The Best Way to Clean Burnt-on Cookware Messes, According to My Mom

published Aug 17, 2022
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Kate's stove
Credit: Abigail Bobo

When it comes to cleaning tricks and tips, my mom has the best hacks up her sleeve. As a child, I remember I’d curiously watch her clean glass with newspaper or sprinkle cinnamon around the kitchen to repel ants and wonder just how effective the methods were.

Over the years I’ve seen how well these cleaning tricks work. And, because they’ve been passed down from her mother and older sisters, they’ve also connected me with the women in my family. 

One of the tricks I use regularly in my own life is cleaning greasy and burnt-on messes with a potato. You read that right! Potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is effective in breaking up rust and other difficult stains.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

My mom would place a potato into a pan that needed cleaning, add water, and boil to loosen up any stuck-on food. While I have tried her hack on greasy pots, I decided to use a slightly different version to clean a dirty pan with lots of burnt-on spots. 

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

First, I lightly misted the pan with a vinegar solution and sprinkled it with a pinch of salt (so the potato would have an element to scrub and really get rid of those burnt stains).

Next, I cut a raw Russet potato in half and began scrubbing with the cut side face down. I didn’t apply much pressure at first so I could make sure the salt wasn’t scratching the coating off my pan.

Once I saw brownish-gray liquid appear, I knew the potato was working its magic. I sliced off a thin layer of the potato to decrease some of the slickness and began scrubbing again, this time applying more pressure for a deeper clean. 

After rinsing it the first time, I repeated the process one more time. After the second rinse, I saw that about 90 percent of the pan was clean, so I lightly went over it with the soft side of my Sponge Daddy and voilà! My pan was as good as new. 

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

Burnt-on messes are a pain to clean — especially when a dishwasher is not an option. With this potato hack, cleaning greasy and burnt-on messes can be a simple kitchen task that’s not only effective, but also totally mom-approved. 

Have you ever tried using a potato to clean? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.