Pile of burnt pans after Christmas dinner? All you need is a leftover potato…

Potato cleaning hack
(Image credit: Louise Carey)

After a long morning of hard work in the kitchen cooking up Christmas dinner, what could be better than settling down on the sofa for a well-earned rest? However, all of those dirty pots and pans need to be cleaned somehow – and this decidedly un-festive task has to fall to someone every year. Unfortunately, this year the washing up will be my responsibility, so I've been on the search for a great hack to help make it as quick as possible. 

While using one of the best dishwashers (opens in new tab) or the best countertop dishwashers (opens in new tab) is the ultimate cleaning hack, some dishwashers don't quite have the capacity to deal with the huge amount of washing up that Christmas dinner can produce. Instead, I decided to try out a cleaning hack involving the humble potato. While it's known as a mainstay of any Christmas dinner, it turns out that many people believe it to be a great tool for cleaning up afterwards as well. 

It's not just me that will be looking for a cleaning hack this Christmas Day either – new research from LG has discovered that 41% of people see washing up as the least favorable chore on Christmas Day. In fact, one in six people have even pretended to be asleep in front of the TV in order to avoid it (I can't pretend that this hasn't crossed my mind in previous years…). 

When idly browsing the internet to find out if there were any ways to make this process a little more fun, I stumbled across a Kitchn (opens in new tab) article that espoused the benefits of using a raw potato to tackle the washing up. My interest piqued, I decided to give this interesting hack a go – I figured that even if it didn't work, I would at least inject some interest into this decidedly dull Christmas Day chore. 

How to use a potato to clean your dishes

So, what is it about a potato that gives it a magic cleaning power? Kitchn's article states that potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is known at being "effective in breaking up rust and other difficult stains". 

The writer of the article took a pan with burnt-on spots, misted it with a vinegar solution and sprinkled it with a pinch of salt. They then cut a Russet potato in half and scrubbed the pan with the cut side face down (being careful not to apply too much pressure at first to ensure that salt didn't scratch the coating on the pan). 

I decided to try this potato hack on two different surfaces – a non-stick frying pan and a metal baking tray. I wanted to test exactly how powerful a potato's cleaning power was, so I decided to eschew the vinegar solution and simply use salt (for its abrasive cleaning properties).

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

So, how did it go? To be honest, trying out this cleaning hack actually went better than expected. I was skeptical that I'd get results that were worth going through the extra effort of cutting up and using a potato, but I genuinely think it was able to cut through the grease and burnt-on food quicker than if I just used ordinary dish soap. 

Frying pan

I scattered some salt on my frying pan (in hindsight, I do regret this, as I think it might have scratched the non-stick coating) and used the cut side of the potato to gently rub over the burnt-on food. 

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

As you can see by the image below, the potato worked up a good 'lather' on the pan. I found that the burnt-on food was shifting far easier than I initially believed it would and it didn't take long until I thought the pan was ready for a wash. I used some dish soap and a soft cloth to wipe away the grease…

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

… And I was left with a surprisingly clean pan! You can still see some small spots of burn-on food, but these have been on my pan for quite a while and I don't see them shifting any time soon. I can genuinely say that I think that this potato hack cleaned this pan far better than using my dishwasher would have done. 

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

Metal baking tray

After the success I experienced with the frying pan, I turned my attention to the metal baking tray with burnt-on food. I considered this tray to be trickier than the frying pan, so I was especially curious to see whether our humble potato would conquer it too. 

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

Luckily, I didn't have anything to worry about! The potato + salt combination definitely did a far better job than my dishwasher would have done, as I regularly have to rewash these particular pans after the washing cycle is done. 

Potato cleaning hack

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

All in all, while I'm not likely to bring out the potatoes every time I need to do the washing up, I do think this is a useful hack if you've got some particularly stubborn stuck-on food. I felt it worked particularly well with the greasy frying pan, so, if you're also struggling with the Christmas dinner washing up, I'd particularly recommend trying this hack on anything that combines grease and burnt-on food. 

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Louise Carey
Editor

Louise is Editor of Top Ten Reviews. With six years of editorial experience across print and digital brands, Louise has written for a variety of publications, including TechRadar and The Independent. When she's not checking comma placements and finding the best brands for Top Ten Reviews readers, you can either find Louise exploring the countryside with her camera or teaching her border collie fun new tricks.