The Overlooked Kitchen Tool You Need to Clean Before You Can Even Think About Making Thanksgiving Dinner

published Nov 19, 2021
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Can opener laying next to cans.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Preparing for Thanksgiving involves lots of moving parts. On top of creating the menu and your grocery shopping lists, you likely have loose ends to tie up at work, gifts to buy, and a kitchen to tidy up. Everything on your to-do list is important, and in the chaos, there’s one little thing that you’re almost certain to overlook: your can opener!

Pull out your can opener right now, and take a look! What do you see? Is it dirty with bits of questionable food and gunk? You probably already know that, like anything else that touches food, you should be washing your can opener any time you use it. The problem is, it can be really hard for a can opener to thoroughly dry. Because they are made of metal, can openers are vulnerable to rust — especially if they’re being put away while they’re still a little wet.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Because you’ll likely be using your can opener for all sorts of canned Thanksgiving staples, now is the ideal time to remove any corrosion that may have built up on metal parts. Over time, rust can damage your can opener and make the gears hard to turn and the blade ineffective at opening cans. Plus, you don’t want rust in your food, or worse, accidentally cut yourself on a rusty blade. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

The good news is that rehabbing your can opener is actually super easy, and you likely already have everything you’ll need to clean it. To remove rust from a can opener, simply fill a large cup or Mason jar with distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. See, vinegar is acidic, so it can easily dissolve mineral deposits, dirt, grease, and grime. Let the gears soak in this solution for several hours (or, if it’s really rusty, overnight). In the morning, grab a small cleaning brush and remove the loosened bits of rust. Rinse the whole thing off thoroughly, and fully dry it to avoid more corrosion.

If any rust remains, try repeating the soak-and-brush trick again. Otherwise, it might just be time to invest in a new can opener. With a clean can opener on hand, you can safely open your stash of canned water chestnuts, pumpkin purée, and cranberry sauce. Let the festive cooking begin!

How do you clean your can opener? Tell us in the comments below.