How do you clean persistent grease/ oxidation off a vintage aluminum kettle?

Hi, I have a more than half decade old aluminum kettle at home. It hasn’t been used for a while because the outside is all covered with kitchen grease for sitting in the kitchen closet for years.

I think cleaning with just plain soap will probably involve a lot of hard scrubbing at certain spots. But that’ll probably mean these spots will be scrubbed so much that it will look shiny aluminum while other spots that don’t require extensive scrubbing will look different.

Are there other better solution that allows me to more easily remove the grease?

Separately, the inside of the kettle is now quite blackish, probably because of prolonged oxidation of the aluminum in the air. Any suggestions on how to remove the oxidation besides scrubbing?


I would first try Dow scrubbing bubbles on the outside. Let it sit awhile.

To remove the grease, you could try applying a thin film of Dawn dish soap to the outside of the kettle. Allow the soap to to sit for awhile, then rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Dawn is known for its grease cutting properties, so I use this method to clean the baked on gunk from the drip pan of my gas grill. My normal environmentally gentle dish soap isn’t strong enough to stand up to super grease like Dawn does.


I have never seen Dawn here however, we use FAIRY in Spain.

Probably the same recipe of dish detergent …

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I’ve once used a cleaner with both sulfamic and formic acid to get rid of limescale inside an aluminum mug and the metal turned into dull matt grey loosing the shine. So test all detergent or soap with the bottom of the kettle first.


I used a tip that soaked the filthy grease baked racks from the oven in warm water and lots of laundry softener sheets. Next day just wiped them clean. Maybe test a small spot.


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I would try full strength Simple Green concentrate on the outside. Spray it on and let it soak for a while, spray again and wait some more, then spray again and wash with a sponge and hot, soapy water. It might take light scrubbing with a no-scratch pad, but even those will leave bright spots on untreated aluminum if you’re not careful. Afterwards, you can apply car wax to the outside to prevent the grey aluminum oxide from continually getting all over your hands and sponges, and it will make new grease spots easier to clean off in the future.

On the inside, isn’t this what most people recommend for an aluminum food-contact surface? I thought this was a sort-of self-anodized surface that prevents aluminum oxides from leaching into your food? I think this is the recommended surface condition for those aluminum moka pots…

It makes sense to me but I want to make sure: You’re saying “Leave the inside black, that’s how it should be”, aren’t you?

Yes, that’s what I think should be done. :slight_smile:

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I would be inclined to trust a good knife maker when he says “that’s a protective layer of oxidation, keep it there”. Thanks.

Sounds good. Since I have Dawn detergent readily available at home, I decided to try that first.

I coated the top of the lid with Dawn diluted with water. Let it sit for half an hour and keep misting it to keep it moist. And then use my thumb, not my nail to rub off most of the grease.

Repeatd that a couple of times, and I used my finger nail to gently dislodge the grease off the lid in the last round. As you can see, most of the grease is gone. There’s some persistent sticky one stuck to the plastic nob that needs some extra work. And there is a thin layer of grease still remaining in certain parts of the lid.

But its encouraging. This took about 20 minutes of work.


Well! I was certainly wrong. The detergent-smear method is working extremely well. Nice work. (20 minutes is worth it considering how long the spots probably took to accumulate. :slight_smile: )

I hope you follow @Eiron 's advice regarding the black inside. I’m relatively confident that my vinegar idea would quote-unquote “work” to give white metal again, but I think he’s actually right that the black parts of the interior are now non-reactive and for that reason are better than new.

Yay! Somewhere I read that Dawn can be used for a variety of grease-cutting jobs, so I picked up a small bottle and have been trying it out for various tasks. I figured that degreasing that kettle would in its wheelhouse.

P.S. One of the gnarliest problems that Dawn has helped me with so far is removing soap scum from sinks/tub—that buildup can happen so fast when using the natural soaps that we prefer such as castile.

Right. I am not too concerned about the black part as long as it doesn’t deposit itself into the water when I boil.

Slightly … ironic? Hmmm, probably not the right word… Anyway, slightly “ironic-ish” that you’d end up using what you were trying to avoid using, to clean up the mess from using what you did decide to use. :slight_smile:

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Yes… sounds like the clean new metal (fresh aluminum, non-anodized) would be the culprit for depositing things in your water.

I deleted my own earlier post in this thread, because it has been superseded by better/more useful ones.

Ironic is the word I would choose, too. Looks to me that chemically Dawn is dish detergent rather than dish soap. Still, applying “soap” to dissolve soap scum does seem counterintuitive, right?

My “irony” comment was more related to the fact that someone choosing to use Castile soap for its “naturalness” is mainly making that choice in order to avoid newer formulations of “soap” which themselves are in fact detergents. (One of the first well-known examples in North America was Zest, which was advertised for its ability to rinse away more completely - the ads didn’t say “…because it’s not soap at all, it’s detergent!” - which was probably the right move, from a publicity point of view. :slight_smile:)

ETA: Come to think of it, one Zest tagline did say “rinses cleaner than soap”, which did kind of beg the question for anyone paying attention.

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