Almost everything in the kitchen shines up nicely with just a little soap and hot water. But pots and pans are trickier. Because they’re working with food at high temperatures, they can get some pretty serious gunk, stains, and discoloration that can be tough to get out no matter how hard you scrub. Luckily, almost everything can be cleaned if you know the right cleaning agent.
Here’s a simple guide to cleaning all of your cookware — from stainless to anodized aluminum.
- Spot Cleaning: use a paste of 1 teaspoon hot water and 2 tablespoons baking soda, and a scrubbing pad.
- Tough Stains: soak in 2 quarts hot water and 1/4 cup baking soda.
- Toughest Stains: Make a paste of 1 part baking soda and 1 part hydrogen peroxide, rub on stain, and let sit for 20 minutes. To soak, combine 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and 2 tablespoons baking soda, and let sit for at least 1 hour.
Note: baking soda is abrasive, so the above is suited for stainless pots and pans, but not appliances.
- Spot Cleaning: Make an easy aluminum polish with equal parts water and cream of tartar. Polish with paste, then rinse under warm water.
- Tough Stains: Mix 1 quart water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Bring mixture to a boil in the pan you’d like to clean or submerge utensils. Soak for 1 hour, scrub with a scouring pad, and wash as normal.
- Tough Stains: Set dish in sink and fill with enough hot water to cover. Stir in 1/4 cup baking soda and soak. Use a non-abrasive scouring pad to scrub, then wash with hot, soapy water.
- Brighten/Tough Stains: Pour a splash of vinegar over pan, sprinkle all over with salt, and then gently pour on more vinegar. Use a non-abrasive scouring pad to scrub all over, rinse, and dry.
Many cast iron skillets are sold pre-seasoned. For an un-seasoned one, follow these instructions:
- Season: Wash with warm, soapy water then dry completely. Rub cooking oil over skillet and bake in a 350 F oven for 1 hour.
The seasoning layer on a cast iron skillet keeps most foods from sticking, but occasionally food can get caked or burned on. If this happens, follow these instructions:
- Spot Cleaning: rub a paste of cooking oil and course salt over surface with a dish cloth or towel, then rinse and dry.
- Tough Stains: if spot cleaning doesn’t work, make a paste of 1 teaspoon hot water and 2 tablespoons salt, and scrub with a dish cloth.
- Toughest Stains: Scrub with a bristle brush. Rinse pan and dry completely. If cast iron looks dry, wipe down with oil or re-season.
- Spot Cleaning: make a paste of 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 tablespoons warm water, and scrub with a soft bristle brush.
- Tough Stains: fill pot or pan with very hot water, stir in 1/4 cup baking soda, soak for 1 hour, and then rinse and wash as normal.
Anodized Aluminum or Non-Stick
Nothing abrasive should be used to clean anodized aluminum, and since you can’t muscle through the grime, you’ll want to have a powerful dishwashing detergent on hand. Any dishwashing liquid that has the word “detergent” in it will work.
- Stains: Add detergent and very hot water to the pot or pan, and use a non-abrasive sponge or soft bristle brush. You should be able to tackle any mess.
Note: exact instructions for pots and pans can vary, so check manufacturer’s instructions.