture, appliances and more. Most metals tarnish easily, or can be scratched and become worn. Some metals such as copper, bronze and pewter, may be admired for the patination they acquire with age, but most metals will benefit from regular care and attention and will last longer when protected from rust and corrosion.


• Wash aluminium pans in mild detergent and water. Rinse in hot water and drain or dry with a soft towel.

• Burned-on food should be left to soak then scraped off with a wooden spoon or spatula and cleaned with a soap-filled steel-wool pad.

• Dull aluminium pans can be brightened by boiling up water in the pan with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Or add a teaspoon of cream of tartar to 600ml (one pint) of water, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.

• Don’t keep food in an aluminium pan after cooking. Chemicals in the food may cause the metal to corrode and spoil the pan’s looks as well as contaminating the food.

• Aluminium roasting tins need a lot of scouring to get rid of burned-on grease.


• If very dirty, wash first with a detergent solution.

• Traditionally, brass was cleaned with oxalic acid and salt but oxalic acid is highly poisonous and so is not to be recommended. The right way is to use a proprietary metal polish, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

• The lazy way is to buy lacquered brass which just needs an occasional wash in warm water and detergent. Unfortunately, the lacquer often becomes damaged and the metal will then corrode under the remaining lacquer. All the lacquer will have to be removed in order to clean the brass before the item is re-lacquered. This is difficult to do and best done by a professional.

• The green way of cleaning brass is to apply a paste of white vinegar and salt, or a piece of lemon. Leave on for five minutes or so, then remove and wash carefully. Dry then polish with an essential oil (from chemists or herbal shops) applied on a soft cloth.

• Very dirty objects such as fire tongs may have to be rubbed with steel wool or very fine emery cloth. Rub the metal up and down, not round and round. It will take some time. Rinse thoroughly in hot water and detergent and dry.

• Brass preserving pans should be cleaned inside with a paste of vinegar and kitchen salt. Wash and rinse thoroughly after cooking anything in them and dry well. Metal polish should never be used on the inside of a brass pan which is intended for cooking, but you can use it for the outside.

• Old brass pans which have not been used recently should be cleaned professionally if you intend to use them for cooking.


• Bronze should never be washed or it might corrode irreparably. Don’t touch the surface at all except to dust it lightly and even then very infrequently.

• Bronze corrodes easily forming a light green or sometimes even red, black or blue patina. This patination in antique bronzes is considered to be desirable. Antique bronzes require professional treatment.

• Nowadays, solid bronze is often lacquered in the factory. Bronze with this sort of finish will only need dusting and, occasionally, a wipe with a damp cloth. If the lacquer cracks or peels it will have to be removed and the object re-lacquered.


• Wipe with a soft, damp cloth and polish with a dry one.

• Very dirty chrome can be washed with warm water and detergent. Dry thoroughly afterward.

• The right way to clean chrome is to use a chrome cleaner from a car and bike accessory shop or hardware store.

• You can use a little paraffin applied on a damp cloth to clean fly-blown or greasy chrome.

• The green way is to use bicarbonate of soda on a damp cloth.

Cast iron

• Don’t use harsh abrasives or metal scrapers.

• Don’t run cold water into a hot pan.

• Don’t store with the lid tightly on.


• In air, copper forms a greenish surface film which can cause nausea and vomiting if eaten. So copper pans must be kept scrupulously clean and should never have food left standing in them. Most modern copper pans are lined with chromium or tin. Some even have a non-stick surface.

• Do not cook food containing vinegar, lemon juice, rhubarb or other acids in an unlined copper pan as they will react with the metal and taint the food.

• Wash copper utensils and ornaments with water and detergent, rinse and dry well.

• Use a nylon scourer or nylon brush to clean burned-on food.

• Polish the exterior the right way with proprietary copper cleaner.

• The lazy way is to reduce the need to polish by having the copper lacquered.

• Polish the green way using vinegar or lemon juice and salt; or equal parts of salt, vinegar and flour; or buttermilk. Rinse at once and dry well.


• Ordinary pewter can be polished with a suitable proprietary metal polish or with whiting and a little household ammonia or a similar mild abrasive about two or three times a year.

• If kept in a humid atmosphere, pewter will quickly develop what’s called a “hume” with a grey film and tarnishing. Tarnish can be removed by immersing the item in solvent chemicals but only a specialist should do this.

Stainless Steel

• Wash stainless steel in hot detergent solution, rinse and dry.

• Corroded spots on cooking pans can be cleaned off with fine steel wool and a fine scouring powder. Polish with a soft cloth. Special stainless steel cleaners are also available.

• Clean dulled stainless steel cutlery and tableware with a stainless steel polish. Don’t use steel wool on tableware.

Wrought Iron

• Polish with liquid wax to prevent rust or treat with a rust inhibitor and then paint it with a paint specially made for iron.

• Remove rust spots with steel wool dipped in paraffin.


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