Why are my pans greasy?
July 30, 2016 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Can someone explain to me why my non-stick pans are still greasy, even after I thoroughly wash them? I have never had this problem before in my life. Is it something with the water where I now live? (Portland, OR)
posted by Automocar to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Portland water is some of the cleanest in the country. Here's the 2016 report. Might be something with your pipes or if you have a water softener installed?
posted by paulcole at 6:24 PM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing you have a water softener (or somehow just have very soft water.) Even my hands never feel clean after soft water washing, and I can only imagine that pans are damn near impossible to degrease. Ugh.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:43 PM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not sure about the why, but mine are like that too.
posted by cecic at 6:49 PM on July 30, 2016

Are you washing them in the dishwasher?

My wife had been doing that too and our nonstick pans now have that grease film on them like a cast iron. It's doing a number on our glasses too. The dishwashing detergent in the "low flow" water use dishwashers uses a lot of abrasives and it takes the non stick coating off and etches glass,
posted by sanka at 7:08 PM on July 30, 2016

Can you put a picture on imgur? I have 2 pans that are a model/manufacturer very different from the rest (which are all cheaper and lighter than the pans in question) which have polymerized oil on them that is sometimes greasy and sometimes sticky.

My husband puts all of them in the dishwasher, but only these two weirdo pans have this problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:39 PM on July 30, 2016

Response by poster: I live in an apartment, so I doubt there's a water softener here, although I suppose it's possible. Although I was always under the impression that it was actually hard water that left items dirtier?

No dishwasher either, I'm the dishwasher. Here's a picture of the pans.
posted by Automocar at 10:22 PM on July 30, 2016

You say "Portland", but that often means the metro area. Water in Tualatin Valley water district (in Washington County e.g. Beaverton and Tigard and Hillsboro) comes from wells and has a lot of minerals. Water in Portland proper (Multnomah County including Gresham and Sandy) comes from the Bull Run Watershed and is very pure. I'm not sure about Clackamas County (Oregon City, Lake Oswego, Lake Grove) but it's probably also well water.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:16 PM on July 30, 2016

I feel like I've had the problem you have. I don't currently have this issue. I do two things : use Dawn for dishes - it cuts the grease. And two : I always put a paper towel between my pans. I do this to keep them from scratching, but maybe it absorbs something? I just use the same paper towel for a long time until it wears away.

A few other theories : do you have any other non stick pans that have this issue, or more importantly, non stick pans that don't have this issue? Perhaps it's a problem with this brand?

Maybe it's an issue of where they're stored? Is something getting them greasy inadvertently?

Do you use Pam cooking spray or something similar? I find that leaves a layer on a lot of pans.

Do the dishes feel clean when you're done washing, and they get greasy as they dry... Or do you just feel like they never get clean?

If I were you, I'd first try getting name brand Dawn dish soap and see if that helps.

N.b. Overall, Portland city water is quite soft, but I don't know if that's a factor.
posted by hydra77 at 12:30 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm in Downtown Portland.
posted by Automocar at 12:49 AM on July 31, 2016

When I wash my dishes with diluted Dr. Bronners soap, they get a greasy film. I switched to Seventh Generation dish detergent, and the film disappeared. What kind of soap or detergent do you use?
posted by Guess What at 4:25 AM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Did you happen to switch to natural gas when you moved? Unburned hydrocarbons can leave a greasy or tacky film on things, and I've noticed the cheap stoves they put in rental units are pretty inefficient. Even the nice-ish stove we have in our current place leaves some residue on our pans. If you're using too much heat for the pan - that is, the flame disk is larger than the bottom of the pan - you'll notice some orange/yellow tips of flame licking around the edge of the pan. That's where the gas isn't burning completely and will deposit gunk.

Similarly, if you're not using a hood or your flame is too strong the burner can catch tiny droplets of grease that are flung in to the air during the cooking process and turn that into a horrible greasy nightmare. However, that problem tends to present itself every except the pan, as the hot air around the pan convects it away and it sticks to walls, counters, etc.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:38 AM on July 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dumb question, but where are you storing your pans? If you are storing them on top of a cabinet or in the broiler when it's not in use, that could also be a culprit.
posted by floweredfish at 6:49 AM on July 31, 2016

Is the water temperature different? If your new setup is much cooler than your old one, food grease won't lift so well.
posted by scruss at 8:16 AM on July 31, 2016

Are you using a different kind of detergent, or the same kind of detergent that may be produced in a different factory, or has had its ingredients changed in some way? Is it only your pans, or is it other cutlery and crockery and cookware as well?
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 PM on July 31, 2016

For what it's worth, I have the exact same pan and use Dawn to clean it (and will clean it by itself instead of just at the end of a sinkful of dishes) and it's always residually greasy.

I honestly think it's the material of the pan.
posted by Twicketface at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have the same T-tal pans, and live in your same watershed. This happened to mine when I used that 7th generation soap; I have since switched to just using dawn or whatever else. Problem has largely gone away.

Also, those T-fal pans are great, because they're cheap and the nonstick is pretty comparable to the more expensive stuff out there...but they do wear out, sometimes in just a couple years, depending on how you cook. When your pan is reaching the end of its life expectancy, you'll see more greazy buildup, because the nonstick coating is starting to degrade and fail.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:31 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have those pans, and there's usually oil residue on the pans when my wife washes them, and none when I do. The difference is that I wash them twice whenever I wash them. Wash, rinse, wash, rinse. Then they're usually spotless. A single pass with a brush or sponge (which is what my wife does) seems not to be enough, but I have no idea why not.

But also, the nonstick coating on these loses its magic over time. Well, all nonstick coatings do, but anyway. We replaced our most-regularly-used size after two years and probably should have replaced it after 18 months or so. The old one had the dull, brownish cast I see in your photo, but the new one (and the other pans we don't use as often) look more, uh, new. Maybe it's time for new pans?
posted by fedward at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2016

I wash twice too. My theory is that all pans leave a little grease on after the first pass, but it get's drawn into the microscopic crevices and suchlike on steel or cast iron whereas non-stick has such a smooth face that you feel even the ghost of a trace of grease on it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:35 PM on August 3, 2016

Response by poster: Fun follow-up: I started putting a little drop of Dawn into the pans and then filling the pans with water (for as little as 10 minutes) and... no greasy residue. So, basically, who knows.
posted by Automocar at 9:27 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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