In our disposable culture, learning how to make the things you already have last forever is a key component to any green lifestyle. The little-known secret to long lasting pots and pans is to put down the steel wool. That’s right: Step away from the steel wool.
It’s not that this type of scrubber is toxic (although it can be if infused with toxic detergents as it is in some popular brands), it’s just that it can shorten the life of your pots and pans. I know what you’re thinking: “But even my grandmother uses steel wool!” It’s been around forever and is useful for tons of different tasks; just don’t use it for pots and pans. Or at least only as a last resort.
Most pots and pans come with instructions admonishing you not to use metal utensils because they can scratch the surface of the pot. Even when you tap the metal part of a plastic spatula on the side of the pot to get rid of drips, you could be damaging the pot. Steel wool is less harsh than scraping with a metal spoon, but it can still have an impact. The damage may not show up immediately but, with repeat scrubbing, the pot will show wear.
This is especially true for Teflon pans, where metal utensils or scrubbers can scrub off the chemical coating. While Teflon’s safety is up for debate, we at least know for sure that eating flakes of the chemical coating itself is probably not a good idea. For cast iron, scrubbing too harshly can remove its healthy coating. For aluminum and stainless steel, too much harsh scrubbing can scratch the surface.
As with all green cleaning, a good strategy is to start mild and go from there.
To remove baked on food from your pans try this first:
- 1. Pour a ¼-cup baking soda into the bottom of the pan
- 2. Fill the pan with enough boiling water to cover all of the baked-on food
- 3. Soak overnight
- 4. Scrape with a wooden spatula
- 5. Wash and dry as usual
To remove burned-on food from your pots, try this first:
- 1. Pour a ¼-cup regular table salt into the pot
- 2. Add enough cold water so that all of the burned areas are covered.
- 3. Stir to dissolve the salt
- 4. Soak overnight
- 5. Scrape with a wooden spatula
- 6. Wash and dry as usual
These simple steps should do the trick. If they don’t, or you don’t have time to spare, try scrubbing gently with Bon Ami and a sponge. Keep this up and you’ll likely have your pots and pans forever. We hope you like them!