How to Clean Pots and Pans

A person cleaning a dirty pan with water and baking soda.

I hate doing dishes. It was one of those things I was forced to do during the indentured servitude of my pre-eighteen life. When I was a teenager, I got it into my head that if I did a bad enough job, maybe my parents wouldn’t ask me to do it again. But then my mother just made me do them again until they were clean. Sometimes, if she wasn’t around when I was doing the dishes, I’d leave a bunch of them dirty in the sink. She would then leave them on my bed. It soon became a battle of who was more stubborn. As always, she won.

After I moved out, I learned new and creative ways to avoid doing dishes, such as not cooking. But sooner or later you have to face the music: Dishes need to be cleaned. Pots and pans won’t clean themselves. And sometimes, simple soap and water won’t do it.

Cleaning Pots and Pans

  1. hanging copper potsHow to clean copper pots and pans. Here’s what you’re going to need: Dirty copper pots and pans, baking soda, vinegar, and half a lemon. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of baking soda in the bottom of each of your copper pots and/or pans. You don’t need to completely cover the bottoms, just make certain there’s enough to go around. Then, pour a cap full of vinegar over the baking soda (I recommend doing this one at a time), and giggle like a mad scientist at the chemical reaction. That done, use the half lemon to scrub the pots and pans. Rinse well with warm water and let dry. Your clean pots and pans will be nice and shiny again.
  2. Blue enamel potHow to clean enamel pots. Here’s what you’re going to need: Stained enamel pots, baking soda, water, and a stovetop. Fill the enamel pots with water. Make sure the water covers the stains. If the stains are on the outside, it’s the soap and scrub brush for you (see below)! Add about a tablespoon of baking soda to the water and turn the heat on high. Once you achieve boil-age, turn the heat down to maintain a nice rolling boil, and let that sucker go for about ten minutes. Drain and rinse the pot. If this is not 100 percent effective, scrub your pot with a baking soda/water paste both inside and out.
  3. metal frying pansHow to clean frying pans. Grease sucks. The trick with greasy pans is not to soak your pans, but to let the grease congeal overnight (yeah, I know—it’s as gross as it sounds), then scrape it off the next day. In this instance, using dish soap is just as effective as baking soda and water, though I find that baking soda absorbs more of the residual food particles and soaks up lingering odors. Try dish soap first (Seventh Generation dish soap is earth-friendly, inexpensive, and cleans the bejeezus out of pots and pans), and if that doesn’t cut it, make a paste out of baking soda and water and scrub your pans.
  4. iron skilletHow to clean iron pots and pans. Iron pots and pans can be tricky. You can’t soak them without risking rust, which is more of a pain to clean than grease or stains. The best way to deal with this is to empty the pot or pan once you’re finished using it and rinse it off, using a wash cloth or sponge instead of the tap. To clean it, soak your cloth/sponge in soapy water (regular dish soap should do it) and scrub thoroughly. Once you’ve finished, rinse out your pot or pan (again using the sponge) and then towel dry as completely as possible to avoid rust.
  5. metal roasting panHow to clean roasting pans. This is another fun one, but it’s messy as all get out, so be prepared. Here’s what you need: A dirty roasting pan, baking soda, hot water, white vinegar, a pitcher (the kind your pour drinks from), and a sink that will fit your roasting pan with a little room to spare. Sprinkle the roasting pan (inside and out) with baking soda. Go nuts, but don’t cake the stuff on. Fill your pitcher three-quarters full of hot water and then add one-third cup of vinegar. Pour that over your baking-soda-covered roasting pan and proceed to giggle maniacally. The chemical reaction will remove roasted food bits from your pan. Scrub stubbornly with a sponge or scrub brush, rinse, and clean out with dish soap. Rinse again and let your pan dry.
  6. stained frying panHow to clean stained pans. Here’s what you will need: A stained pan, a half-cup of water, four tablespoons of baking soda, and a stovetop. Pour the water and baking soda into the stained pan. Turn the stove on high heat until you reach a good boil, then lower the heat. Let it boil for about five minutes, then turn off the heat. Rinse your pan thoroughly and dry.

You Do What You Have To Do: Important Info on Cleaning Pots and Pans

In the end, you do what you have to do to make sure your pots and pans are clean. Sometimes it’s slow, tedious, and boring, but it’s gotta get done. And now you are equipped to deal with it.

When you do clean your pots and pans, try to avoid the products that have awful ingredients, such as chlorine, petroleum distillates, or monkey drool. All of these things are harmful, not just to you, but to the environment. Especially the monkey drool.

Also, pots and pans make viable weapons against intruders, though once you’re done exercising your right to protect your home, you may just want to throw the pot and/or pan away. Blood is much harder to clean than grease, and frankly, who knows where that thieving ne’er-do-well has been? Be safe: Blood is a biohazard.

Organic Products for Cleaning Pots and Pans

bottle of seventh generationSeventh Generation dish soap. I love this stuff. It’s just as strong and effective as its non–earth-friendly counterparts, no more expensive, and lastly, eco-awesome. That’s right: ECO-AWESOME.

bottles of duodishDuoDish (Earth Friendly Products). I have not actually used this product before, but all the reviews are very positive, as are the few personal testimonies I’ve received. It’s no more expensive than its counterparts and it’s just as good.

Box of Seventh GenerationSeventh Generation dishwasher soap. The mission of Seventh Generation is just as important as the products themselves, and if you’re lazy like me, most likely you’ll just put all the pots and pans in the dishwasher anyway. If that’s the case, check this stuff out. You can order the dishwashing powder at Amazon.