best cleaning agent, remove burned-on grease, solvent to remove grease

I’m not always a perfect cook. I don’t think most of us are, but I know for a fact that I’ve burned more than my fair share of dishes. While the wasted food always makes me feel bad, I used to dread cleaning up even more. I absolutely hated scrubbing fruitlessly at the pot or pan in which I had just ruined a dish.

While I still burn my fair share of dishes, I’ve since learned a few tricks that help me to clean up my dishes with less effort. Even better, you probably have most of these cleaning agents at home!

Start With Soap

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. If dish soap worked on your pot or pan, you wouldn’t need to look up help on the internet. But bear with me for a second.

Why do we use soap?

Dish soap does two things: it kills bacteria, and it breaks up grease.

washing dishes, detergent for washing dishes

If you’ve just burned your pan, the first thing you should do is use plenty of dish soap, hot water, and a scrubbing pad. Apply a little elbow grease and see what happens. Often times, you’ll make pretty significant headway with just a little effort. If you’re not making much progress, head on to the next step. You’re going to finish with soap and water anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to try first.

Try Soaking It In Vinegar

Vinegar is a pretty powerful solvent that has some interesting properties. Adding a small amount of vinegar to your pot or pan and letting it sit for a few minutes or hours can often loosen the grease and make things easier to clean. There are more things you can do with vinegar, but letting it work passively is a nice break from the hard work of scrubbing the pan.

baking soda for dishes, baking soda for dishesMake A Baking Soda Paste

If you mix a lot of baking soda with a small amount of water, you’ll get a pretty potent cleaning paste. Apply this paste to the burned-on grease and then scrub with a sponge.

For most grease stains, this will do the trick. You can even splash on a bit of vinegar in order to get some mechanical assistance as the mixture bubbles up.

Finish With Soap And Scrubbing

While these solvents and solutions will do wonders to break up the grease on your pan, they won’t remove it completely. You’re still going to need to use hot water, dish soap, and a scrubbing pad to remove the rest of the burned on grease.

This might take a bit of effort!

If things get too sticky, try repeating the above steps. You’ll often loosen things up a little bit more.

The Very Best Solvent To Remove Burned On Grease

If those don’t work, many chefs swear by a product called Bar Keeper’s Friend. This cleaning agent is incredibly powerful, but it can discolor or otherwise ruin a metal pan if you use too much too often. Be sure to try baking soda, vinegar, and plain old dish soap before turning to this product. It’s super handy to keep a container of it on hand, of course, as long as you’re careful to follow the directions.

Water Can Be Your Friend

solvent water, cleaning dishes

We often forget how powerful of a solvent water can be. If your pot or pan won’t rust, letting some water sit in it overnight is often a good first (or second, or third) step. You can even simmer the water for some added mechanical action, or try the simmering trick with vinegar or the baking soda paste. The bubbles will help break up the grease and make removing it manually much easier.

Work Gradually

Since water, dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, and your favorite cleaning chemical all break up grease, you don’t need to do all of your scrubbing at once. Leaving a little bit of these things on your stain while you take a break will help while you’re away. This will make things even easier when you come back to scrub later.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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