23 May, 2018
Kitchen Care and Cleaning Tips — Part 2
Now, for Part 2 of the cleaning trilogy!
Hopefully, last week’s Part 1 of the cleaning trilogy got you off to a good start, with some basic cleaning information, cast iron restoration, and even a run-down on pans and lining materials. This week, prepare for:
• Cleaning metal — Scrubbing whats and how-tos.
• Cleaning dried/cooked-on food — It doesn’t have to be hard (the food or the chore).
• Stove and oven cleaning — Inside, outside, and the secret under-stove panel no one told you about.
• Cleaning hard water stains — Because when everything is sand, it’s all you ever do.
• Cleaning rust — Because if you live on earth, it’ll eventually happen to you.
• Getting stains out of coffee mugs — We’ve all had that sad realization that our favorite mug was more stain than ceramic, but there is a way to make it better!
Next week, we will talk about some maintenance practices and garbage disposal management before I share some helpful hints for you. Stay tuned for Part 3, and today, enjoy our opening subject: Cleaning Metal.
Whether it’s your old pans, scarred from years of burnt on and re-burnt on cooking spray, your kitchen sink, or some old silverware or brass you have around the house, metal is pretty easy to clean, as long as you have the right tools. My favorite tool for this job, which I mentioned back in the first article, is Bar Keeper’s Friend. I’ve used it to clean silverware, stainless steel, brass, and most of my aluminum pots and pans. Since this cleaner is an abrasive, it’s important to remember that, when you’re using it, always work in the direction of the grain of the metal. This stuff will remove tarnish from silver, scorch marks from pans, and years of age from other metals. Pledge also makes a multi-surface cleaner for less aggressive stains. Bonus thought on cleaning metal: If you need a more gentle abrasive and need to clean some jewelry, use toothpaste! The diatoms in toothpaste (the little critters that make toothpaste sandy) are gentle enough to use on jewelry metal.
Getting dried-on foods off of any surface is a major pain in the butt. My first recommendation to combat this, if you can help it, is always do your dishes promptly. *However,* I realize that isn’t always an option, especially for those with roommates who share your dishes. In most cases, soaking the dried food, either in a sink full of water or for an hour with a wet paper towel is enough to do the trick. Sometimes, you need a little bit more oomph than that. Using a dish scrubber, like the ones I mentioned in the beginning of the article, help immensely. They can scrub better than sponges, and they don’t get ripped to pieces quite as easily. If your food is burned to the bottom of a pan, you can fill the pan with just enough water to cover the burned-on food, boil it for 15 minutes or so, let it cool, and then try scrubbing it off with soap and water. If you’ve got a dirty microwave full of dried on food, try the paper towel trick or take a microwave safe bowl and fill it with a cup of water and a chopped lemon or about 5 tablespoons of white vinegar. Microwave the bowl of water and acid on high for about 10 minutes or long enough for the solution to boil and make the inside of the microwave steamy. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe down the interior of the microwave with a clean paper towel. The acid-steam bath us usually enough to loosen any old food. If you need to, repeat the process until everything comes out clean.
If you have a stove like this where the burners lead into mysterious, unreachable bowls that open to somewhere in the limbo between the range top and the oven? I have good news! Clean off anything that’s sitting on top of your stove and grab a hold of the lip at the front of the appliance that makes up the edge of the stove top. Lift up, and once you grit your teeth through the awful screeching noise of metal on metal and prop the top of your stove in place, you’ll be able to see the underside!
Like that! (I apologize to anyone who had their sound on high…)
When the stove is closed, you can also gently pull the coils out from their plugs and lift them up just high enough to get a hand underneath to clean the dishes below them. Once you’re underneath any part of your stove, start by using gentle cleaners, and if you have to work your way up to something more heavy duty, like steel wool or Bar Keeper’s Friend, for scrubbing, remember to work in the direction of the metal. If you pause the video at around 6 seconds, you can see the circular scuff marks under my stove from when I didn’t scrub in the same direction as the metal (I also shouldn’t have been using such an aggressive scrubber on that coated metal — learn from my mistakes). Once you’re done cleaning under your stove lid, make sure you push it down until it clicks. Nothing about this mechanism is graceful, so just like opening it took a little bit of force, closing it is going to be a bit loud and clunky, too.
Now that you’ve cleaned the top part of your stove, let’s talk about cleaning the oven. Some ovens are lined with porcelain and are designed to self-clean as they go, others have a “Self Clean” setting, and others still have neither of these features. If you’ve got a porcelain oven, you’re all set; just wipe down the cold oven with a wet sponge or paper towel. Don’t use any abrasive cleaners, and only use mild soap to clean, if you must use something other than water and a cloth. You can clean the racks with soap and water, like the racks from any other oven.
If you have an oven with a “Self Clean” option, open up the windows for ventilation, remove the oven racks, and turn on the self cleaning feature. It will heat the oven to a temperature high enough to burn off any food debris inside and turn it to ash. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got fans running and windows open to let the burning smell out. While the oven takes care of the inside job on its own, you can wash the racks in warm soapy water and let them dry. The cleaning feature on the oven will take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours and heat the inside of the oven to around 900 degrees F. Once it’s done running, let it cool off for two hours before opening the oven door. You can sweep out the remaining ash with a brush and dustpan, following up by wiping down the interior of the oven with a wet paper towel. Clean off the oven door either with a kitchen cleaner or a water and vinegar solution in a spray bottle.
If you don’t have an oven willing to do the work for you, not to worry. Start off by taking out the racks, just as before, and cleaning them in the sink with soap and water. Take an empty 1 liter spray bottle and add four tablespoons of baking soda before filling it to the mark with warm water. Shake the bottle until the baking soda is dissolved and then spray down the inside of the oven, making sure to thoroughly soak any noticeably dirty or charred areas. If you have a particularly nasty spot, you can make a paste with the baking soda and apply it to that spot. Let the baking soda-treated areas soak for an hour. If after an hour, any of the spots are still hard and don’t flake away, treat again with a baking soda paste and let it sit for another hour. Once the blackened spots are loosened, use a scraper to peel away the grime, spraying with more of the baking soda and water as needed to keep the mess damp while you work. Once you’ve scraped, repeat the initial spray process and let it sit for an hour again before scraping a final time to get off any remaining residue. Once you’ve done that, Make up a solution that’s half water and half white vinegar. Dip a paper towel or a cloth in the solution and wipe down the interior of your oven one last time. That ought to do it!
Since I moved out west, I’ve been learning just how difficult hard water can be to deal with. It clogs shower heads, leaves stains on metal, and leaves residue in my tea kettle. While issues like the tea kettle can be mostly handled by making sure there’s no water left in the kettle when I’m done using it, troubles like clogged shower heads and hard water stains and buildup on surfaces is less easy to deal with. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks that can save you (and me) from scrubbing away at every surface water has ever touched.
For mild hard water stains on any surface, you can wipe them down with lemon juice (or just use half a lemon). For more stubborn stains, use white vinegar, wiping it onto the stain and letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing the surface. If the stain is really tough, make a paste with white vinegar and baking soda and scrub the buildup with a toothbrush, letting the paste sit and work on the stain for a few minutes before you wipe it off.
Another trick my mom told me about is using a Magic Eraser. While it won’t completely eat through the toughest stuff, it certainly does help break down most buildup, and unless you’ve got months and months of hard water buildup in your shower like I do, one of the special soap scum erasers ought to do the trick. Even for my serious hard water stains, it made a big difference.
For stubborn buildup on faucets and shower heads, fill a plastic bag with about 1/3 cup of white vinegar and fasten it to the shower head or faucet so the part with the buildup on it is submerged in the vinegar. Let the bag sit for 2 to 3 hours before removing it and brushing off the (hopefully) now-loosened deposits and rinsing the faucet. If all else fails and no home remedy will clear up your calcium buildup, commercial lime remover is available, just be careful when using it and be sure to protect your skin, nose, and eyes.
Cleaning rust comes with a caveat: If your cookware has rusted and it’s not cast iron, it should probably be thrown out or demoted to decorative status. If you’re trying to clean rust off of cast iron, reference last week’s post, and it’ll walk you through all the steps, from rust removal to seasoning to storage and prevention. If you’re trying to clean rust stains off of surfaces around the house (I know I get them in my sink from drying out cans), use an abrasive lie Bar Keeper’s Friend (make sure you read the label to see if it’s safe to use on the surface you want to clean). Bar Keeper’s Friend is also great for cleaning little blooms of rust off of unfinished metal surfaces like buckles, clasps, and locks — I used it to clean up an old steamer trunk I bought off of Craigslist. Before you use an abrasive of any kind on any surface, make sure you read the container to verify it’s safe on your surface, and always test out a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t cause any scratches or discoloration.
I’m sure most of you reading this have been forced to make that sad decision to retire a favorite coffee/tea mug at some point in your life. Sometimes it’s because they’re broken or chipped, other times it’s because they’re so nasty and stained inside that you’re either embarrassed by it or a little grossed out. As with most stain removal how-tos, there are a few ways to go about things.
• One way is for light stains. Take a couple teaspoons of baking soda and just enough water to make a paste. Using an old toothbrush or something similar, scrub the stain for a few minutes. Once the stain is out, wash the cup with soap and water, and you’re all set!
• Another way is using lemon juice and salt. Add about a teaspoon of salt and either a lemon rind or a teaspoon of lemon juice and scrub the stain like with the baking soda. Wash with soap and water and the mug should be all clean.
• A Magic Eraser can help wipe away some superficial stains, just make sure you wash the mug thoroughly when you’re done.
• Bar Keeper’s Friend or OxyClean and enough water to make a paste can help scrub out some of the deeper stains. Make sure you wash the mug well with soap and water after scrubbing, and test the scrub on the bottom of the mug to make sure it doesn’t leave scratches before you scrub the inside of the mug.
If you’d rather try some set-it-and-forget-it methods, here are a couple of them:
• Heat up a cup of white vinegar in the microwave or on the stove until it’s hot. Pour the hot vinegar into the mug and let it sit for at least four hours or overnight for stubborn stains. After it’s sat, pour the vinegar out and wash the cup with soap and water.
• The second method involves dissolving a denture tablet in hot water. Once the tablet stops fizzing, wash the cup and you should be good to go.
• For more stubborn stains, soak the mug overnight in a mixture of 1 gallon of warm water and 1 tablespoon of bleach. That should knock out even the most persistent stains.