The Ultimate Cookware Cleaning & Care Guide

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AssortedCopper: Sprinkle tarnished area with salt then drizzle fresh lemon juice to cover. Gently rub clean, rinse then towel dry. You can also try mixing equal parts flour, salt and vinegar to make a thick scouring paste (Source).

Cast Iron: To remove rust, slice a fresh potato in half and cover the cut end in liquid dish detergent. Rub the rust spots away with the potato, rinse, dry, then apply a light layer of oil to the surface (you’ll find more tips for cast iron items below).

Roasting Pans: Sprinkle the bottom with powdered laundry detergent (about a cup), or one or two dryer sheets (like Bounce). Add hot water to fully cover. Allow to soak for a few hours or overnight, then scrub (more tips found below).

Grungy Baking Sheets & Muffin Pans: Same method as roasting pans above. If there are no edges to your cookie sheets, try applying a laundry detergent & water paste. Allow to soak for a few hours then scrub.

Aluminum: Boil 3 TBS cream of tartar per 1 quart of water in the cookware for 15 minutes. Allow to cool before scrubbing.

Enamel: Mix 3 TBS baking soda per quart of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before cleaning (more tips found below).

Getting Rid Of White Residue: Caused from mineral deposits…boil 1/3 to 1/2 mix of vinegar and water for 10 minutes (liquid must be higher than the stain line). Allow to cool then scrub.

Crusty Spots: Fill with warm water near to the top then drop in one or two denture tablets. Allow to fizz and soak for at least an hour before cleaning.

Casserole Dishes: Use 50/50 vinegar and cream of tartar, this miracle paste also takes care of old splatters and caked on gunk that casserole dishes and lids sometimes accumulate over time. Leave sit on the stain for an hour or two if the marks don’t come off easily the first application.

Another tip: Fill dish with warm water high enough to cover burned crust line. Add a generous teaspoon of bicarb and let sit. After awhile burned crust should loosen easily.

Cake & Pie Pan Edges: Dip a raw potato into scouring powder to work on the rusted corners and edges of cake and pie pans. You could also try using baking soda with a few drops of lemon juice.

Cast Iron

*First published August, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

Keep your eyes open for neglected pieces of cast iron offered at garage sales and auctions. With a little elbow grease you can bring them back to gleaming shape and they will last a lifetime with proper care, the tips below will help clean, season and prepare these pieces.

  • Wash in hot soapsuds and rinse thoroughly.
  • If food bits stick or have burned into the pan, soak in hot water with a bit of washing soda sprinkled on the spot. Bring to a boil if the burned food sticks stubbornly. Wash in hot soapsuds.
  • Use a little baking soda in the final rinse to help prevent rust formation.
  • Make sure item is completely dry before putting away (helps prevent rust).
  • Re-season with oil as needed to protect against rust.
  • If ironware is stored for long periods of time with little use, give the piece a light coating of mineral oil or paraffin inside and out as a protection against rust.

Removing Rust:

  • Work on it with a nylon pad or fine steel wool. Can also sprinkle scouring powder over top if stains are stubborn.
  • Cut a potato in half, drizzle a bit of liquid dish detergent or scouring powder on the surface, then scrub with the cut side of the potato.

After rust is gone, wash and season pan before storing away (seasoning tips below).

More Suggestions:

  • Try table salt, bicarb or kosher salt as a scouring powder.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals since the cookware could absorb them.
  • To strip the piece right down, soak in a 50/50 water and vinegar solution for about 6 hours. Wash well then season. Also, another tip I’ve collected suggests soaking the piece in Coca-Cola to strip off the rust.
  • For especially caked on, rusted pieces: you may have to heat the item till it’s piping hot (fireplace, fire pit, oven), and then scrub. Be careful not to get burned, and be aware that heating it too fast or too hot may cause cracking.
  • Never put it in the dishwasher.
  • The more you use it, the better it gets :).
  • If you invested in new pieces, your best bet is to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

How To Season

Here’s how to keep that favorite iron skillet in perfect condition.

  • A fine scouring powder can be used to remove its lacquer coating.
  • Rinse and dry it thoroughly and then coat it generously over the inside with unsalted fat or vegetable oil.
  • Let it stand over a low flame for two or three hours, rubbing on more fat evenly at intervals of 20 or 25 minutes. Can also warm first on stovetop then place in a 350 degree oven to do this.
  • Use a cloth or paper towel to wipe out the grease, wipe with hot soapsuds, rinse and dry it thoroughly.
  • For the first dozen or so times the pan is used, rub the inside with oil or fat and it will gradually become fully seasoned.

More Tips:

  • After the first seasoning, try preparing dishes with animal fats or deep fried and sauteed items. This will help the seasoning process and develop a non-stick surface over time.
  • You can use shortening, grape seed oil, lard, bacon grease, non-stick spray, to grease and season the piece.
  • Acidic foods such as lemons, vinegar and wine can strip the seasoning. Watch and re-season if necessary.

If you invested in new cookware, your best bet is to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Credit: Some of the information above was collected from Woman’s Home Companion Household Book (1948)

Enamel

*First published August 1, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

After completing one of the steps below, dump and wash as you normally would.

Method #1

  • Fill enamel pot 3/4 full with water, toss in a bunch of peels from lemons and/or oranges. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

#2

  • Apply a baking soda/water paste to stains and let sit for an hour. Fill with water (leaving paste inside pot), stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the bicarb. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

#3

  • Fill with water and add a good splash of bleach. Stir then allow to soak overnight.

#4

  • Fill with water and stir in a small handful of salt. Soak overnight. The next day boil the mixture for about 20 minutes.

#5

  • Make a paste from fresh lemon juice and baking soda. Apply to stains and set aside for a couple hours. Fill with water, toss in lemon peels and boil for 20 minutes.

#6

  • Simmer 4 or 5 unpeeled potatoes (do not clean first) in a pot full of water until most of it evaporates. Refill and boil down again, repeating the process 4 times. Allow to sit overnight.

Roasting Pans

*First published March 21, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

Here are a few different methods for tackling roasting pans with seriously cooked on crud that won’t budge. These aren’t recommended for non-stick pans, try just soaking those overnight (use a bit of dish soap too).

Method #1

  • Fill the pan a couple inches deep with warm water, add a cup of laundry detergent (powdered) and soak for several hours or even overnight. You can also heat on stove top for 10 to 15 minutes (medium heat) if it’s an especially tough job.

#2

  • Sprinkle pan generously with bicarb, pour hot water over top about an inch or two deep and soak for a couple hours. Try boiling for a few minutes first if the mess is bad.

#3

  • Fill the roaster with warm water about 1 inch deep, bring to boil on stove top then add a tablespoon of cream of tartar and a tablespoon of vinegar. After 2 or 3 minutes, drain. At this point the mess should lift up more easily.

#4

  • Fill with warm water an inch or two deep and add a cup of powdered dishwasher detergent. Allow to soak overnight, then drain and wash as usual.

#5

  • First wash the pan as best you can, then make a paste with vinegar and cream of tartar. Apply to stubborn spots and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub away. Repeat if needed.

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Published: May 12, 2008
Updated: September 17, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
15 Comments to “The Ultimate Cookware Cleaning & Care Guide”
  1. Kris says:

    I disagree with using hot, soapy water after using a cast iron pan. Using soap can disintegrate the oil-based nonstick coating you’ve worked hard to build up. I only use soap and water when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, a nylon scrubber, Kosher salt, or some other such scrubbing can work just fine. Rinse thoroughly, then place in a warm oven or stove burner till dry.

    As for Rust, I find any metal scrubber that you may use on your cooking grill works perfectly before rinsing, drying thoroughly and reseasoning.

    Many find that for the most stubborn stuck-on food, popping it in the oven for awhile dries out the food enough to scrape it off. If all else fails, keep it in your oven while you set it on the self-clean cycle, then reseason.

    The best way to keep it clean is learning the proper temperatures. If food sticks too much the pan is probably not seasoned enough (lightly oil it), or the cooking temperature is either too hot or too cool.

    • sat says:

      I also disagree with using soap on cast iron, it is almost never necessary and removes the seasoning. Copper scrubbers & elbow grease work exceptionally well for burned on food or stuck on food. If you have really badly burned on bits, dampen pan with water, sprinkle baking soda & wait a while. You can then scrub out the residue with a scrubber and rinse with plain water. Dry well and season. Most times I just wipe the pan with a paper towel and it is fine. I use oil all the time, heating slowly and baking on low in the oven, wipe off residual. I never have a problem with stickiness.

  2. nettajean says:

    How about stoneware? Any tips on cleaning that?

  3. TipNut says:

    Hi nettajean, I wasn’t able to get my hands on the stoneware cleaning tips I have…still looking ;).

  4. ej says:

    What about stainless steel pots and pans?

    • donna says:

      I use Barkeepers Friend( find it where the scouring powder is) It also workson copper and glass top stoves,or the grey utensil marks on your stoneware dishes

  5. colleen says:

    My mother accidentally put my Lafont porcelain covered cast iron cookware through the dishwasher – it looks like it weathered it okay, but is there something I need to do to the finish?

    By the way does anyone know if it is okay for this to go through the dishwasher in the first place? I cannot find my care manual for it but I seem to remember it recommended hand washing only…

  6. Cynthia says:

    Agreed: GOOD cast iron cookware, the kind where you are cooking on the cast iron surface is never, ever, ever washed in the dishwasher. And hot soapy water is a last resort for when you have burned something to it and nothing else works. Either of those things will ruin the finish and cause stuff to stick. Properly cared for cast iron is more non-stick than most any nonstick surface you can buy. If stuff is sticking to your cast iron, you are washing it wrong. Re-season it and from then on add a little bit of oil every time you use it and then after each use you can clean it by washing in hot water without soap, or cold water with a tiny bit of soap, or wipe it clean with salt and a paper towel. Any of these will work. Dry it by putting it on the hot burner empty for a minute. I am using my grandmother’s cast iron, which makes it about 95 years old. I think my husband’s grandmother’s cast iron is older. When someone gave me a really decrepit piece of cast iron from sources unknown, I put it in my self-cleaning oven when it was being cleaned. It smoked a lot, but it didn’t hurt the oven the cast iron came out looking like new. Then I re-seasoned it.

  7. Lorraine says:

    I’m much appreciate how to best clean and care for the white enamel top of an electric stove. I do lots of jam making, preserving and other long cooking. I wipe off spills when I see them, but often it’s not until the stew pan or saucepan is removed that I find well burnt on and hard blackened spills. I don’t want to spoil the enamel on the stove – how can I best clean, then if possible coat the enamel so spills don’t stick so tightly to the surface?

    • Rosi from Quebec says:

      Hi Lorraine,
      I always clean my white enamel stove top with vinegar. I use a spray bottle filled with regular vinegar (5% acetic acid), I spray the stovetop, wait 10 minutes and then I wipe down with a cloth. If there is still sticky residue, it may need a second treatment. If after that there is still some sticky residue, then I use a piece of plastic (the plastic clip used to close bread bags, or an old credit card) to scrape off the rest. By using vinegar, cloth, and plastic the enamel is protected from scratches. My stove is 10 years old and the stovetop looks brand new. Good luck!

  8. toni says:

    I am having a lot of trouble cleaning my oven racks. Any advice? Please.

    • melissa says:

      I always clean my oven racks in a garbage bag with a cup of ammonia. I set the bag on the patio in the sunlight for about an hour or more. Just be sure to open the bag away from your face and use rubber gloves. Grease is ususally melted and wipes off easily.

  9. PattyP says:

    Seasoning cast iron with oils can leave the surface sticky. I always use lard (pork fat, also called “pig butter” or “manteca de puerco” in Mexican food markets) and the seasoning lasts much better and is never sticky.

  10. Janice says:

    I accidentally cleaned my cast iron pan today with a cloth that I used to clean my glass stove top with glass stove top cleaner! Now Im afraid I have ruined my pan as the chemicals have probably been absorbed into the pan. Is there anything I can do so I know its safe to use again or have I completely ruined it?

  11. sandy says:

    my aluminum cookie sheets have turned grey and black how do i clean them to make them look like new


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