Trouble shooting guide to tough stains on Pots and Pans!

If you have men or teenagers in the house attempting to cook you will have some challenging stains of your Pots and Pans here are some quick hints to address some common troublesome stains.

Aluminum pots

Discoloration – add 2(two tablespoons of cream of tarter or lemon juice per liter (quart) of water) boil for 12 minutes


baked on stains impervious to the dishwasher! – use baking soda and scrub gently.

Iron Pots or pans

Cooked or baked on food – 2 teaspoons of baking soda with a liter of water boil for 5 minutes.

Non-stick pot or pans

Lingering onions or garlic aromas – 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, soak for 15 minutes.  wash with warm soay water and rinse.


Lime scale build up – One to one ratio of water and white vinegar.  Let sand for a few hours and scrub with an abrasive scrubber if possible or just  rinse really well after letting the kettle soak.

Brass pots

A home made tarnish remover is a paste made of flour, salt and white vinegar (or lemon juice), rub gently to remove tarnish.

Adhesive Tags Off Plasticware

This question was submitted from Gail.

“I purchased some plastic glasses and a salad bowl and the store stuck the price labels in a few different spots. It seems like there is nothing that will take the glue off. Could you give me a solution so I don’t mar the surface in any way?”

A great and easy way is to use WD-40. It breaks down adhesive well and you won’t damage the surface.

Also, you could soak the pieces in hot water for a few hours which may loosen the adhesive as well.

Finally, you can purchase a d’limonene based adhesive remover from a professional janitorial supply store. (Check our “Find A Pro” webpage)

Whenever you use a chemical you are not familiar with, always test a small area first.

Aluminum Pots & Pans

General Information :
Aluminum pots and pans tend to become somewhat discolored with use.

Tools & Technique :
Soaking in a mild solution of vinegar can reduce this effect somewhat. Steel wool soap pads are good choice for baked on stains.

Brown Stains from a White Sink

This question was submitted from Carolyne M.

” My parents have a modern white kitchen sink upon which small brown circular stains have appeared. They have tried various household cleaners (including bleach) but cannot remove the marks. Can you think of anything they could try? My mother thinks they may possibly be rust stains. They cover the whole of the bottom of the sink. ”

If they are rust stains, then you do not want to use bleach which will only further oxidize the stains.

Try these techniques :

First, try a rust remover, which can be purchased at larger dept. or hardware stores. When using a rust remover you should read the warning label – some can be harmful to certain surfaces.

Also, depending on the surface of the sink, you could use superfine steelwool (#0000); NOT an SOS pad or pot scrubber. When scrubbing with stainless steel, always use some kind of liquid water or cleaner to act as a lubricant – this lessens the scratches. Be sure to test a small area before using the stainless steel or rust remover to be sure no damage will occur.

Finally, keep in mind, white sinks stain easily and quickly. So really the best method is prevention and not leaving items in the sink for very long.

Burnt on food from a stainless steel pot

How do I restore my new stainless steel pot. I burnt potatoes in the pot. The smell is terrible too.  –Janis

I have good news and bad news.

The pot can be cleaned up, but if the pot has “blued” at all, I am afraid the conduction properties of the metal has been greatly reduced.

I have a beautiful Lagostina pasta pot which had the same fate, and while we got the pot clean, it now takes almost twice as long to boil water, as another similar sized pot.

Remove as much of the burnt on food as possible, using a strong spoon, or even a putty knife, but try not to scratch the metal on the pot. Add water, a cup full of white vinegar, and two drops of dish soap. Let the pot sit for at least 24 hours. It is very important that the water solution touches the bottom of the pot, so scrape the mess, and it should be loosened enough that you can scrape down to the metal.

Put the pot on low heat, and stir/scrape regularly. When you feel that you have loosened the bulk of the burnt on food, dump the residue into your garborator, or strain the liquid so you can throw any solid waste into the garbage.

If there is still a lot of burnt on food, repeat the above step, if there is only a little, attack with a stainless steel scouring pad and hot water or for very stubborn areas apply oven cleaner, and allow it to sit for several hours before scrubbing.

This should remove all the burnt on food, but whether the pot will work as effectively is dependent on the severity of the overheating.

Good luck.

Butcher’s Block

This question was submitted from Sandy B.

“How can I clean up an old butcher’s block that has a sticky/oily surface?”

Try these techniques :

If there is some serious disgusting build up, the knife is a good way to scrape it off, but perhaps try a stiff putty knife instead. You only need to remove enough so that it doesn’t gum up your sand paper.

Start with a 60 grit sand paper. A small palm sander will speed things up ALOT, but it is not absolutely necessary. You can actually rent one for about $5 a day at some tool rental places.

Go in small circles, and don’t sit in one spot too long or you can make it uneven. Always try to sand with the grain of the wood, not across it as this can leave marks that are harder to sand out. This may gum up with the oil residue you spoke of, but just change the paper frequently, and it should eventually come off.

Once you get it nice and smooth, move to a finer 100 grit and go over the entire surface again. Then sand it again with a 150 grit and finally with a 220 grit paper. This surface will be PERFECT! You likely won’t want to cut anything on it, because it will look so nice!

Be sure to protect the wood with a mineral oil.

Candle Wax From Stereo Speakers

Here is a question from Mary:

I need your help on this i had placed a candle on one of my stereo speakers and when I picked it up candlewax dripped all over my cloth speaker I have try to scrap it but it still has residue of candlewax on it. Please I would like to know how I can remove this without ruining my speaker. ?

This could be tough however if this doesn’t work for you, speaker cloth is not expensive and can be purchased at better electronics stores if you have to replace it.

The usual tip for candle wax removal is a cleaning towel and a low to medium warm iron, the wax warms up and wicks into the towel. For this particular situation, I would recommend using a kitchen paper towel. Usually with a towel you have to press down on the wax, you will have to be very gentle and will not be able to push down very hard. If you use a paper towel you make not have to push very hard to have the desired effect of the wax wicking onto the paper towel.

You may want to have some help you give some stability to the speaker and or speaker cloth. Remember you are using an iron and only use low to medium heat, be careful not to burn your own or your helpers fingers. So long as you keep the settings low you should be fine.

Coffee Makers

General Information :
Automatic drip coffee makers will accumulate hard water deposits along the lines and in it’s tank.

Tools & Technique :
Every month or so, brew a solution of vinegar and water to remove the deposits.

Also clean the filter, baskets and carafe after every use. Most can be placed in the dishwasher, never use abrasives on your coffee makers surface or the heating element. If you do not have a dishwasher use dish soap and water just like washing normal dishes. Residue and bitter oils on these surfaces will affect the taste of the coffee.

Pour 2 cups of white vinegar into the pot and fill will to the 10 cup level (1:4 vinegar to water). Pour the solution into the reservoir place a fresh paper filter or your multiple use filter in the basket and brew about 50% of the solution stop the brewing process for several minutes to loosen everything and continue to brew.

If you have heavy build up or have not cleaned the coffee maker in a long time pour the solution back into the reservoir and brew it again. Be sure to brew a cycle with just water to rinse it completely. And your next brew of coffee will taste like a fresh cup of Starbucks coffee.

There are also off the shelf products like CLR and lime away which will remove extremely stubborn stains.

Cooking Smells

Here is an interesting tip submitted by Sue;

If you find you just cannot get rid of cooking smells in the house, try this remedy:

You need a little lemon juice and 6 cloves. Put into a saucepan, add a mug of warm water. Place on a low heat and let the fresh smell saturate the air. Just remember to keep an eye on the pan so it doesn’t boil dry. Best thing is, you can use the liquid 4 times before you need to throw it away.