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Whenever my friend's daughter comes over for dinner, I make her favorite -- homemade macaroni and cheese, the gooier the better. The only problem? It covers my baking dish in a grimy, baked-on layer of cheesy mess.

We've all run into these messes from time to time. It used to be that I'd leave the baked-on disaster soaking overnight in hot water -- which was just gross by morning. Then I tried using hot water and vinegar or baking soda, letting the dirty casserole dish sit for hours. These methods worked to some degree, but no matter what I did I would still have to scrub and scour to get the dish clean. Then I had an aha! moment.

It happened one day when I was unloading groceries and set a box of fabric softener sheets on the table. I knew that dryer sheets soften laundry -- so would they soften a baked-on mess too? Worth a shot, I thought.

(Left to right):;

I put a dryer sheet in the bottom of the baking dish that happened to be soaking in my sink, and refilled it with hot water. I let it sit for a half hour while I put groceries away and went about my business. When I got back, that baked-on mess was history.

Why? The same softeners that make your laundry fluffy help to break down food too. I recommend stocking up on chemical-free dryer sheets from companies like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers, which use plant-derived softening ingredients (we're talking about your dishes, pots and pans, after all).

Then bake that mac and cheese, stir that pot of sauce and sear that lovely steak with confidence. As long as you've got a box of dryer sheets lying around, cleanup will be a breeze.

See also:
Snowed In? Get Your Clean On
How to Clean Tough Burnt Stains Off Stainless Cookware

  • Tina

    Thought of this tip while trying to clean baked-on goo today and reached instead for the nearby hand lotion, figuring it was supposed to soften things, too. Voila! It worked great!

  • Al Schrader

    I've prepared food for Hillary Clinton, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, etc.
    If I created a crusted-on mess like that, the dish washer would throw it at me. Simply obtain a supply of disposable foil pie pans & make it in those. Then, throw it all in the trash...Alfred-

  • Pat

    I use a light layer of vegetable,conola or what ever oil is available and have no problem cleaning baked on cheese or any thing else. works wonders. be sure to include the edges of the container since they get a lot of the crusty stuff.

  • jimbo

    Put a little dishwasher detergent (Cascade, etc.) in the messy pan, add hot water and let sit for half hour. It'll come clean real easy .

  • Pat

    I forgot to put that this is done before baking. Oil ur baking dishes with oil before baking and this eliminates a lot of work.

  • barb

    Fabric sheets are not healthy. They are known to have ingredients that can cause cancer. Google fabric sheets and softener. I don't use either anymore and I now use the dryer balls. I save a ton not buying the sheets or softener anymore.

  • Gail Hafey

    Baking soda will do the same thing and it is much cheaper and environmentally friendly. Just fill the pan with hot water and some dish detergent, sprinkle on baking soda and the mess will be easy to remove.

    Fabric softener sheets contain many chemicals that do not need to be washed down the drain.

  • luveaotr

    This has worked for me: put item in a plastic bag (like a trash bag), pour water into item and add some, not a lot, household ammonia. Seal the bag and leave it overnight. Open the next day, away from yourself, and rinse out dish. Goo be gone!

  • Debbie

    How about using a non stick spray in the dish BEFORE you actually put your food in it to bake or cook, this is easy so sticking and easy clean up. They have several kinds no calories and flavored it you prefer.

  • Becca

    I wouldn't feel safe with a clothing softener; too many chemicals.
    Baking Soda works excellent, and pretty fast too; or just plain dish soap in warm soapy water for a half hour.

  • Kathy

    Dryer sheets have a lot if uses. My best friend has light grey leather seats in his SUV. Several thick streaks of tar got on one seat during a repair. I buffed it all off with a dryer sheet and it was toatlly gone - not even a stain.

  • Nicole

    King David you always leave sarky remarks about anything and everything on these must spend your time reading each and every one of them instead of on those "IMPORTANT things" you claim. You obviously have nothing better to do, so how dare you judge people giving each other helpful tips? I feel sorry for you, LOL!

  • Elise Farthing

    FYI: I was not aware of the harmful chemicals in Bounce but they keep mice away. I live in the country and they are a problem. Put the Bounce at the entry site unless it is by areas used by children.

  • kelly

    SOOOOOOO simple..add about a fourth cup dishwasher powdered soap and hot water, fill to top of pan.soak for 30 minutes or less, and then wash as you normally would, works every time on the worst messes. I have been doing this for many many years.

  • kelly

    ALSO......while on the subject of kitchen tricks...pour powdered dish washer soap in stainless steel kitchen sinks, clean with those green scrubbers......rinse and dry your sink, then spray with funiture polish and rub it in, your sink will shine and stay clean and shiny for days.

  • bob

    I found out a neat trick a long time ago when a started living by myself.
    Since I was lazy as heck I never did the dishes, so mold and other cool science experiments would grow in the dish pile waiting in my sink. To further exemplify my laziness I would pour Bleach into the dirty dish pile to rid my apartment of the nasty mold smell. Turns out that the cheese baked on the dishes would slide right off after soaking in bleach water for a few minutes.
    The reason is that cheese is a base and bleach is a stronger base, so the bleach dissolves the cheese.

    Recently I found a way to save myself from throwing out those pots with milk burnt on the bottom that are impossible to clean. Soaking the pot with a little water and a good sprinkle of Ajax sink cleaner lifts the milk from the bottom. It takes a while but I usually leave it in the sink overnight.

    Anyway.. that's my 2 cents.

  • 16 Comments / 1 Pages

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