We’ve all done it. Whether it was the hotplate in your dorm, the set you bought for your first apartment, or maybe you were just busy running after kids, and left something to burn. At some point, you will scorch a pan, and it will feel like an impossible task to get it clean again. It may seem easier to throw the pot or pan away after a couple of hours of soaking doesn’t get that black gunk off it, but fear not! We’ve come up with 5 pan cleaning hacks that are sure to save your pots and pans, not to mention save you a lot of time.
Every kitchen hack list starts with vinegar, doesn’t it? The first method is fairly simple, but be aware it doesn’t work for food stuck onto a non-stick pan. It does, however, work wonders on an enamel pan or a stainless steel one. Turn on your stove top burner. Put the burnt pan, empty, on the stove top. Once it’s hot enough to sizzle water, pour a cup of water. Add a cup of white vinegar. Let it simmer for a few minutes. After that, you can use a wooden spoon or nylon spatula to scrape off the burnt bits. It will come off even easier with a scouring pad, and takes a lot less time than hot water.
Unexpected? It’s amazing the things a fabric softener sheet can do. This is one of my favorite pan cleaning hacks, I’ve seen it work really well. First, fill the pan with warm water, and then add the dryer sheet. There should be enough water to fully saturate the dryer sheet, so make sure to push it under the water. Wait about three hours. Once you dump the water, you can use the dryer sheet as a scouring pad. Everything will come right off! You’ll want to wash with regular dish soap and hot water thoroughly after trying this one, since some dryer sheets may have chemicals. You wouldn’t want to leave a residue that can get on your food!
This one is a surprise to me. It seems so counter-intuitive. We all know that the acids in Coke and other fizzy drinks are bad for you, and will eat away at your teeth. (and, if urban legend is correct, possibly the lining in your stomach, too!) But those acids can also be used as a cleaning agent. Here’s how it works: First, you fill the pan with enough coca cola to cover all the burnt areas (by-the-way, off-brands work just as well.) Set it on the stove top and boil it. Don’t simmer, but boil as it has to have bubbles coming up from the bottom. When it’s boiling, take it off the heat. Use a scraper or a wooden spoon to scrape off all the burnt food. After that, let it cool naturally and dump it. A lot of the food will already be coming off, and you can wash it as normal. Easy! Kind of makes you wonder exactly how strong the acid is in soft drinks, though, doesn’t it?
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Baking soda is great for cleaning, and so is vinegar. But for really stubborn burnt-on food, the combination of baking soda and vinegar is a must. Here’s how it works: First, layer the pot or pan with water, and prepare about the same amount of vinegar, usually 1 cup. Then, add the vinegar, and bring to a boil. This will already start to loosen things up. Once the vinegar water is boiling, take it off the heat. Add about 2 table spoons of baking soda to every one cup of vinegar. It will fizz up for a while. When it stops fizzing, you can dump the mixture down the sink, and sprinkle some more baking soda onto a scouring pad. This is a lot less time consuming than either baking soda or vinegar on its own.
*Note: Baking soda plus vinegar causes a chemical reaction that may irritate allergies or asthma. You should also not lean over while the pan is fizzing, and you should wash all pots and pans thoroughly afterward.*
As a kitchen cleaning hack, this one is likely going to surprise you, but it shouldn’t. Denture cleaners contain dilute sodium hypochlorite, which is a mild bleach. Depending on the brand, they may also contain citric acid (a stain remover, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and other mild cleaners. This makes them a great, inexpensive household cleaning agent! Simply fill the pot or pan partially with warm water, drop one in, and leave it to fizz for a few hours! (Three or four should do it.) A lot of the gunk will come right off, and scrubbing the more stubborn stuff will get a lot easier! Like everything else that uses harsh chemicals, this method means thoroughly washing and rinsing afterward, to avoid contact with the bleach.
Everyone’s had moments when they’ve accidentally ruined a pot or pan by leaving it unattended. Sometimes it’s a matter of leaving something on just a little too long, other times, it’s a complete disaster, leaving you soaking a pan for days and hoping for the best. If you have a burnt pan, you may have heard of everything from using oven cleaner, to WD-40. But if you want simple and inexpensive kitchen hacks with things found round the house, one of these tricks above will surely work for you.