The 5-Minute Secret to Easily Cleaning Your Pots & Pans Without Harsh Chemicals

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Have you ever learned a tip that made your life so much easier, but then over time you forgot about it? Such is the case with today’s tip. A while back I made my Fabulous Pork Butt (Pulled Pork) in my slow cooker and ended up with a very messy slow cooker. Even after I washed it, there were lots of baked on food stains left. No amount of soaking or scrubbing would remove them. I did a Google search and tried various methods, including a baking soda paste method which folks raved over “as long as you use some elbow grease.” Well, that approach only removed a little more of the “damage” after using LOTS of elbow grease.

A Very Dirty Slow Cooker Crock–See the Baked On Food Stains

Trying the Baking Soda Cleaning Method

Trying the Baking Soda Cleaning Method

After the Baking Soda Method--Not Very Clean

After the Baking Soda Method–Not Very Clean

Then suddenly I remembered an ingredient that I had used long ago to remove baked on food. Cream of tartar. Some of you are familiar with this ingredient as a key ingredient in Snickerdoodles. Others of you might know that you can make your own grain-free baking powder using baking soda and cream of tartar. You can even use cream of tartar to add tartness in milk to create “sour milk” or “buttermilk” for recipes.

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Cream of Tartar–Secret Ingredient for Non-Toxic, Easy Cleaning Of Pots and Pans

Fooducate says that “Cream of tartar is natural, and is formed from the sediment left over in barrels after the winemaking process. They’ve found cream of tartar in ancient pottery dating back 7000 years!”

So as soon as I pulled the cream of tartar trick from the recesses of my brain, I used it on the still dirty crock from my slow cooker. It worked like a charm! And in less than 5 minutes! After days of soaking, scrubbing, applying more baking soda paste, etc., I finally had a perfectly clean crock. Yes, my reclaimed cream of tartar tip worked like a charm!

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The Secret Ingredient to Cleaning Your Pots and Pans Without Chemicals

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

Add Water to Level Just Above Food Stains

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

Nice, Shiny, and Clean Slow Cooker

A few days later I had a very messy stainless steel skillet to clean. Again, I used some cream of tartar again and voila! In less than 5 minutes, the skillet was perfectly clean and shiny with no real effort.

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

A Messy Skillet After Making Corned Beef Hash

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

You Only Need to Sprinkle in a Small Amount of Cream of Tartar

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

And Then After Letting It Sit for About 3 Minutes, Use Your Brush or Dishcloth to Help It Finish the Cleaning

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

Super Clean and Shiny with No Effort!

how to clean pots and pans in 5 minutes or less with no chemicals, secret ingredient to cleaning pots and pans, non-toxic way to clean pots and pans

This Almost 60-Year Old Revere Ware Skillet Never Looked So Good! (Ignore the Cracked Handle)

Now some of you might already know this tip, but since I had searched on “how to remove baked on food” and made other similar queries and this solution did not pop up, I’m betting there are plenty of you reading who do not know about the cleaning power of cream of tartar (or perhaps, like I, have forgotten about this particular use). Even the Fooducate site, which listed several uses of cream of tartar, did not mention its cleaning use.

However, if you specifically Google “how to use cream of tartar to clean,” you’ll find many, many ways to use this eco-friendly cleaner … from the kitchen to the bathroom to the laundry room.

Here’s how you use cream of tartar to remove baked on food on slow cookers/crockpots, pots, and pans. It’s so easy that it’s ridiculous really!

Some of you have gluten in your homes because you have gluten-full family members and your house is not completely gluten free. If you share pots and pans with those gluten-full family members, this tip might help keep those pots and pans cleaner and, therefore, safer. I don’t recommend sharing pots, pans, utensils, etc., but if you are going to do it, please exercise the best cleaning practices possible. And please remember that pots, pans, and utensils with porous surfaces (e.g., wooden, stoneware, cast iron) can’t really be fully cleaned to remove gluten and other food allergens 100%.

The 5-Minute Secret Recipe to Clean Your Pots and Pans Without Chemicals
  • Cream of tartar
  • Water
  1. Sprinkle a little cream of tartar on the surface of the pot or pan you wish to clean.
  2. Add enough hot water to the pot or pan that you’re cleaning until it covers the baked on stains. Let sit about 3 minutes (or longer if you get distracted---no worries).
  3. Then wash and rinse as usual. You should not have to apply more than your average amount of “elbow grease” if any at all. Really, the whole process should be 5 minutes or less. I think you will be pleased with the amount of effort (or lack thereof) and the results!
I recommend using about a teaspoon of cream of tartar for an average size pot or pan and about a tablespoon for a large pot or large slow cooker crock. The cream of tartar powder doesn’t have to cover much of the surface initially when you sprinkle it on because once you add water; it will dissolve and reach the entire surface that way.

For really messy pots and pans like the slow cooker crock shown above, I’d probably do a quick clean up with my regular dishwashing liquid before I added cream of tartar to work its magic.

You can buy cream of tartar in your grocery store or online. You can even buy it in bulk for the best value. (I've done that before and had not to buy any for years!)

Incidentally, my last tip here on gfe was How to Clean Your Blender (Vitamix, Blendtec, OmniBlend, etc.) in 2 Minutes or Less. And I shared how to cool Bundt cakes quickly in this post:  Gluten-Free Bundt Cake Bonanza! Over 50 Recipes! on my other site, All Gluten-Free Desserts.

Happy cooking and baking during the holidays! By using this handy kitchen tip, you’ll have more time to add decorative sprinkles to your cookies or simply sit and enjoy a glass of cheer with your loved ones. Enjoy!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, and Gluten-Free Fridays.

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


69 Responses to “The 5-Minute Secret to Easily Cleaning Your Pots & Pans Without Harsh Chemicals”

  1. Johnna on December 4th, 2013 1:09 pm

    This is BRILLIANT! I had no idea I could use cream of tartar for cleaning.

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:25 pm

      Hey Johnna–Thanks! I hope you have good luck with this tip! :-)


  2. Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) on December 4th, 2013 1:50 pm

    I’ve used baking soda before and it works pretty well, but I’m definitely trying this next time! This is a lifesaving (or pan saving) tip! xoxo

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:26 pm

      Hi Sarena–I love using baking soda for many purposes, but cream of tartar can’t be beat for this use. IMHO. ;-)


  3. Sarah || Celiac in the City on December 4th, 2013 2:12 pm

    Such a great idea — thanks for sharing. Perfect for the crock pot, and thinking my dutch oven could use a tune up!

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:28 pm

      Sarah–Thanks! Yes, I love this trick for my slow cooker. Gosh, I have no idea how much longer I would have had to “work on it” if I hadn’t remembered this tip! Hope cream of tartar works equal magic for your slow cooker and pot. :-)


  4. Jen on December 4th, 2013 4:05 pm

    Wow—brilliant! I’ve tried the baking soda method in the past myself to find it unsatisfactory, but this is definitely worth a whirl. Thanks!

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:33 pm

      Hey Jen–Good to see you here at gfe! :-) I think I would have still been trying the baking soda method on my crockpot. Love baking soda for some uses, but cream of tartar works best for this use. Hope you agree for sure!


  5. Heather on December 4th, 2013 4:23 pm

    I learned about this from one of my canning groups – it’s the only thing that gets those nasty black stains out of the canner and is super easy and scratchless. I never thought about using it on my crock pot that my lazy teen refuses to clean properly, insisting “it’s wrecked, time to get a new one”

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:37 pm

      Hi Heather–It looks like this is your first comment on gfe; welcome! :-) I remember that about using cream of tartar for canners as well. I have to kind of empathize with your lazy teen. I was looking at my crockpot thinking I’d NEVER get that baked on food off! Having the cream of tartar work on it so easily was such a relief. :-)


  6. Linda on December 4th, 2013 5:57 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this one. I’m definitely trying it, especially on my crock pot. I wonder how it would work on a “boys bathroom” shower.

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:40 pm

      Linda–I think you will love this tip for cleaning your slow cooker. :-) I’ve read that cream of tartar works great in bathroom, but in that case, the recommendation is to mix with a little hydrogen peroxide to create a paste and then apply. I did try cream of tartar by itself on Son’s bathtub before you all came this summer. It didn’t work. Now I have to try it combined with hydrogen peroxide. We’ll have to compare notes. ;-)


  7. Linda Townsend on December 4th, 2013 10:20 pm

    I wonder if it would work with calcium deposits! I’m trying to clean my water distiller’s boiler… It’s always a terrible job… I soak it in vinegar and then use a wire brush… and then repeat the process until it’s clean. I’ve been doing this one for almost a week now… and there’s still deposits there… It is my water distiller… so I don’t want to use any harmful chemicals. Any ideas?

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:43 pm

      Hi Linda–Welcome! :-) It seems that is one of the known cleaning uses of cream of tartar. Google it and you’ll see that some folks have success making a paste of cream of tartar and water (some of your distilled water). Fingers crossed that it will work! ;-)


  8. Linda Townsend on December 4th, 2013 10:21 pm

    I’m definitely going to try this tip… if not on my boiler, on my stainless skillet and my slow cooker. TU!

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:43 pm

      And I think you’ll love how effectively it works on both of those! :-)


  9. Janet on December 5th, 2013 8:12 am

    Wonderful tip. I am going to try it on the outside too :) Thanks!

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:45 pm

      Hi Janet–It’s good to see you here again. :-) I think it will work fine on both the inside and outside.


  10. Cassidy @ Cassidy's Craveable Creations on December 5th, 2013 9:31 am

    What a great tip, I hate cleaning my crockpot and I usually just can’t get it perfectly clean. Thanks so much!


    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:46 pm

      Cassidy–The not clean enough crockpot always makes me feel like somewhat of a failure, so I’m happy that I remembered this secret! :-) Enjoy!


  11. Ina gawne on December 5th, 2013 9:50 am

    Thanks for sharing Shirley! I did not know cream of tarter worked as a cleaner. I will be using it from now on too! :)

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:47 pm

      Ina–You’re welcome! I hope you find this tip as effective as I have! :-)


  12. Sharon G on December 7th, 2013 12:58 am

    I think I know what my Saturday project will be now…I’m going to try this on my baking sheets!
    Thanks so much for the hint!

    • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:50 pm

      Hi Sharon–Welcome! I’m not sure that this method will work on baking sheets that have baked on ugginess from months past, but I’d recommend making a paste of it with water and leaving it on for a while. I’ve also read that combining cream of tartar with vinegar in a paste can do the trick for those heavily soiled baking sheets. Good luck!


  13. Kim-Cook It Allergy Free on December 9th, 2013 12:18 am

    Shirley, this is a brilliant idea!! I bet this would totally totally work on the oven too! I am so using this on all of my All Clad pots and pans! The outside could even use a good shine and cleaning on them! Love it!! Off to share! :D

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:11 pm

      Hey Kim–Thanks for sharing this tip with others! I hope it works well for you. Some of the comments have scared me because I think that a few folks are expecting this method to remove years of baked on food/stains. That would require a little bit more than cream of tartar (perhaps boiling water and cream of tartar or a cream of tartar/vinegar paste), but for the cases I shared with recently baked on food, it works great. Just used it last night on my skillet again. :-)


  14. Davina Spafford Stuart on December 9th, 2013 1:42 am

    one tip for how i clean gunky fried on pans.. after the pan has cooled, add water to cover the caked on area and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat, add a teaspoon or two of baking soda to the water and clamp on a cover. let that set for 20-30 minutes, until it’s cooled off again. rinse out and just about everything will wipe off.

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:12 pm

      Thanks for sharing what works for you, Davina. I didn’t want to put that much effort into my pan cleaning so I was happy to remember this method. ;-) For baked on gunky of years, I think I’d use the boiling water with cream of tartar. I do love using baking soda normally though.


  15. Susan on December 9th, 2013 10:14 pm

    Hi Shirley,
    Thanks for the great tip. I will be sure to use it next time I have a stuck-on mess to clean up!

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:13 pm

      Hi Susan–I hope you are as amazed by the results as I am. :-)


  16. Maggie on December 10th, 2013 11:38 am

    Cannot wait to try this Shirley! I love it, we use cream of tartar in a playdough recipe so I usually have some on hand. Though our playdough days are fleeting…sniff sniff….

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:14 pm

      Hi Maggie–Awww, fleeting playdough days … sniff, sniff indeed. I do hope you get to use and see the magic of cream of tartar when needed though. On your pots and pans anyway. ;-)


  17. Emily on December 10th, 2013 1:30 pm

    this is brilliant…thanks for sharing it!! now i’ll finally be able to get my stained crockpots clean :)

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:16 pm

      Hi Emily–Welcome to gfe! :-) I hope it works for you, especially if you’re trying it on really old stains. The examples I gave were recent stains. You might try cream of tartar and vinegar if cream of tartar and water is not effective.


  18. Eioljg on December 10th, 2013 4:36 pm

    Great tip. But one quibble with your posting: Cream of tartar isn’t chemical free. ALL things, everything, is made of chemicals. Even your teddy bear.

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2013 12:19 pm

      Hi Eioljg–Ah, I see your point. Guess I should change the wording to “harsh chemicals.” We don’t think of everything being made of chemicals, but I guess my high school chemistry should have taught me differently. I do think that teddy bears are actually pretty loaded with “harsh chemicals” these days. Sadly. Anyway, thanks for the comment and clarification, and welcome to gfe! :-)


  19. Lois on December 11th, 2013 2:59 pm

    If one turns a skillet, pot or pan upside down over a dish pan or sink of hot soapy water, the goo will slip right off after about 10-15 minutes. Simple, no extra scribbling and with a swipe or two from your dish brush, it is spotless!

    • Shirley on December 14th, 2013 1:38 am

      Hi Lois–Welcome to gfe! Thanks so much for that tip as well. :-)


  20. Vicky on December 12th, 2013 5:26 pm

    Thank you for this advice Shirley! I use baking soda but did not know about the cream of tartar! I have some in the cupboard because I make my own baking powder. I will definitely try this next time! :)

    • Shirley on December 14th, 2013 1:39 am

      Hey Vicky–Hope that you find this method to be a big timesaver in your house. And making one’s own baking powder is so easy, isn’t it? I love controlling my ingredients. ;-)


  21. Alisa on December 12th, 2013 6:12 pm

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing Shirley!

    • Shirley on December 14th, 2013 1:41 am

      You’re welcome, Alisa! :-) A Facebook reader reminded me that this same tactic works on irons when they get built-up gunk on them. My iron doesn’t get much use these days so I haven’t had that need lately. ;-)


  22. Stephanie on December 17th, 2013 10:05 am

    Hey Shirley, I tried this last night on my solid surface stovetop stains and it worked great. Like several others have said, I’d never heard of using cream of tartar for cleaning. Thanks for the tip!

    • Shirley on December 20th, 2013 11:58 am

      Yay, Stephanie! I love hearing your report! Like I’ve said here before, I’m glad this tip suddenly came back to me. ;-)


  23. Kate @ Eat, Recycle, Repeat on December 17th, 2013 9:02 pm

    Amazing! You’ve saved me from a lot of scrubbing (or just leaving pans dirty, ha!). Thanks Shirley!

    • Shirley on December 20th, 2013 11:59 am

      Kate–You’re welcome! I love saving others from both of those situations. ;-)


  24. Linda on December 17th, 2013 11:17 pm

    This is a GREAT tip. I had a pan that I nearly got rid of because it was such a mess. It’s clean now. Amazing. The pan and I thank you!

    • Shirley on December 20th, 2013 12:03 pm

      Linda–That makes me just about jump with joy! Yep, I’m nerdy like that. LOL So glad this tip worked its usual magic for you! And special thanks for linking back to this post in your fun post the other day. I love it when you do those types of posts! :-)


  25. Lois Auger-Barrie on December 29th, 2013 1:50 am

    cooked for many many years all we ever used was baking soda

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2014 1:44 am

      Lois–I love using baking soda, but I find cream of tartar is superior for this use. You might give it a try. ;-)


  26. Laurel on December 29th, 2013 12:14 pm

    I am DEFINITELY doing this the next time I make nut milk yogurt. No matter what I do there is always some stuck all around the pot. Plus (lucky me) I just ordered a bag of cream of tartar to make baking soda. What a win. Thank you.

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2014 1:45 am

      Laurel–I am not sure how I missed your and some of the other folks’ comments on this post, but I’m so happy that this tip is timely for you. Hope you love the results with cream of tartar! :-)


  27. IrisSpring on December 30th, 2013 2:11 pm

    I am so glad that I recently found your web site! Is just what I needed! I have never posted before, but I am glad to do so. This idea for cleaning pots and pans is so helpful. And so easy, too. I will continue to get your awesome recipes, and hints. Thanks from the bottom of my heart!

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2014 1:47 am

      IrisSpring–Welcome to gfe! :-) I appreciate you commenting for the very first time. You’ll find that I love everything to be easy. ;-) I’ll look forward to seeing you more on gfe!


  28. Melissa on January 23rd, 2014 1:43 pm

    Oooh, I’m very excited about this!!

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2014 1:48 am

      Hey Melissa–I hope you love this non-toxic way to clean pots and pans. I am newly amazed each time I use this method. ;-)


  29. Lois Stee;e on January 23rd, 2014 8:00 pm

    It is also very easy to turn the pot, or cooking vessel (dish, crock pot, etc.) upside down over very hot sudsy water and leave it there for about 20 minutes while one does another task. Come back to it, swish it with a paper towel, sponge, brush or dishcloth and wa-la, it comes right off! no scrubbing at all. (Well, maybe a little if it is really baked on or burned.) A little baking soda or cream of tarter will do the rest of the job. Learned this from a older country lady in the Tennessee hills!

    • Shirley on January 25th, 2014 1:49 am

      Lois–You left this tip before. It sounds like one worth trying–thanks. :-)


  30. Linda on February 16th, 2014 9:32 pm

    Shirley, I used cream of tartar to get blueberry stains out of a white shirt today. Soaking it in detergent did nothing. So glad I remembered this great tip!

    • Shirley on February 16th, 2014 10:13 pm

      That is such great news, Linda! I’ve never used cream of tartar on stains on clothes before, but I will now. Did you pretreat right before throwing the shirt in the laundry or do anything else special?


      • Linda on February 17th, 2014 12:38 pm

        First, I soaked the shirt in cold water. Nothing. Then I rubbed laundry detergent in, left for an hour, scrubbed it, and rinsed. Stains not even fazed. At this point I thought “Why NOT try cream of tartar?” I sprinkled it on the damp shirt and it made a paste that I rubbed in a bit. I left it for maybe an hour, then laundered (with other items, fingers crossed) in cold water. Still amazed that it came out absolutely stain free!

        • Shirley on March 18th, 2014 9:15 pm

          Sorry, I never replied to you, Linda. That was such an easy solution—love it! It sounds like we need to be buying cream of tartar in bulk for so many things! :-)


  31. Jenny on February 16th, 2014 11:13 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. I am really excited about trying it out.

    • Shirley on March 18th, 2014 9:12 pm

      Hi Jenny–I was looking at this post again and see that I never replied to you. Welcome to gfe! I hope you get a lot of use out of this trick! :-)


  32. Amanda (amethystjean) on March 8th, 2014 5:16 pm

    I usually use baking soda for things like this and my coffee cup stains but this would be even easier. I need to get some cream of tartar anyway for my gf bread. Thanks.

    • Shirley on March 18th, 2014 9:13 pm

      Hi Amanda–I hope you love this method as much as I do! I’m so glad I finally remembered it! ;-)


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