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Why You Should Never Combine Baking Soda and Vinegar to Clean Baking Sheets — And the Surprise Combo That Works Instead

Plus, how seasoning your baking sheets before first use can improve cooking results

You probably have at least one baking sheet that’s so burnt and rusted it’s embarrassing to pull out around houseguests. The good news is, you don’t have to get rid of it and it’s likely not damaged beyond repair. In fact, with the right cleaning products and techniques, you can restore your favorite baking pan to its original shiny status in no time. Keep reading to learn how to deep clean baking sheets, according to experts and the latest social media trends.

Why do baking sheets turn brown?

There’s a reason your basic dish soap and sponge doesn’t always remove the grime left behind by roasted veggies and sheet pan dinners. If you cook them using oils or fatty meats, when heated, those substances tend to polymerize or combine with the pan’s aluminum surface. This concept is similar to the seasoning of a cast iron pan, according to professional chef Helen Rennie, and explains why dish soap doesn’t remove the stain.

Many pro chefs intentionally age new baking sheets to earn the patina many want to wash away — that’s because seasoning improves browning and makes the pans naturally non-stick. “The darker the material, the more heat it absorbs,” Rennie explained in a YouTube video.

That said, it’s understandable to loathe the eyesore of a browned, once-reflective pan in your kitchen. In which case, there are ways to clean them. Better yet, despite what you might think, the process doesn’t have to take a lot of effort and elbow grease. (Click through to discover the best way to season a cast iron skillet.)

How to deep clean baking sheets

There are a few different tried-and-true strategies to deep cleaning baking sheets. Essentially, you need a product that will break down the baked-on grease — be that a store-bought cleaner or a DIY paste made with household solvents.

Professional cleaner and janitor Brandon Pleshek, who is the influencer behind @cleanthatup on Instagram, recommends applying a thin layer of one of his two favorite cleaners for the job: either oven cleaner like Easy Off (buy on Amazon, $8.89) or Bar Keeper’s Friend (buy on Amazon, $16.99). (Don’t combine the two.)

Each one work wonders to lift rust and staining, especially when paired with an abrasive scrubber. Pleshek recommends steel wool #0000 or a Scrub Daddy sponge. “Many times, the Scrub Daddy is all you need,” he says. (Click through to discover the difference between Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy.)

The real secret sauce, though, is patience. “The key is applying the cleaner and giving it time to work,” Pleshek explains. “Many times, I will apply the cleaner and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes. This not only helps them clean up but usually cuts way down on the amount of scrubbing.” Simply scrub away any stubborn bits, rinse, and reveal a like-new tray.

How to deep clean baking sheets with baking soda

Old dirty oven baking tray (How to Deep Clean Baking Sheets )

If you prefer a more natural, and likely less costly solution, you can get similar results by mixing baking soda and dish soap, suggests Whitney White, a cleaning specialist and Airbnb cleaner based in Denver, Colorado. Her recipe: Make a paste using 1/2 cup baking soda, a few tablespoons of water, and about a tablespoon of dish soap. “This paste is so versatile and can be used to clean many different areas in your home,” she says. “Use a tough sponge like a Scrub Daddy paired with the paste, and your baking pans should come clean!” (Click through for more baking soda hacks)

If you need a little extra cleaning power, White recommends swapping the dish soap for hydrogen peroxide, which will trigger a bubbly chemical reaction with the baking soda that will help break the polymer bond between the surface and the cooked-on oils. To finish, rinse, or scrub and repeat if necessary. Like Pleshek, White is also a big Scrub Daddy fan. “They are just abrasive enough to remove tough stains, and can just be thrown in the dishwasher afterward for easy cleaning,” she says.

Related: The Savvy Salt Trick That Cleans Burnt-On Food From a Wok (Or Frying Pan!)

The easiest baking sheet cleaning hack

If you type “baking sheet cleaning hack” into TikTok, you’ll be met with dozens of videos like this one of people’s astonished reactions upon using their oven’s self-cleaning function to restore their baking pans.

To try it, all you have to do is place your pans upside down on the middle oven rack and press “self-clean” on your stove’s button menu, if it has the option. Just beware that, depending on your oven, it could take hours to complete the process, and some TikTok commenters deemed the wait not worth it.

The weirdest baking sheet cleaning hack

You may have watched people online use Coca-Cola to clean their toilet bowls, but what about using ketchup to shine a sheet pan? For the same reason some people swear by the condiment for polishing brass, it may work to degrease your cookware. Like peroxide, the acidity within the tomato-based sauce can break down the gunk, as evidenced by this TikTok.

If you’re pressed for a product or in a pinch financially, it could be a good solution, but the task of cleaning up ketchup afterward may make it a little counterproductive.

How *not* to clean baking sheets

White recommends going the extra mile to always handwash your baking sheets. It not only ensures they’re clean, but minimizes wear and tear so they can, hopefully, last a lifetime. “Make sure to do a full clean on the top and bottom versus letting them soak or putting them in the dishwasher,” she urges.

Also, you may have heard of using vinegar, a common natural household cleaner, to clean baking sheets. And while that can work (in combination with a degreaser like dish soap), White says to skip the popular trend of combining it with baking soda. The fizzy reaction it creates looks powerful, but, “baking soda and vinegar actually neutralize each other,” White says. “So try just using one or the other.” (Experts also caution against mixing baking soda and bleach for mold — the $2 toilet bowl cleaner to use instead.)

How to maintain baking sheets to keep them looking good as new

Other than making sure your pans aren’t neglected after dinner, to protect them, Pleshek says it’s never a bad idea to line your pans with aluminum foil or reusable silicone baking sheets for cooking.

For more cleaning hacks, click through the links below!

How to Clean a Shag Rug — Cleaning Pro Reveals The Comb Trick That Works Wonders

The Astonishingly Easy Way to Deep Clean a Leather Jacket At Home

Expert Tips For Getting The Smell Out of Any Shoes

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