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Burnt plastic in a stainless steel pot [moved from Not about Food board]

Ompahbill May 22, 2012 08:28 AM

Fool that I am, one evening recently, I found some honey that had hardened into crystals in a plastic jar and I put it on the stove in a (beautiful) stainless pot on a trivet almost full of water. I turned the heat on low and promptly forgot about it..

What a mess I found the next morning! I have managed to extract all the burnt honey, and some of the burnt plastic, but by no means all. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  1. sunshine842 May 22, 2012 08:44 AM

    I'd heat it gently and scrape it up as it softens. No guarantees, but it might get you close enough to figure out if you can salvage the pan or not.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842
      Ompahbill Jun 21, 2012 10:33 AM

      I'm back! Life got in the way for a while.

      I have tried a grinding wheel on an electric drill. I have also tried the oven cleaner, saturating the stuff in the pot, closing it up with lid and wrapping the whole securely in a plastic bag for more than 24 hours. I regret to report that I've had little success. The pot was not damaged by the wheel but the burnt plastic is still securely stuck there. I'll try some of the other advice offered. I really do appreciate all your contributions. I'll attach a photo next time.

      1. re: Ompahbill
        Chemicalkinetics Jun 21, 2012 11:21 AM

        You can always heat the pan up and soften the plastic and then scap it off.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
          unprofessional_chef Jun 21, 2012 12:56 PM

          It's a real pain to remove plastic that was burnt on to SS or glass. The stuff is like superglue that has already set and hardened. I wonder if this is how they make nonstick cookware?

          Let us know what worked in the end.

    2. g
      Georgia Strait May 22, 2012 08:52 AM

      i have used a product that is sold to clean the bottom of an iron - it stinks when you use it, and the pot has to be hot - maybe you could boil some water in it, quickly pour it out - and start working - this will take several tries i would think.

      if you have an outdoor burner (on your bbq?) - that would be best as it is smelly.

      look in a good quilting shop - etc.

      you'll also need a good supply of old cotton rags (old cotton towels) that you can dispose --


      1. b
        Brrrb May 22, 2012 09:24 AM

        I'd think along the lines of removing wax. I'd put the pan in the freezer (or put it in an ice water bath) hoping to get the plastic as rigid as possible, and then try to pop off as much as I could while the plastic was cold. As with candle wax, very gentle heating could also help...the idea being not to turn the mess to liquid, but to soften it up. If the pan is wet and cold, though, the plastic bits you pop off won't be so prone to re-adhere or smear around as they would be if the pan were warm and dry, so I'd go with cold first. Try to find a rigid tool that won't gouge the pan as you work...maybe disposable chop sticks or bamboo skewers. (Don't skewer yourself.)

        After that, I'd try a solvent-based metal cleaner on the remainder. Brasso might do it. Let a solvent-dampened cloth sit on it for 10 minutes or so, and try not to wipe the plastic around the bottom of the pan when you clean it up. If that didn't move it, then maybe acetone (nail polish remover) or a general-purpose solvent. Then a stainless steel cleaner (Brasso, maybe?) to finish the little smears left.

        The nice thing is that stainless steel, unlike absorbent materials, won't absorb the plastic or the solvents. Once the plastic looks like it is all gone, it will be all gone.

        1. s
          shallots May 22, 2012 10:04 AM

          For thinned plastic, a single edge razor blade works to remove the gunk when a plastic bag meets a hot surface.

          I agree with 'do it outdoors' I'd heat it, have some really coarse scrubbing pads to swish through the goo with either paired spatulas or tongs to lift out a series of things you'll use to get most of the goo out while its' liquid.

          1. o
            Ompahbill May 22, 2012 01:55 PM

            I appreciate all your help, I really do, but I don't yet think you're hitting the problem. It was a plastic bottle's remains that got burnt onto the interior of the pot, not a film of plastic, and the residue is well stuck to that interior surface despite my best efforts. I have given thought to heavy duty acid, or alkaline solutions but they are hard to come by, and truthfully, I'd prefer something less caustic. I know. Caustic. Alkaline. Whatever. Something to soften the little chunks that are still well stuck to the pot. Again, thanks, and please keep posting.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ompahbill
              sunshine842 May 22, 2012 02:14 PM

              If you have tried gently heating the pan and it doesn't soften the stuck-on pieces, then you have pretty much exhausted your options, short of acid or a grinding wheel (which will remove the bottom of your pan along with the plastic.)

              This one sounds like a painful lesson.

              1. re: Ompahbill
                cleobeach May 22, 2012 03:04 PM

                Have you tried acetone? Many commercial solvents and "goo" removers contain acetone and 100% pure acetone is available at any major retailer. You can find it in the nail polish area , it is the main ingredient in nail polish remover. It is cheap.

                It will soften/disolve acrylic and fiberglass so it might work on plastic.

                1. re: cleobeach
                  Brrrb May 22, 2012 05:49 PM

                  Yes, I'd go for acetone (nail polish remover) or a general-purpose solvent. I've just found that physically removing as much as you can before you bring in the chemicals will greatly remove the amount of chemical needed. Whittling it down carefully with a razor (as suggested above), if nothing else, then the chemicals. Use a solvent-based stainless cleaner to get the last film off.

              2. hambone May 22, 2012 03:12 PM

                I might try a wire brush attachment on a drill but in all honesty, I would chuck it and chalk this up to lviing and learning. There are too many fine pores in the SS for that burnt plastic to be hiding for me to feel ok about ever using for food again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: hambone
                  BubblyOne May 22, 2012 04:20 PM

                  +1. I loaned my house to someone who used one of my best SS pots to cook a boil-in-bag veggies and forgot to add the water. I finally gave up and threw it out.

                  1. re: hambone
                    Brrrb May 22, 2012 05:54 PM

                    If it is really a "beautiful" pot, it is worth a bit of effort. If the container were porous or couldn't stand up to strong chemicals or heat, that would be one thing, but a good stainless cleaner with abrasive will take a bit of the metal off, and all the plastic with it.

                    If the pot is very very cold, though, the plastic may become brittle enough to pop off down to the metal, albeit in pieces. Really, it is possible.

                  2. meatn3 May 22, 2012 06:14 PM

                    Do you have a plumbers torch? Or the more $$ one for crème brûlée?

                    Take the pot outdoors. Turn it upside down and elevate it over bricks, etc. Turn on the torch and heat the bottom, have something to catch the plastic when it melts off.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: meatn3
                      shallots May 22, 2012 08:40 PM

                      I like Meatn3's suggestion.

                      If the very cold pot doesn't work, either, you could try to load the plastic up with icecubes, and then put the pot in a larger pot of water that's already boiling. Maybe a physical change like the pot expanding even a few millimeters might work to separate the less expanded plastic residue.

                      1. re: shallots
                        Brrrb May 23, 2012 08:00 AM

                        I don't think metal will ever beat out plastic for responding to heat. I think it is a matter of finding the physical state of the plastic (especially where it interfaces with the pan) that will render it easiest to remove and yet not smear it around more than it already is.

                        You want to physically remove as much plastic as possible. I think that means very cold if you're trying to pop it off and moderately warm but not melted if you're trying to cut through it. The biggest bear to get off is going to be the layer in direct contact with the pan. If you are very lucky, an steel cleaner containing both abrasive and a bit of solvent will do it, but if you're not, it will either take a stronger solvent of some sort or it won't come off at all.

                        In retrospect, though, the bigger question is whether merely being on dry heat all night might have warped the pot or at least permanently discolored it. Even if you can get the plastic off, the heating alone may have ruined the pot.

                        Still, I'm very interested to hear what happens. Doing some research on one ruined pot may give some information that will save another pot that wasn't abused quite so much. I'd try everything I could think of, even if I knew the pot was ruined, just because I could learn what works and what doesn't. It is the kind of accident that could easily happen again.

                      2. re: meatn3
                        KaimukiMan May 22, 2012 09:06 PM

                        heat carefully and evenly or you will warp the pan.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                          meatn3 May 23, 2012 05:15 AM

                          Thanks - good point to emphasize!

                          1. re: meatn3
                            Ompahbill May 23, 2012 06:27 AM

                            Many thanks again for all your thoughts. I'm busy right now but will report whatever success I achieve.

                            1. re: Ompahbill
                              hambone May 29, 2012 03:24 PM

                              If you go to a woodworking/good hardware store you can get steelwool in different coarsenesses. That will help you get the fine layer of metal some of my Chowhound friends suggest. (I still think I would make a rosemary planter out of it for the stoop, but that's just me.)

                      3. Candy May 29, 2012 11:32 PM

                        OMG!!!!, just spray with Easy Off oven cleaner, seal up in a plastic bag, and let it sit for about 24 hours. Don't do that again!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Candy
                          Ompahbill Jun 21, 2012 10:47 AM

                          Thanks Candy. I posted earlier today, but further back in response to a May 22 suggestion to say I've tried that idea. Still no success but I'll keep trying.

                          1. re: Ompahbill
                            Ompahbill Aug 15, 2012 11:15 AM

                            So, after many attempts i still have not solved the problem and will probably chuck the ( formerly beautiful ) pot. Nothing works. Tried steel wool, pure acetone, lots of oven cleaner, picking away carefully with an old chisel, even the careful heating to burn off with the blow torch!. I'm at a loss but thanks again, Folks.

                            1. re: Ompahbill
                              hambone Aug 15, 2012 11:24 AM

                              Drill a hole or three for drainage.

                              Plant rosemary in it.

                              1. re: hambone
                                sunshine842 Aug 15, 2012 12:15 PM

                                ding ding ding -- the winner.

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