Sparkle & Smile

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Green Cleaning Tips and Tricks

How to clean pots and pans

March 13, 2017

how-to-clean-pots-and-pansUnless you’re an over achiever in the cleaning department, it’s a safe bet your pots and pans need some attention. It’s really not your fault if they have black burnt spots on their bottoms – the heat on your cook top gets so hot that even water can leave a burn mark.  According to the 2017 Cleaning Calendar & Checklists Maid Brigade recommends special attention for pots and pans every three months.  But finding the time to clean your pots and pans is not always easy. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re using the best methods so you don’t waste time.

Cast Iron

The beautiful thing about cast iron is that you can never really tell how dirty or stained it is. Cast iron has been around since the 5th century BC but cast iron cookware was developed by two American companies in the late 1800’s. The Lodge Company is still manufacturing their cast iron line today. Caring for cast iron is more about keeping the pan oiled than it is about removing stains. Cast iron will oxidize if left open to the air.


Never use soap on cast iron as the soap will be absorbed by the pores of the pan leaving a soapy residue in the metal that will leech into your food. Use a steel or stainless scrubby to remove any burnt on food particles, then wipe the cook surface with a paper towel treated with olive oil to seal the pan and prevent oxidation. Clean cast iron every time it’s used for cooking.

Store the cast iron in your cupboard and keep a paper towel on the cooking surface to keep the oil from getting on the bottom of your other pots and pans when you stack them.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the choice of professional chefs because of its durability.  Stainless can really stand up to abuse but it does need some special care to keep it looking good. Use this amazing trick from celebrity chefs to help make clean up easier: always heat the pan before putting anything in it. When cold food is put on a room temperature pan, the cold causes the metal to contract and “hold on” to the food, making it stick. However, heating the pan first will cause the steel to expand instead, preventing food from sticking when it is added to the pan, working just as well as a non-stick pan.  After cooking, let the pan air cool and wash it in warm water with a gentle soap.


Don’t use anything harsh on the outside of the pan as it will scratch. Use a non-abrasive cleaner on the bottom to remove burnt on stains.

Water spots on stainless’s shiny exterior are caused by minerals in the water. Remove them easily by using a cloth dipped in white vinegar. The acid in the vinegar will cut right though the mineral deposits that come from the dried water droplets.

Stainless steel can get rainbow-colored stains caused by over-heating. When this happens you will see a rainbow colored stain on the bottom or sides of the pan.  Remove those stains by rubbing some ketchup over the area and letting it sit for a few minutes before wiping the surface clean with a soft cloth. Clean stainless steel pots and pans this way every three months.


Ceramic bakeware should be treated with care. Ceramic must be left to cool completely before placing in water for washing.  Once the ceramic dish is cool, use hot water and baking soda to remove food that may be stuck to the cooking surface. Then, just wash ceramic bakeware in in warm soapy water. Clean ceramic dishes every time they’re used, because baked on food will be harder to remove with each subsequent heating.


Forged Steel

Forged steel cookware can be treated like cast iron even though it’s not as heavy or as porous as cast iron. The oils on the forged steel keep food from sticking. Scrubbing too hard will remove those oils, so don’t be too aggressive with the cooking surface. Simply keep it clean by washing it in warm water and a touch of gentle soap. Just make sure not to soak forged steel pots or pans in water.


Most people think copper cookware is extremely hard to care for but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The copper on the outside of the pot creates an excellent conductor for heat while the hard metal inside keeps the food from coming in contact with the copper. Copper pots are usually lined with a hard metal such as nickel, tin or stainless steel.  If using copper pans be sure to check the lining inside frequently, to make sure it’s in perfect condition and not wearing away.


When copper is exposed to air, it turns a lovely patina that can add to the charm of the pot. If you prefer it shiny and clean, use a natural acid like ketchup or vinegar to remove the patina. Do this every three months.


Aluminum pots and pans can be washed in warm soapy water. To remove stains, you can use a cut lemon or sprinkle cream of tartar on the stain and rub it in with a soft cloth. Then just rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

No matter what type of cookware you have, the real secret to keeping it looking good is to address burn marks and stains as they happen. A simple burn mark may come off easily when it first happens but if it’s not addressed, the pot will get put back on the heat and the burn is seared onto the pot. These stains are almost impossible to remove, so it’s important to clean up burn marks and stains every time you use an aluminum pot.



Leslie Reichert is a cleaning expert that encourages people to think differently about their cleaning products. Leslie is known as the Green Cleaning Coach is changing the world – “one spray bottle at a time”.  She is a national speaker, a frequent homekeeping expert on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Maid Brigade’s DIY Cleaning Expert and the author of the book: The Joy Of Green Cleaning. For tips and simple, but effective strategies visit her at





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