Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Make It Yourself: Copper Cleaner, Aluminum Cleaner and Dishwasher Detergent

There are so many good reasons to make your own household cleaners. It’s cheaper, healthier, and greener, too. The homemade household cleaners I share with you from time to time do not contain chemicals. That means you can always count on them to be non-toxic.

Dear Cheapskate: The copper post tops on my deck are becoming tarnished. Do you know of a natural (cheap) way that I can clean them without causing any damage to the copper? I’m enclosing a picture of this problem. — Patti

Dear Patti: I really like this beautiful treatment on your deck. Thanks for sending the photo (always a good idea, by the way). I do have a solution for you, using ordinary items from your pantry, provided these caps did not come from the manufacturer with a clear coat. From what I can see, they are uncoated, but please check on that. This DIY copper cleaner is cheap to make, easy to use and works great. Best of all, it contains no toxic chemicals.


6 tablespoons table salt

6 tablespoons flour

white vinegar

Make a paste of equal parts salt and flour with a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Apply to copper item with a soft cloth and rub gently to remove tarnish. Rinse with water and buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Cleaning Aluminum

Dear Cheapskate: I have inherited a set of vintage aluminum canisters. Somewhere along the line, the canisters were washed in the dishwasher and came out so discolored they are no longer pretty. I have tried a couple of cleaning methods that did nothing to restore their beauty. Do you have any suggestions? — Ina

Dear Ina: Most aluminum is best washed by hand with dishwashing liquid to prevent a change in color and feel of the metal. When washed in a dishwasher, aluminum cookware and other items like these canisters can react and darken, due to mineral content in the water, chemicals in the detergent or high heat from the dryer. In most cases, this change in appearance is not permanent.

I am confident that you can remove the discoloration using natural, ordinary items such as lemon juice, vinegar or cream of tartar (made into a paste by adding a bit of water), depending which you have handy. Apply with a soft cloth or nonscratch blue Scotch-Brite sponge. Never use steel wool or any other type of abrasive applicator that can scratch the aluminum. Rub gently, rinse with warm water and buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Any of these options should remove the discoloration and provide fast, effective results without damaging the metal. Just know that it may take a few repeats to achieve full results.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Dear Cheapskate: I’m hoping you have a recipe for homemade automatic dishwasher detergent. Thanks in advance. — Preston

Dear Preston: Are you willing to experiment a bit? The following recipe has been met with mixed reviews, due to (I believe) how hard the water is. Experimenting with it will not do harm, but your results may vary depending on this one variable. Provided you do not have a home water softener system in place, give this a try.

Mix together equal parts borax (you can find Twenty Mule Team Borax in the laundry aisle of your supermarket) and baking soda. Store in a dry place in a container that has a tightly fitting lid. To use: Add 2 tablespoons to the detergent holding area. (Measure it; don’t just dump some in.) Also, instead of a commercial rinse aid, you can fill that reservoir with white distilled vinegar.

CAUTION: Do not use this homemade dishwasher detergent if your home has a water softener system in place. The reaction between that system and this homemade detergent could permanently etch glassware.

Hope that helps. It was great to hear from you.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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