We tried cleaning hacks for pots and pans so you don’t have to

Ever wondered if any of those online tips ever work in real life?

You know the ones. Some enthusiastic Instagram content maker swears you can clean your whole bathroom with nothing more than a slice of lemon and a spare sock. The bathroom is pictured gleaming, but is that what really happened?

Well, I was recently tasked with testing out some online ‘hacks’ to clean scorched pans using some of those recommendations, and the following are the results.

But a few tips before we get started. A lot of the substances used are quite corrosive. Always wear gloves and be careful to protect stone benchtops.

Using science, sort of

To compare apples to apples, we used the same foundation for the experiment. To this end the ‘burnt’ substance was a handful of cooked rice with a little water, about a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of butter.  This was cooked until all the rice was black and there was obvious smoke coming out of the pan.

One influencer I read up about online said she burnt a cracked egg. Good for her, but there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to burn an egg several times over and subject my home to stinky burnt egg smell for days.

The smoke from the rice was bad enough to fill the kitchen on two occasions. On a side note, I discovered my smoke detector doesn’t work.  

The burnt saucepan

So, I bought a cheap second-hand Ikea pan from the op shop to conduct my experiment. I raise a glass in praise to the Ikea people, that pan did not burn.

What was in the pan certainly burnt, but the Teflon in the pan meant all that burnt matter slid right off. I salute you Ikea. Instead, I used it for comparison to clean the underneath of the pan, which you can find at the end of the story.

So I had to resort to burning one of my own saucepans, but it all came good in the end.

Anyway, here’s how it went.

Vinegar and baking soda

Experts said: Boil half vinegar and water solution for a minute, tip it out and then scrub with a water/baking soda paste with a scourer.

Result: I just about gave up entirely with this one. This was by far and away the least successful of the options. I know everyone loves their vinegar and baking soda cleaning hacks, but this ‘aint it.

I’m giving it some grace because as this was the first crack at burning the rice I really overdid it, but even so, while it effectively removed the baked-on chunks, it did little to remove any black bits on the saucepan.

And that chunk removal could have been put down to the scourer. I spent at least half an hour and resorted to dishwashing liquid in the end.

Rating: Epic fail.


Experts said: Cut lemons either in slices or quarters – I did both, because no one is the boss of me – cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. Tip lemons and water out, scrub with dishwashing liquid and a scourer.

Result: Better than the above, but still not great. The chunks came off easier, and I only had to scrub for five or so minutes, but this was no easy fix. However, it did make the house smell nicer than the vinegar solution, so there’s that.

Rating: Only if you need to get rid of a lot of lemons.

Dishwasher tablet

Experts said: Use a dishwasher tablet and a tiny bit of water to scour the pan.

Result: Relatively effective with a few massive shortfalls. This did remove the baked-on bits and it was especially good on the oil stains, but it’s messy and hard work and took a long time.

For someone like me with arthritic hands, it became difficult quite quickly because you really must press the tablet very hard into the pan to scour it.

I also had to use three tablets to get it all done and those things aren’t cheap.

Rating: Best so far, but only just.

Baking soda and aluminium foil

Experts said: Scrub the pan with a paste of baking soda and a scrunched up piece of aluminium foil.

Result: Another tiresome fail. Better than the baking soda hack above, but once again, there was a lot of scrubbing involved and I had to add a lot of dishwashing liquid.

Rating: I’m beginning to hate baking soda by this point

Bar Keepers Friend and aluminium foil

Experts said: Make a thick paste of Barkeepers Friend and water and scrub with scrunched up aluminium foil

Result: Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. This method was so far and away better than the others it wasn’t funny.

In fact, when the other methods failed, I just finished the pan off with this method. The only downside was the paste turns very dark so you can’t see where you have been, and have to refresh the mixture a few times, but that’s a small price to pay for the convenience.

And if you haven’t heard of it before, Bar Keepers Friend is available at all supermarkets and hardware shops.

Rating: Go out and buy this stuff right now.

What I didn’t do

Apparently, there’s a potato cleaning hack as well, but my last experiment slot was late Sunday night and I had dinner coming up. Dear reader, we had four potatoes left in the house and I ate them with homemade schnitzel and roast vegies and I don’t feel bad about it. Maybe one for a later date.

Bottom’s up

The ‘before’ of the bottom of the op shop Ikea pan and one of my own

I also tried a few bottom-cleaning methods

As above, the Bar Keepers Friend did the best, but there was one surprise.

One online hack recommended ketchup. Well, there was none of that in the pantry but there was tomato sauce so I smeared that on, left it for 20 minutes and then scrubbed it off. It wasn’t as effective as the Bar Keepers Friend, but it didn’t embarrass itself either.

Barkeepers Friend in a paste and on the right, baking soda on the top and tomato sauce on the bottom.

To top it off, I also tried soaking the pans in a Coke and baking soda mix and soaked for 20 minutes which also removed a lot of grease, but not so the black bits. But I could have got that wrong. I used a YouTube video in Turkish, so who knows what was really going on.

The after. It’s probably not clear in these pictures, and they still obviously needs some more scrubbing, but the sauce removed much more baked on bits than the baking soda.

Do you have any cleaning hacks? Why not share them in the comments section below?

Also read: How dirty are your carpets and what’s lurking in them?

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. A friend of mine had a large boiler in which she used to make soup. Over the years and using bore water it developed quite a crust of gunk in it that could not be scrubbed out.
    Anyhow, she made homemade tomato soup in it one day and lo and behold the crusty stuff released itself into the soup. The soup wasn’t much good but the boiler was clean again. Who knows what tomato soup does to our insides?

    • Figures that the tomato soup would lift the crusty stuff as tomato is acidic. My go to for a burnt pan is to boil up a bit of detergent, like Dynamo, in some water and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Just be careful it doesn’t boil over. Usually works pretty well for me.

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