How to Clean A Couple Things
July 31, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Humbly requesting the hivemind's expertise on some difficult household cleaning tasks.

Hi AskMe! Over the next few days, I will be moving out of my bachelor cave of the past three years. Most of the cleaning issues before me are pretty straightforward, but there are a few areas I could use some additional insights on.

I would very much appreciate what is, in your opinions, the best materials and practices for cleaning up the following messes:

1) Burner drip pans on the stove. These have all gone black with grease and burned food. There does not seem to be a way to remove these from the stove, so I must clean them while they're still attached. This suggests soaking the greasestains with something, then wiping / scrubbing the mess away is the way to go. What should I use for the soaking and the scrubbing? How can I get these pans shiny again?

2) Persistent toilet bowl stains. Clorox bleach and a toilet brush seem unable to fully address the general discoloration of the toilet. Is there a cleaning product and method that has worked well for you in making your crapper sparkle again?

3) Persistent staining / discoloration of a plastic bathtub. Same as above, really. I've been able to do a pretty decent superficial clean of my bathtub, but I'm not quite sure how to give it the deep clean that'll get it looking like I did when I moved in. Products and methods? Would there be some overlap here between what would work on the tub and what would work on the toilet?

Thank you so much for your help!
posted by EatTheWeek to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The drip pans should be removable- you have to gently pull out the elements first and the pans should lift out. Soak and scrub as you would any similar material. It should mostly just take a bit of elbow grease and powder cleanser.
posted by sunshinesky at 3:15 PM on July 31, 2010

1) There is always a way to remove stove burners, and no real way to get the pans clean. Is it an electric or a gas stove? If it's electric, find where the burner connects, and pull it out gently. You're going to just have to pay for new burner pans and throw the old one out- you can scrub an scrub these, and you will never get off all of the cooked on grime. Next time around, cover these with foil before you use the stove for the first time.
2) For the toilet, you need to get in their with your hands (wear gloves, of course!) using cleanser and steel wool. The toilet brush simply won't do the trick.
posted by pickypicky at 3:18 PM on July 31, 2010

Response by poster: Oh damn, that's embarrassing - I'd been looking for some kind of latch or something to release the heating elements with. Had never tried just pulling on them directly.

So what kind of powder cleaner would work best? These things are pretty black.
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:19 PM on July 31, 2010

Response by poster: pickypicky - I figured, yeah. I've got a good pair of gloves for the task. Is there a specific cleanser you would recommend?
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:21 PM on July 31, 2010

you might have luck using CLR in your toilet and tub. it removed some pretty terrible discolouration from the shower at my parents' house, as well as hair dye stains at one of my old places. pour a bit on, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then scrub well.
posted by gursky at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2010

Any powdered cleanser should be fine for both jobs- ajax, comet, dutch cleanser, whatever.
posted by sunshinesky at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2010

Comet cleanser for the stove pans.
posted by gursky at 3:23 PM on July 31, 2010

1) Burner drip pans: make a paste with baking soda, and rub it on with the scrubby side of a sponge. Let it sit for a little while, then rinse with vinegar. Scrub some more. (They should be removable, though.

2) If bleach and toilet brush scrubbing isn't working on your toilet, remind me not to come over and use your bathroom. My first (very crappy) apartment was lived in by a bunch of idiot dudes for several years before I got there, and one of the toilets was "ruined" by years of flushing cat litter down it. Bleach and scrubbing worked for me even with that extreme case. Maybe try pumice stone.

3) For the bathtub, use an enzyme detergent (I think stuff like Tide is, but you should check) and a nylon scrubby. Don't use a pumice stone on a plastic tub.

Good luck, and for christsakes, clean your next home more regularly. These kind of things don't become "persistently" stained except due to extreme neglect.
posted by phunniemee at 3:24 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Burner drip pans--my "easy" way, take them out and bring them with you to the store for replacements. They aren't very expensive. Seems you have enough on your plate, and this may be an option.
posted by 6:1 at 3:26 PM on July 31, 2010 [13 favorites]

As someone who used to manage apartments and clean between tenants, it is totally worth just buying new drip pans -- to get them even remotely shiny and good-looking, you would spend way too much time cleaning them, and they are cheap to replace.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:26 PM on July 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

FYI--not a snark, but please, please don't mix cleaners and cleansers. I say this because some people don't know.
posted by 6:1 at 3:28 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make your life easier and pay a professional cleaner.
posted by k8t at 3:35 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Burner drip pans: put inside a ziploc baggie with about 1/4 cup ammonia. Seal up. Let sit for about a day, in the sunshine if you can. The black stuff will come off SO MUCH EASIER than with anything else. You'll still need to scrub, but the ammonia will get a lot of it off with just wiping and make the remainder much easier to clean. DO NOT USE BLEACH WITH AMMONIA. EVER.

For the toilet and tub, I'm wondering if you live in an area with water that has a high mineral content. If that's the case, CLR may work wonders. Look for heavy-duty cleaners designed for the toilet -- bleach won't actually remove grime/soap scum/mineral deposits, so you probably need something to get that stuff off FIRST. Then you'd want to go back in and use the bleach to remove any actual discolored stains.
posted by devinemissk at 3:36 PM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't use steel wool on the toilet - you could remove the surface enamel and end up with permanent metallic scratches that are worse than the ring. Seconding a try with CLR or use a "clingy" (as in thick) toilet cleaner, that can be left in the bowl for a few hours to work on the ring. If this does not work, you can get strong toilet bowl cleaners containing acid or caustic soda at your local hardware store (or try Home Depot/Lowes). These really do the trick. But BE CAREFUL: this stuff will BURN if it comes in contact with skin. Wear rubber gloves and don't touch the cleaner liquid at any time. Keep the unused cleaner safe and way out of reach of pets or kids (on a top shelf in your garage or basement).
For the stovetop drip-pans, you need barkeeper's friend. They do a range of products, all highly effective. Available from hardware stores, etc. If you really can't budge the greaser, you can always get cheap replacements on eBay or Amazon - these trays come in pretty standard sizes for most cookers.
For the plastic bathtub use CLR (spray bottle), available from hardware stores, Lowes, Target, etc. It works like a charm - just rinse it well afterwards. Or try barkeeper's friend again.
posted by Susurration at 3:40 PM on July 31, 2010

For stained toilets, my procedure is thus:
Flush the toilet
Sprinkle on Comet liberally
Let sit for a few minutes. I leave the toilet brush in the bowl and put the lid down. You don't want to pee in there when it has Comet.
Brush vigorously - you may consider using a hand scrub brush instead of a toilet brush, concentrating on the water line.
Repeat if needed.
posted by plinth at 3:44 PM on July 31, 2010

A mister clean magic sponge does wonders on tubs. Takes some elbow grease, but that's what I'd recommend.

For your toilet, that does seem like hard water stains. You may need a pumice stone.

Also, just go buy drip pans. I heavily suggest you bring the old ones with you as sizes do vary due to brand AND model number. If you go to Home Depot they have the widest ranges of sizes-my stove is a bit weird and I can't find a good fit at Walmart or Target.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:56 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good luck, and for christsakes, clean your next home more regularly. These kind of things don't become "persistently" stained except due to extreme neglect.

No one needs a snotty reprimand from the cleaning police.

First, I'm nthing just replacing the drip pans. They are cheap, and you'll never get the old ones clean.

Toilet and Bathtub: Oxyclean works wonders for deep stains on my bathtub. I buy the powder, not the spray, and rub it right on the stains. You can also make a paste and let it set. As for the toilet, you can dump the Oxyclean in the water and let it may need to let it do so overnight. I've also heard that vinegar can remove toilet stains, but not tried this myself.
posted by unannihilated at 3:58 PM on July 31, 2010 [6 favorites]

Bon Ami powder cleaner got off burned on stains from my stovetop and isn't full of harsh chemicals that smell strong and irritate skin. I also use it on the discoloration of my white porcelain sink.
posted by ishotjr at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do not put aluminum foil on your drop pans.

It's flammable!

Covered in greasy food bits, it's extra flammable.

Nobody wants a kitchen fire. Ever.
posted by bilabial at 4:31 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

For the toilet, try white distilled vinegar first. You can get a gallon of it cheap. Empty your toilet bowl by dumping a bucket or two of water into it until it flushes the contents of the bowl (it won't refill if you don't use the handle). Then fill it with the vinegar slightly beyond the fill line. Let it soak, the longer the better. Eight hours or overnight isn't too long. Then take a brush to the stains, they should come off quite easily.
posted by mollweide at 5:24 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Bon Ami powder. I also used it in the toilet, with thick rubber gloves and a sponge.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2010

Oven cleaner sprayed on the burner pans and left to soak as per the directions will get them clean about 85% of the time.

I like comet for stains on ceramic (your toilet) and porcelain (top of your stove) surfaces. For stains on toilets I sprinkle some on the end of the toilet brush and scrub away.
posted by Mitheral at 5:40 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just want to second the Mr. Clean Eraser Sponge thingies, which I recently discovered. They should help with the bath stains at least, and most likely the stovetop as well, along with things like scuff marks on the walls and so on that I am guessing you might want to deal with, too. I have been amazed by them, and deeply regret not knowing about them sooner!
posted by katie at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2010

For the toilet: turn the water off to it, flush it. Then once it is empty you can make a paste with scouring powder (aka ajax or comet) and let that sit a bit, then scrub. If that doesn't do it or you have some solidified deposits there, try dumping in straight vinegar, let that sit a couple of hours and the calcification should dissolve.
posted by sulaine at 7:53 PM on July 31, 2010

For the discoloration: If none of the above works try toothpaste (a 'plain' variety like colgate). It's done wonders on our tub's intractable stains.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:50 PM on July 31, 2010

1) drip pans: spray oven cleaner on the drip pans. If can remove them, spray them liberally with oven cleaner and seal them in a plastic bag overnight. If you cannot get them off, spray and cover with plastic wrap, leave overnight.

2) toilet: turn off the water to the toilet, flush the toilet, empty the water from the bowl (scoop it out with a cup), using the thick kind of CLR or a Tilex (the kind that removes hard water stains, not the bleach kind), liberally cover the toilet with the cleaner, wait and then scrub with a nylon brush or a pumice stone (the kind they sell to clean toilets) (don't use steel wool). Let the cleaner stay on the toilet for a hour or so, scrub again.

4) tub: try scrubbing with Tilex (hard water stain remover) and a nylon scrubber (brush or scrubbie); you can also try filling the tub, add a cup of bleach and 1/2 cup automatic dishwasher detergent, let it soak for a few hours

Repeat if necessary.
posted by fifilaru at 10:35 PM on July 31, 2010

I used to work for a housecleaning company. This echoes some of what others have said.

1) Either replace the pans or use Easy-Off Fume Free oven cleaner on them.

2) Comet and a scrub brush.

3) Lysol Tub & Tile Cleaner and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser + some elbow grease.

Don't expect anything to come completely clean with one scrubbing. Do it once a week and eventually it will be clean.
posted by Fuego at 11:28 PM on July 31, 2010

For the tub, use Kaboom. It's hard to find, but it's an acid based cleaner that will save you having to scrub your hands to the bone, in most cases. For tough scum and crap, let it soak and then scrub with a scrub brush. Lighter scum will just wipe off. Seriously, kaboom is the only shit to use on a shower. Ever. And I do this professionally. If you want to save yourself from having to clean the shower quite so frequently, you can clean it really well, dry, and then apply rain-x. If you do this, make sure there is a window in the shower, and a fan going full-blast. Otherwise use a ventilator. Rain-x fumes in an enclosed space are absolutely toxic. I can find Kaboom at a very, very few grocery stores in Seattle, and Amazon has it.

For the toilet, oh man. For the toilet you are probably going to have to scrub it every day for weeks. Possibly months (in the case of the worst toilet I've ever cleaned). Be persistent. And apply Oil Eater cleaner and degreaser. Apply full strength and let soak. Also use something with bleach in it. Soft scrub with bleach, anything with a high bleach concentration. But use the Oil Eater first. Preferably multiple applications. Oil Eater I buy at Costco, in the tool/automotive section. It's good for more than just toilets. :) I'm not sure where else you would find it.

For the stove, remove as people have instructed upthread, then use any sort of spray on oven cleaner, the really toxic-fumed stuff. Let soak in your sink, then wipe off. There is a limit to how clean these will get, but you can at least remove the crust, even if they may never shine again. If you're moving out, and are worried about getting charged, you can pick these up cheap at your local Wal-Hell equivalent, or more expensively, at a hardware store.

Good luck!
posted by tejolote at 11:38 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm looking through all the cleaners other people have recommended, and while they're good standards for basic cleaning, they're crap for a situation gone really really bad. Without a doubt you will bust your can, and it will be mostly your elbow grease doing the working. Trust me when I say the old standbys are not good enough for a bad situation.

The only suggestion that is easily available that works pretty decently, is the Mr. Clean sponge, believe it or not. But on a filthy tub that has not been maintained, you can easily go through ten of those suckers, and they're not cheap. Do the smart thing and seek out some Kaboom. If you absolutely can't get that or oil eater, then go with soft scrub with bleach supplemented with the Mr. Clean sponges.
posted by tejolote at 11:41 PM on July 31, 2010

For anyone who may still be interested, I just found a whole line of Kaboom products at my local Lowe's hardware store.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:03 PM on July 30, 2011

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