Does Soaking Your Dishes Actually Help With Stuck-On Food?

Cooking is all fun and games until you're the last person standing in a kitchen surrounded by a colossal mess of dirty dishes. Some may argue that the most efficient way to clean your kitchen is to store leftovers and any remaining ingredients and spices first. Then, you can tackle the pile of dirty dishes. Whether you prefer to work in zones like the top versus the bottom rack of the dishwasher or organize your cleaning regime by dirty cookware (i.e. utensils before plates) is all up to you. However, having pots or pans with stuck-on food could deter how you usually go about dishwashing.

For dishes with stuck-on food, one of the best ways to help alleviate the food from the pan is by soaking the dish in water and soap. Because of this, you may have to rearrange the sequence in which you clean dishes in order to create space. According to the American Cleaning Institute, it's important to first remove food scraps with a rubber spatula or paper towel. Afterward, add soap and hot water to the soiled cookware and allow it to soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you have multiple dishes that need soaking, CNET recommends doing it bubble bath style by plugging the drain and filling it with hot water and soap, which allows all dishes to soak at once.

4 other ways to get rid of stuck-on food

While soaking your dirty dishes in hot water and soap may be the go-to method, it doesn't always cut it. According to The Spruce, adding baking soda into the mix can be a quick and easy solution. This method would follow all the same steps and soak time, just with the addition of baking soda. If you're still not having any luck with removing the gunk from your cookware, you can try a vinegar and baking soda combo. To do this, bring vinegar and water to a boil in the soiled dish and then proceed to dump out the liquid into the sink and sprinkle a layer of baking soda onto the pan. Once cooled, add more baking soda and scrub.

Believe it or not, Alka-Seltzer can also help. The process is pretty similar to the other two but takes almost double the time. Start by pouring some hot water into your dirty dishes and then throw in about six Alka-Seltzer tablets and let them sit for an hour. If the mixture starts to fizz, that means it's working! Now, add more hot water along with detergent and use a sturdy scrubber to clean the pan. Last but not least is a technique that is Martha Stewart-approved, according to The Spruce. Grab some used or new dryer sheets and place them into the pot. From here, pour in some hot water, set a timer for one hour, and then scrub.